Sing a new song

Posted in messiah, specific Hebrew words on June 20th, 2010 by yf

Domestic matters have drawn me from this blog for the last couple of weeks, for which my apologies.

Seven times the Hebrew Bible speaks of a “new song”* . It is always sung to the Lord. In modern times, new tunes and, in some branches of Christianity, new religious lyrics, pour out to reflect changes in fashion. That is not what the Bible means.

There, song is not merely a ditty, a tune strung together with some nice words. A song is the deepest expression – the heart cry – of our spiritual being, of our experience of our walk on this earth with God and of who He is. Thus, a new song is a major change to a new experience of the Lord.

This new song is understood in Hebraic thinking as the song that will be sung when Messiah comes. When we find the expression, “sing to the Lord a new song” in the Bible, it refers to the time when King Messiah will come, and when consequently we will be able to sing the praises of the Lord in a whole new way.

The lute or harp of Messianic times will be ten-stringed**, and some Jewish sages teach that there will be a new ten note scale rather than the present widely used eight note scale and that this will release beautiful new music. The Rosh HaShanah Machzor (prayerbook) calls this music “a celebration of the World to Come”.

Thus the new song of the Bible is prophetic and joyous – both momentous and drawing on the deepest wells of spiritual experience. In Exodus 15, Moses and the people sing to the Lord after their passage through the Red Sea.

The two references in the New Testament to a “new song” reflect this Hebrew understanding.** In Revelations 14:3, the 144,000 who stand on Mount Zion sing a new song before the throne. No one but they can learn it – that is, only they have the spritual experience to sing this new song.

So, what will be your new song?

*(Psalm 33:3, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 96:12, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 144:9, Psalm 149:1, Isaiah 42:10)

**Psalm 33:2 and 144:9 refer to the ten stringed lute, as do Psalm 81:2 and 92:3. Ten stringed instruments have been used historically and today, with various possible tunings. In the 1990s there was a ten-string klezmer group.

***Revelations 5:9 and 14:3.

Beneath the chatter

Posted in creation, messiah, specific Hebrew words on April 30th, 2010 by yf

What underlies our conversation? From so many words, what is essential? Before Noah’s flood, the Bible records only nine ‘speeches’ by human beings. The Hebrew sages regard first or early occurrences in the Bible as critical to understanding what follows. So, what do these early speeches tell us?

A clear, and discomforting, pattern emerges. Taking the nine speeches in order :

  • Adam is impatient with God to find his companion (Genesis 2:23). Obscured by most translations but see here.
  • Eve corrects the serpent about what God said but gets it wrong (Genesis 3:2). See here.
  • Adam explains to God why he is hiding: he is afraid of God (Genesis 3:11).
  • When asked to explain, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent (Genesis 3:12-14).
  • In the first human to human speech recorded, Cain says to his brother …. nothing, and then murders him (Genesis 4:8). Obscured by most translations but see here.
  • Cain denies knowledge of Abel to God Word map of Obama speech (ex NYT)and then complains of his punishment for murder (Genesis 4:9 and 13-14).
  • Lamech bemoans, boasts or threatens (opinions differ) to having killed or being prepared to kill people, and compares himself to Cain (Genesis 4:23-24).
  • Eve names her new son – replacement for Abel – Seth (Genesis 4:25). Seth means ‘appointed’ in Hebrew.
  • Lamech calls his son Noah, saying “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed. ” (Genesis 5:29). Noah means ‘rest’ in Hebrew.
  • We begin with Adam’s impatience for a human companion. The next six speeches reveal a growing mess. Then, in the last two – the naming of Seth and Noah – we find hope for a human figure to put matters right.

    In naming Seth, Eve is reflecting God’s remark in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s seed will crush the serpent’s head. Both Judaic and Christian literature see this passage as Messianic. Eve is placing her hopes on Seth. Similarly, Lamech places his hopes of rest from toil – also a consequence of the interaction with the serpent – on Noah.

    In sum, this record shows humanity as either: (i) longing for another human to fulfill them or to put matters right; or (ii) making a mess. Based on the first nine speeches, this is the Biblical view of what lies beneath our chatter.

    A stark view of humanity! It shows the problem – us – and where we look for the answer: somebody else. This perspective gives the foundation to understand what happens after the flood.

    The nature of faith

    Posted in character of God, messiah, specific Hebrew words, temple on March 19th, 2010 by yf

    Is faith a matter of individual, inward belief? The individual struggling with a crisis of faith is a largely Western phenomenon. Other people can be a distraction to that inward struggle, yet, when religious faith falters, faith can be transferred to another person.Obama believe

    In both Greek and Hebrew there is not a distinction between faith and faithfulness. To have faith is to act with faithfulness. Faith is not separate from action; hence, other people are not a distraction, nor can they fulfil one’s own limited faith.

    The Greek word for faith pistis has the sense of persuasion or conviction: the thought is father to the action. The Hebrew takes us deeper. The Hebrew root word aman has the sense of supporting or upholding: to build up or to go to the right hand. The “Amen” used to conclude prayers is that word. With aman, the thought and the action are one. Faith in the Hebrew sense is not a subjective state of mind but an observable mode of engagement; faith constructs. The concept is of support, of pillars of a building. So, in faithfulness we are built up and in turn become pillars, supports for the whole structure. Why the right hand? Because in the Tanach (Old Testament) the right hand of God refers to the Messiah. Faith leads to Messiah.

    In the Bible, the primary construction is the temple. The temple is that holy place where God and man meet, so faith builds that place. When the Bible describes the faithfulness of God (Psalm 36:5, Psalm 89, Psalm 119:90, Lamentations 3:23), it shows that He is building that meeting place where we can go to the Messiah and join God in faith.