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January Newsletter-Aksarben

“Your words were found, and I did eat them; and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.’ (Jeremiah 15:16) Joy and rejoicing in our hearts, anybody need that today?

Above is a photograph of a small collection of Ak-sar-ben lapel pins. They’re pins from a race track in Omaha, Nebraska, a town Jane and I lived in for 4 years while in the United State Air Force. No, I’ve never been to the track, or any other race track actually, but there is something about this track that caused me to buy these pins years ago. I don’t really collect them, it’s just over time I’ve been ‘favorable’ to these particular pins and have accumulated a few. Except for Jane and I having family and friends that we valued very much, we would have stayed in Nebraska after the Air Force because we loved Omaha so much. As to why I have those pins, I’ll explain later in this letter; for now on to the Gospel.

I was recently re-reading my highlights in a book by Rabbi Daniel Lapin entitled Buried Treasure. The book illustrates (I guess I’ll call it) the power of the Hebrew language and its place in the study of Bible language. Hebrew is the language of Adam and of Moses’ Torah and unlike the English language, with which a word’s meaning may change from generation to generation, the Hebrew language never changes. It’s fixed. Read it today and you know exactly what was being said and read thousands of years ago. The subtitle of Rabbi Lapin’s book is called ‘Secrets For Living From The Lord’s Language.’ Let’s just say it’s interesting reading using Hebrew to teach us about many ideas such as relationship, marriage, children, community, work, and success, all with a touch of the Spiritual mixed in.

One of the ‘fun to read’ chapters has to do with the Hebrew word for trash: ReFeS. One of the things that Lapin points out is the fact that with the Hebrew language a Hebrew word spelled backwards is not just a jumbled, meaningless bunch of letters but many times reinforces that word’s normal spelling. Example: in English trash spelled backwards is hsart. It doesn’t mean anything whatsoever. However the Hebrew word spelled backwards, SefeR, gives us the Hebrew word for ‘excellent’ or ‘fine’. In the Hebrew language trash spelled backwards takes on the exact opposite meaning of the word spelled correctly. Interestingly, in ‘the Lord’s Language’ something perceived as trash when looked at from a different perspective can become something valuable. What appears to be trash looked at in another way appears to be a treasure. That sounds a bit like our life stories of before Christ and after Christ.

There are many illustrations of how the Hebrew language and Bible language make profound differences in our Scriptural understandings. Lapin points out that the Hebrew word for Truth is spelled EMeT. Evaluation of that word reveals something interesting. In that Hebrew word its first letter is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The second capitalized letter is the middle letter of that alphabet: thirteen letters before and thirteen letter after. The last capitalized letter for that word is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The author’s point: Truth is so complete it is the alpha and the omega, first and the last and all the middle contained in one expression. Truth is found beginning with a truth, continuing in that truth throughout and ending with the completeness of Truth. Isaiah 28-10 describes it pretty well, ‘line upon line, here a little, there a little’ into all Truth.

If you had been following me around the past forty years and watching you would have seen me open another particular book often. It’s E.W. Bullinger’s A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament. Bullinger was a Biblical scholar and translated the Word into his own study Bible in the late 1800s. Honestly, I can’t remember any time in the last 40 years that I haven’t visited its text almost weekly. That one book has helped make the Scripture I quoted at the beginning of this letter real; and as Eugene Peterson says in his Message Bible, ‘a feast on His Word’. Using a lexicon is somewhat like unwrapping a gift, you’re not sure what’s inside until the wrapper is removed. Bullinger has permitted me to experience something of an archeological dig. When I was about 10-12 years old I used go to my Grandma Tanner’s house and almost immediately ran off to the field next to her house. She lived within ‘just feet’ of the coal mine next door that dumped its ‘spoil’ in huge piles all around her house. The spoils were the rock dug out of the ground and piled in large mounds, probable 25-30 feet tall and pyramid shape so that I could climb to the top rather easily. Being dug out of the earth nearby, they were full of fossil material. I spent hours going through the shale and rock to find ferns, shells and tree bark images. Every time I found one it was a bit joyful and exciting. They weren’t valuable but they created a wonder in my mind and a pleasure of having found what had been hidden away until I discovered it.

To me, Biblical word study is a bit like those spoils. I sometimes think God placed words and their meanings for us to un-cover out of the pile so that we would be wide-eyed and excited to discover such wonder. I’m not saying he hid words from us to make it hard to find– not in His character! But I do sometimes imagine He wrapped words in little packages so that we could open them and see something we’ve always longed for inside our hearts. Let me give you one of my favorite ‘findings’ as an example. In 2Cor. 11-2, Scripture references a godly jealousy. This so called godly jealousy is not associated with the meaning of being against or being jealous of; rather it specifically refers to an eager, vehement passion for, in this case His people. Rich Mullins said it well in his song lyric: ‘the restless raging fury that they call the Love of God.’ Imagine God so motivated that He would send His Son to be bruised, cursed, disgraced, his friends scattered, his name laughed at, Jesus’ misery smiled upon, him scourged, spat upon, pierced, crucified, and buried, all that for a relationship with people like you and me…that’s a godly jealousy. God was willing to step out of paradise and grab you in a holy embrace; a God so passionate as to include you in His Life and Eternity. It’s a natural characteristic of God, not a once in a while passion, but a never changing passion, a passion desiring to earnestly be with you! Because of that great passion, God has made a way for personal relationship between you and Him to happen by Christ Jesus.

It’s a passion identified and expressed in Brennan Manning’s book titled The Ragamuffin Gospel, and a passion again expressed by Rich Mullins in the lyrics: ‘There’s more that dances in the prairies than the wind, more that pulses in the ocean than the tide. There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends, more gentle than a mother’s when her baby’s by her side…’. One of my favorite quotes is mentioned in Manning’s book. Brennan attributed it to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: ‘I feel only gratitude for my life, for every moment I lived. I am ready to go. I have seen so many miracles during my lifetime…never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder and He gave it to me.’ Heschel went on to say it appears that, ‘as civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines.’ Wonder has been one of the favorite things ever in my life experience. The unknowing and constant unfolding of life keeps it interesting for sure. Sometimes the unfoldings are sweet, sometimes sad. Our comfort comes from knowing God is with us every moment.

I started this letter out mentioning Ak-sar-ben lapel pins and mentioned I would explain why I have those at the end of this letter. It’s simple really. Remember the Rabbi Lapin teaching on the word trash and how reading it forwards gives us one meaning and reading it backwards gives us another. Try that with Aksarben…..I’ll help: nebraskA. The pins just let me hold a little bit of a place Jane and I loved in the palm of my hand.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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