Psalm 89:15 NIV “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.”
AV “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.”
Multilingual people know that no language is fully translatable to another. Every language is an expression of its culture and cultures are different. When you use the language of one culture to describe the dynamic of another culture, things may fall between the cracks.
This is quite commonly the case when we go from Hebrew to English and is demonstrated in the word blessed. The Bible has four unique words that are all translated by the same English word “blessed,” although they express dramatically different meanings.
The dominant Hebrew root word for bless is barak. This fits well with our concept of an individual with anointing doing an impartation to another. This is the word used in Genesis 14:19 where Melchizedek blessed Abraham. The author of Hebrews makes a big deal of the fact that the “greater” blessed the “lesser.”
This same word is used for the impartation of generational treasures by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to their offspring.
And the concept of the have-nots being blessed by those who have translates quite well from the Hebrew to the American culture.
Now, moving on to our verse, we have a very different Hebrew word translated as blessed. It is ‘esher. The word is sometimes translated happy in our English Bibles, but I think there is a much larger picture.
As I explored the roots and the uses of the word, it appears to have some similitude to our cultural expression of “getting it all together.”
We rarely do. Marriage is good but one of the kids is a pain. Family is great, but the job is awful. Family and job are doing nicely but the neighbors, or the church, or the insurance plan, or the . . . You get the idea. Rarely do we get it all together.
Yet this word captures the idea of a system that is working. And it is a system that has been grown incrementally through right choices, not through impartation.
If barak represents someone receiving an inheritance from their rich uncle, then ‘esher represents someone who worked hard and saved up money to retire well.
Or to put it another way, ‘esher refers to the product of living by principles. As we systematically discover and implement principles, there is a delayed, but very real and sustained transformation in the applicable parts of our lives.
To put it another way, barak is a cause. Judah became the leadership tribe in Israel because of a barak-type impartation. He did not earn it. It was given to him.
By contrast, ‘esher is an observation of an effect. When you see someone who gets it all together, we comment on the effect of his wise choices and hard work.
That is the picture here.
The Psalmist is celebrating a community that has reached a high level of excellence by doing something right. The word ‘esher indicates that they invested, they chose, they had skin in the game and the results of their wise choices caused them to be collectively moved toward that dream of having it all together.
That said, every time we find ‘esher in Scripture, it should be a clarion call to explore the cause that led to the desired effect.
The next key word in the sentence is translated “know” or “learned.” For those of you who are Bible scholars, you will immediately recognize the Hebrew word “yada.” I would suggest another word to add to those two and it is the word “experienced.”
There is much knowing that is cerebral only, but there is a knowing through experience that is quite different. That is why this word, yada, is used for the sexual experience. Reading up on sex before your wedding day is quite commendable, but no book knowledge can equal the experience.
However, there is in the word a strong sense of progressive learning as well. I am not a surfer. If I read a hundred web articles on surfing, then jumped on a board off Huntington Beach, I can say I have experienced surfing (or falling off a surf board), but it would not quite be the same as Mick Fanning doing a cut back off The Spit on the Gold Coast of Australia. We both have experienced a wave, but his experience is light years beyond mine and brings a vast competence to the art form of surfing.
So yada involves knowing in an experiential way that develops competence over time. That’s my perception of the word anyway.
Thus far, we know that getting it all together with this flavor of ‘esher blessing is going to take some real effort and practice.
But what do we practice? The NIV says “learn to acclaim you.” AV says “know the joyful sound.” The Hebrew word is quite broad, ranging from an alarm for war to a shout of joy. Here the context definitely anchors it in the range of knowing how to celebrate God immensely for the core of who He is.
The entire Psalm points to many different facets of the nature of God’s dealings with us. Some are abstract like the fact that He has established His faithfulness in the heavens. Others are concrete such as His anointing David as king over Israel.
Similarly, competence in surfing ranges from my first fall off a board to Mick’s dominating a monster wave. Obviously, there is a range of competence in knowing how to acclaim the Lord.
But the result of developing competence experientially in the art of acclaiming God corporately is that we will end up closer to the goal of having it all together and we will spend more time in the circle of light representing His presence.
So what does that look like on Monday morning for me and SLG?
First of all, I think it means expanding my spheres of competence. I am reasonably sure that I can think circles around Mick Fanning in the area of the fractals of two, three and seven in the human brain. But that does me no good at all on a long board off Huntington Beach.
I already have several competencies in terms of celebrating God, but I think I need to move to the areas of my incompetence and see about intentionally experiencing some new forms of worship until I have great skill in those areas.
I have decided to run with what is bubbling recently and that is the differences in the gender of worship. This Psalm strikes me as a very male worship Psalm. I would like to unpack that through the nascent grid I already have for male worship and see how many more features I can find along the way.
In practical terms, it means we shall stick with this light prayer for a few weeks. There will not be a new one next Sunday.
Rather, I will sporadically share insights via the blog into what I am learning about male worship and invite you to practice those skills through your comments. Don’t comment on my insights. Take the principles I propose and see if they can fit into your world. Remember, this is a practice run. Yada comes through falling off the surf board a lot of times.
And do remember that this applies to men and women alike. We are all to know God from the position of both genders. We are all sons of God learning to savor the male perspective and we are all the bride of Christ, learning to walk in the female perspective.
So since we males have been subjected to massive amounts of female worship in most institutional churches, it is OK for you ladies to lean into some of the male worship skill sets to see what God unlocks in you.
The punch line is nicely captured in Tom Sawyer’s inelegant observation that “Them that has, gits!”
The more we experience and master the art of corporately acclaiming our covenant King, the more we will walk in the light of His countenance which in turn aligns our lives so more pieces fit together well.
And the more together we are — the more pieces are in place and working properly — the more we can experience bigger aspects of the nature of our King and worship Him in new and bigger ways, which allows us to walk in more of His light, and thereby align our lives even more.
“Them that has, gits.”
“Father, I hereby proclaim that my spirit is willing although my soul is obviously quite deficient in understanding the depths of worship of Your majesty. I have an exciting starting point with this majestic Psalm and the concept of male worship.
“Father, I ask that You would shine the light of Your countenance on this process of discovery. I know it is Your will that I learn to worship You in a deeper, broader way, corporately thrilling to Your nature through the male forms of worship. Therefore, since it is Your will, I ask You to empower my Bible study this week to reveal truths that have escaped me thus far in my life.”
Copyright March 2014 by Arthur Burk
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