Saturday, June 11, 2011

Puzzled But Not Perplexed



You never get the subtleties if you don’t know the language. No translation gives the whole picture and I know that. So as I fretted over how to teach a seemingly straightforward, teeny tiny little six verse Psalm I started by looking at the original Hebrew. Aha! I recognized a few words from my limited self study of this most difficult language and right there at the end of verse 6 of Psalm 13 I found my first clue: gml or rather lmg in Hebrew – I’ll explain later. (Unfortunately the Hebrew font won't print on this blog)

Here’s the Psalm:
1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

The first two verses have four repetitions of “How long” and oh, man, does that ever show a groaning lament in the Hebrew. The next two verses contain a request, but still show a desperate, forlorn grief.

“BUT I TRUST” the Psalmist, King David, says in verse 5. What does he trust in? He trusts in God’s unfailing love and then he goes on to turn the psalm into a hymn of praise with a secret message. And I solved it! It was that “gml” clue I mentioned above plus the fact that I always look at several English translations as well.

Verse 6: “he has been good to me” in the King James Version is “he has dealt bountifully with me”. That phrase rang a bell so I checked the Hebrew and, sure enough, there was “gml” which not only means “to deal bountifully” but is a homonym for the third Hebrew letter which pictures, or symbolizes, the Holy Spirit. Hmm, the line above that has LORD in caps. Aha again! The Hebrew here is the unpronounceable name of God. Back up one more line – “my heart rejoices in” . . . oooh, I saw that the next word was salvation. I know that’s Jesus, but this is an Old Testament verse so . . . off to the Hebrew original . . . and AHA! The Hebrew here for salvation is yeshu’ah. (Guess how you say Jesus in Hebrew. That’s right: Yeshua.) So, David trusts in God’s unfailing love which is, in English, Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. I love puzzling these out!