Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Word Makes a Difference

Sometimes one word can make a profound difference, as I found through reading the book: “Understanding the difficult words of Jesus—New Insights from a Hebraic perspective.” 

The authors, David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Jr., believe that the first three gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke; also known as the Synoptic gospels; were not originally written in Greek as was believed for centuries, but in Hebrew, which was then translated into Greek and then from Greek into English. 

A triad of languages involved in translation, create issues obvious to anyone who has tried using Google Translate, which seems to focus on words alone as opposed to the idiom it is translating. For example, I translated “raining cats and dogs” into Dutch, and got the result: "hondenweer," which literally means “dog weather” or “dogs again.” 

Bivin and Blizzard’s  theory that the first three gospels were originally written in Hebrew is based on relatively recent evidence revealed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, between 1947 and 1956, as well as by studying the writings of the early church fathers and the inscriptions on coins from the time of Jesus.

This was interesting, but understanding how one particular word should have been translated acted like a key to understanding other scriptures. It was all to do with a Hebrew verb that was poorly translated into Greek, and in the process confusing the tense.

I learned that in Hebrew, the verb “karav” means “to be at, to come up to and be with--to be where something or someone else is,” but this was translated into the Greek word “engiken” which means “about to appear” or “is almost here,” and is sometimes interpreted into English as “come near.” 

The original word “karav” was sometimes used to indicate intimate relations between people as it clearly does in this account in Genesis 20:1-6: Abraham, was worried that his safety would be at risk because of the desirability of his beautiful wife so he told her to say that she was his sister. Here is the text:  

20 Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the [a]Negev, and [b]settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 
But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is [c]married.” Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though [d]blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my [e]hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also [f]kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

Why is this all so important and how and why does it make such a difference? Luke 10:1-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB) describes Jesus sending out 70 disciples ahead to the cities he planned to visit. Notice the instances where the words “come near” are used:
The Seventy Sent Out
10 Now after this the Lord appointed [a]seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no [b]bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a [c]man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in [d]that house, eating and drinking [e]what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet [f]be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

Verses 9 & 11 use the phrase, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you,”  but translated back to the Hebrew “Karav” it should say, “It’s here! It has arrived!” That makes a profound difference.

Luke 17:20-21
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with [a]signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is [b]in your midst.”

 How was the kingdom of God present in this case? In the people sprinkled like salt and light amongst the crowd--Jesus and his followers.

We who know him, represent the Kingdom of God. We carry the kingdom where we go—light in the darkness of the world.
Everything about us should represent God’s rule and reign--his character: goodness, mercy, patience, gentleness, love, kindness, long-suffering, faithfulness, humility. Realizing this makes a difference. I am not just representing me but someone and something more important. I have to pause and consider this when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed in a grouchy mood.
Familiar verses have a deeper meaning.
Micah 6:8New American Standard Bible (NASB)
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love [a]kindness,
And to walk [b]humbly with your God?

In other words, God requires us to make manifest the values of the kingdom of God and of the heart of God. And this is why Jesus could say to us:
Matthew 5:48New American Standard Bible (NASB)

48 Therefore [a]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 It isn’t actually we who have to struggle to be perfect, but it happens as a result of our awareness that his kingdom has taken up residence in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7New American Standard Bible (NASB)
 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

John 17:11New American Standard Bible (NASB)

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

 When “the name” is referenced in the Bible, it talks of character. At a conference author Mark Buchanan said that he understood the commandment “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7) to mean that the sin is to act in the name of God in a way that doesn’t represent his character; in other words to misrepresent God to the world.

When Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which you have given Me, that they may be one even as we are,” it is to do with his “keeping us” in his character—upholding his kingdom as we represent him to the world.

   Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the “fruit” of the Spirit.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Fruit is the product of intimacy. Think of that word “karav” again, interpreted as to “come near,” but actually a synonym for an intimate encounter.

In John 3, Jesus has an encounter with a curious member of the ruling council of Pharisees.
John 3:1-6New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The New Birth
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these [a]signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [b]again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Before there can be a spiritual birth, there must be an intimate encounter with someone, the Holy Spirit.
A couple of Sunday mornings ago, I was meditating on what I had just seen about the kingdom of God before church. An hour went by like short minutes as scripture after familiar scripture came alive in a new way.
That morning our pastor led us in the Lord’s prayer.
I listened to the words “Your kingdom come,” but instead of seeing them as a prayer for his kingdom to come in the future, I prayed them as in the present tense, “Your kingdom come--now—in me.”
The prayer ends, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
Not our power or glory—it is all his!
During our sharing time that morning I had asked for prayer for a man who had not been heard from for 5 days in Thunder Bay, the brother of a friend on a northern reserve.  The night before she had been distraught with worry and I said in a message to her on FB that we had no place to run but to Jesus. On my mind were the many First Nations people in Thunder Bay that have been found in the river. When I got home from church, I checked FB and saw that she had posted a one line prayer:
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
Another person added
“Hallowed be thy name”
Then someone else wrote
“Thy kingdom come”
Twice in one day, it felt like God confirmed what he was teaching me about the Kingdom of God.
My prayer that I wrote in my journal that morning before church was:
 “Today I am praying that God will make me usable and keep me in a state of usability.”
I could as easily have simply written, “Thy kingdom come.”
Hidden Treasure
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
A Costly Pearl
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.


An intimate encounter with the Holy Spirit—it can happen here and now. We just have to answer “yes”--and open the doors of our hearts.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Here!

I had the privilege of delivering the message at Green Valley Alliance Church today and because it was live-streamed I can post it here.