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Hebrew Spirituality: The Jewish Roots of Trusting God (part 1)

Post Title: Trust in Whom, not What

We are in a series on Hebrew Spirituality, and I want to now turn our attention to the Jewish roots of trusting God.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust;

let me not be put to shame;

let not my enemies exult over me.

- Psalm 25:1-2

David continues in verse 20, Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. This word refuge is related to the word trust in verse 2. We will see that in a moment. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles (vv 21-22). Amen.

We have been exploring the biblical concept of spiritual formation: some foundational keys, some crucial principles to growing up in Messiah after we are saved. Once we are born again, by the Holy Spirit, we are then to grow up in Jesus with the help of the that same Spirit of the Messiah.

In the first session, we addressed the subject of meditating on the words and ways of God. I identified two key Hebrew words for the ideas undergirding biblical meditation. They teach us that biblical meditation has intentional content and sound, unlike the New Age movement and Eastern mysticism. Rather than trying to empty ourselves, we fill ourselves with God's Word and speak aloud our ponderings and praises.

In the second session, our subject was the fear of the LORD. The Bible points out that this kind of fear is a reverence and awe, and is the beginning of wisdom and growth. Fearing God is often misunderstood because we look at it from the perspective of ourselves and our fear of punishment. Biblically speaking, the fear of God (yir'at Adonai) is not self-centered; it is radically God-centered. It is an awe of God that leads to appropriate actions, a reverence for him that shows respect and responsibility.

According to Psalm 25, an appropriate fear of God is connected to intimacy with God. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,

and he makes known to them his covenant. The word friendship (sod) speaks of being brought into a friend or lover's secret, intimate counsel. That is what our hearts desire. That is what our great God wants.

I want to build upon these themes and show you how there is an intimate relationship between the fear of God on the one hand and trust in God on the other hand. Written on our currency in America are the words, "In God, we trust." My question is, do we? Do you? Do I?

Let us first understand what trust is, biblically speaking. Then, let us examine what it means to have authentic trust in God.

What is trust, biblically? Or said another way, what did trust mean to Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth? Let us turn to the Hebrew scriptures, the Bible of our Lord. The primary root word for trust is batach. It is a verb that means to trust in, to feel safe, secure, or confident. The basic or root idea of trust in this Hebrew word has to do with that which is firm or solid.

Batach speaks of a sense, an inner knowing, an inner awareness of well-being and security. Batach is a kind of confidence that comes from knowing you are on something solid or firm that will not give way.

That sense of well-being and security (batach) results from someone we can place our confidence in, not something.

Someone solid, someone we can count on, someone who will not give way, who will not forsake, who will not fail. Who might that be? It is not anybody you know in the natural. It is your Father in the supernatural, our Father in heaven.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon told a story that I shared many years ago in my series on the Psalms of Ascent (Highways in Their Hearts). There was a captain of a great ship, a liner that would cruise from Liverpool to New York. He took his wife and their beloved little son on one journey with him.

As they crossed the Atlantic, a fierce storm arose, and this gigantic ship was tossed about. So severe was the storm that the alert went out for everyone to put on their life vest and to go to the deck where the rescue boats, if needed, would be lowered into the water. The captain's wife, hearing this report, awakened her little boy who was at sleep because it was late in the night. She said to him, "We have got to get dressed, put on our life vest, and go up to the main deck because there is a great storm, and some are fearful that the ship might sink."

What did this little boy say in response? With a bit of sleep in his eyes and trust in his heart, he asked his mother, "Is daddy on deck?" She said, "Yes, he is." So he laid back down, rolled over, and went back to sleep, knowing that all would be well. And, indeed, it was.

Biblical trust (batach) speaks of the sense of confidence, of well-being that results from the character and the conduct of a specific someone, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is solid, does not yield, does not give way, is not fickle, and is ever-faithful.

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, never translates the Hebrew word for trust with the word belief. It is always translated by the words hope or trust because biblical trust, which is related to hope, is not casual wishing. Trust is a confident expectation.

The Hebrew scriptures, the Psalms in particular, always speak of trust in God in the sense of hope more than in the sense of belief.

Nor is trust some passive waiting, it is eager anticipation! The assurance of things believed in, the hope for things yet to come. When you combine belief with hope, when you wed them together, you have trust. The basis of that trust is the character of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the One with whom Jesus came to reconcile us. He alone is trustworthy and true.

Read more: Next Post


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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.

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