Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 13)
These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
- Psalm 125:1-2
I cannot tell you how many times I have stood overlooking the city of Jerusalem while leading educational tours and had this psalm come to mind. After so many years, the city continues bearing witness that the Lord is faithful. He is trustworthy, which is simple to say but profound to experience.
Batach is the Hebrew word most commonly used for trust. What does it mean specifically for us in our study of how to mature and live a life characterized by being on pilgrimage up into the presence of our God?
Biblically speaking, trust is an aspect of faith, yet it doesn’t have the aggressive, full-bodied feeling that faith does.
The basic idea of batach is one of security, a sense of well-being that comes from a reliance on and confidence in someone (or something). Faith connotes both intellectual and volitional responses to God’s revelation. As such, it is active and assertive. Trust, in contradistinction, has a more passive aspect. Trust is an attitude of acceptance based on faith. Some have called it second-degree faith, not to diminish but to highlight its qualities.
Scripture teaches there are times in our lives for active faith taking a stand on the Word of God. There are also times for passive trust, which is releasing and resting on God’s Word. Both are important. There will come times when you cannot be strong and dynamic about your faith. But you can always be still and rest in the reality that the LORD is God and that he is for you.
If we are going to become established in the Word of God—if we are going to become mature—we must learn to trust God.
Though I’ve used the terms active and passive, do not misunderstand me. By passive, I do not mean a careless attitude. The Bible uses batach in this negative sense: Woe to those who are at ease [batach] in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria (Amos 6:1).
Trust in the negative sense is a laissez-faire approach. It is a general passivity or carelessness about life. That is not what the Bible means by trust. Far from being careless, trust is a grounded understanding and sure confidence in the character of the faithful God.
Here is a beautiful declaration of trust from Psalm 56:8-11.
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
My enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Here, we see both the active and passive senses. It is an active assertion that God is for me. And because of that, I can relax and rest in peace (shalom).
The secret to trust lies in shifting the focus from yourself to your Savior.
Trust is not so much about your faith; it is about God’s faithfulness, who he is, and what he has done. What are we doing when we declare who he is and what he has done? We are praising! So, it should come as no surprise that praise and trust go hand in hand.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
- Psalm 71:5-6
Trust and praise are two sides of one coin. They are inseparable, like the inside and outside of the same cup. The very air the psalmists breathe is the oxygen of trust. The psalms are filled from beginning to end with this bedrock conviction: Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8).
Trust in God at all times; that is the essence of it. He is trustworthy in the good and the bad times, in the up and the down times, in distress or prosperity. As we talked about in our last lesson, true liberty is the freedom to choose to become God’s slaves. Why? Because we have absolute confidence that he is a good Master.
What is the basis for trust, this confidence, this sense of security and well-being of which the psalmist speaks?
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
- Psalm 13:5-6
If I could only teach every student of Jesus one Hebrew word, it would be hesed. Hesed is a term found throughout the Old Testament (the Bible of Jesus and the early church). It is crucial to faith and trust, yet Christians seldom understand or appreciate it. This term, hesed, goes to the very heart of who God is and what you can expect from him. That is not an overstatement.
Hesed is the Hebrew concept translated into the New Testament as grace (charis in Greek).
Yet, in the Hebrew scriptures, hesed is so multi-dimensional that it is translated in a variety of ways. For example, we just read in Psalm 13:5, I have trusted in your steadfast love [hesed]. That is the English Standard Version. If you compare verse five in different translations, you will find hesed interpreted by words and phrases such as unfailing love, mercy, lovingkindness, and faithfulness.
All of these expressions, and more, are true. But please note this: when used about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob... and Jesus, it always connotes his covenant faithfulness. He is utterly and absolutely committed and loyal to his promises.
There are two aspects to the concept of hesed.
1) God keeps his Word; therefore, he is trustworthy. The root of the covenant tree is hesed, God’s covenant loyalty. Another way to say this is God is dependable.
2) Because he is intrinsically a God abounding in hesed, it flows out from him and manifests itself to us in grace and mercy, or as the NIV renders Psalm 13:5, your unfailing love.
Is this helping you?
One of the chief reasons so many Protestants woefully misconstrue the Old Testament is an impoverished understanding of grace (hesed). Whether they admit it or not, they believe there is no grace, only law in it, which de facto creates a false dichotomy: Old Testament = Law, New Testament = Grace.
My friends, when Yeshua looked into the face of his Father in Heaven, he saw hesed.
We see the same hesed when we look into the face of the Son. Yahweh is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was not one way in an earlier dispensation and another in a later one. God is not wearing an angry mask of law in the first covenants and a smiling mask of grace in the new covenant. There is a Hebrew term for this kind of thinking. Say it with me: bäh-lō-nē.
Ponder these provoking questions. What was the basis of trust for Old Testament saints? What is your basis of trust?
For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed (Malachi 3:6). And because the Father does not change, in Jesus, we can rest assured we will not be consumed either.
I invite all of you who trust to join me now in echoing the praise of heaven, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.