Jots & Tittles: A Closer Look at a Little Bit of Hebrew

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:6 NIV

Maybe you know the old, old saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.

Well, it’s not right. (But you probably figured that out years ago!)

Yes, words can be very hurtful. In fact, we often recover from broken bones far faster than we recover from wounding words. And that’s true whether the words have been spoken by us or to us. 

Words are dangerous. James calls the tongue ‘a fire’ and a ‘world of evil’ that can set the whole course of a person’s life on fire! That’s almost unimaginable in scope. Think of an uncontrollable bushfire that just keeps on and keeps on and keeps on burning all the way through your life.

But words don’t have to be like that. It’s true they can be hurtful but they can also be healing. 

Perhaps that’s why the ancient Jewish people thought of a word (dabar) as being like a bee (deborah): it makes sweet honey (debash) but it also has a sting in its tail. The Hebrew word for thorn or for pestilence (deber) is the same as that for word (dabar). We spell it slightly differently in English to differentiate between them, but in Hebrew they are spelled the same way.

An old tradition for the first day of school was for a rabbi to put honey on a slate where the letters of the alphabet were written. The child would lick the honey off the slate as the names of the letters were repeated, learning the lesson that the Word of God was sweeter than honey.

‘How sweet Your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.’ Psalm 119:103 NLT

Just like the Word of God, keep your own words sweet, not stinging!

Stress: 8

‘I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28 CEV

If the load you’re carrying is too heavy for you to bear, Jesus didn’t give it to you. Others may have, or you may have taken it upon yourself, but Jesus had no part in it. ‘If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to Me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from Me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28–30 CEV)

The final stress management principle Jesus taught us is: give your stress to Him. You’ll never enjoy complete peace of mind until you develop a relationship with the Prince of Peace. Note, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Come to Me and I’ll give you more guilt, more burdens, more stress, and more worries,’ even though that’s what a lot of religious people seem to teach! Some churches create pressure instead of relieving it. But Jesus turned this on its head and basically said, ‘I want to give you rest. I’m the stress-reliever. When you get in harmony with Me I’ll give you inner strength.’ Only Jesus can transform your lifestyle from stressful to satisfied.

The greatest source of stress comes from trying to live our lives apart from the God who made us, trying to go our own way and be our own god. What do you need? If you’ve never committed your life to Christ you need a transformation. Give Him your life with all its stresses and say, ‘Lord, please give me a new life. Replace the pressure I feel with the peace You offer. Help me to follow Your principles of stress management.’

SoulFood: Job 11–14, Matt 24:26–35, Ps 13, Pro 8:14–16

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2020

Today’s Readings

Job 11–14 ()

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11:1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:

  “Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
    and a man full of talk be judged right?
  Should your babble silence men,
    and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
  For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure,
    and I am clean in God's eyes.’
  But oh, that God would speak
    and open his lips to you,
  and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
    For he is manifold in understanding.
  Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
  “Can you find out the deep things of God?
    Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
  It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
  Its measure is longer than the earth
    and broader than the sea.
10   If he passes through and imprisons
    and summons the court, who can turn him back?
11   For he knows worthless men;
    when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?
12   But a stupid man will get understanding
    when a wild donkey's colt is born a man!
13   “If you prepare your heart,
    you will stretch out your hands toward him.
14   If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
    and let not injustice dwell in your tents.
15   Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
    you will be secure and will not fear.
16   You will forget your misery;
    you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
17   And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
    its darkness will be like the morning.
18   And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
    you will look around and take your rest in security.
19   You will lie down, and none will make you afraid;
    many will court your favor.
20   But the eyes of the wicked will fail;
    all way of escape will be lost to them,
    and their hope is to breathe their last.”

12:1 Then Job answered and said:

  “No doubt you are the people,
    and wisdom will die with you.
  But I have understanding as well as you;
    I am not inferior to you.
    Who does not know such things as these?
  I am a laughingstock to my friends;
    I, who called to God and he answered me,
    a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.
  In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune;
    it is ready for those whose feet slip.
  The tents of robbers are at peace,
    and those who provoke God are secure,
    who bring their god in their hand.
  “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
  or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
  Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the LORD has done this?
10   In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind.
11   Does not the ear test words
    as the palate tastes food?
12   Wisdom is with the aged,
    and understanding in length of days.
13   “With God are wisdom and might;
    he has counsel and understanding.
14   If he tears down, none can rebuild;
    if he shuts a man in, none can open.
15   If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
    if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
16   With him are strength and sound wisdom;
    the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17   He leads counselors away stripped,
    and judges he makes fools.
18   He looses the bonds of kings
    and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
19   He leads priests away stripped
    and overthrows the mighty.
20   He deprives of speech those who are trusted
    and takes away the discernment of the elders.
21   He pours contempt on princes
    and loosens the belt of the strong.
22   He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
    and brings deep darkness to light.
23   He makes nations great, and he destroys them;
    he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
24   He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
    and makes them wander in a trackless waste.
25   They grope in the dark without light,
    and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.

13:1   “Behold, my eye has seen all this,
    my ear has heard and understood it.
  What you know, I also know;
    I am not inferior to you.
  But I would speak to the Almighty,
    and I desire to argue my case with God.
  As for you, you whitewash with lies;
    worthless physicians are you all.
  Oh that you would keep silent,
    and it would be your wisdom!
  Hear now my argument
    and listen to the pleadings of my lips.
  Will you speak falsely for God
    and speak deceitfully for him?
  Will you show partiality toward him?
    Will you plead the case for God?
  Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
    Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
10   He will surely rebuke you
    if in secret you show partiality.
11   Will not his majesty terrify you,
    and the dread of him fall upon you?
12   Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
    your defenses are defenses of clay.
13   “Let me have silence, and I will speak,
    and let come on me what may.
14   Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
    and put my life in my hand?
15   Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
    yet I will argue my ways to his face.
16   This will be my salvation,
    that the godless shall not come before him.
17   Keep listening to my words,
    and let my declaration be in your ears.
18   Behold, I have prepared my case;
    I know that I shall be in the right.
19   Who is there who will contend with me?
    For then I would be silent and die.
20   Only grant me two things,
    then I will not hide myself from your face:
21   withdraw your hand far from me,
    and let not dread of you terrify me.
22   Then call, and I will answer;
    or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23   How many are my iniquities and my sins?
    Make me know my transgression and my sin.
24   Why do you hide your face
    and count me as your enemy?
25   Will you frighten a driven leaf
    and pursue dry chaff?
26   For you write bitter things against me
    and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
27   You put my feet in the stocks
    and watch all my paths;
    you set a limit for the soles of my feet.
28   Man wastes away like a rotten thing,
    like a garment that is moth-eaten.

14:1   “Man who is born of a woman
    is few of days and full of trouble.
  He comes out like a flower and withers;
    he flees like a shadow and continues not.
  And do you open your eyes on such a one
    and bring me into judgment with you?
  Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
    There is not one.
  Since his days are determined,
    and the number of his months is with you,
    and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
  look away from him and leave him alone,
    that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.
  “For there is hope for a tree,
    if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
    and that its shoots will not cease.
  Though its root grow old in the earth,
    and its stump die in the soil,
  yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put out branches like a young plant.
10   But a man dies and is laid low;
    man breathes his last, and where is he?
11   As waters fail from a lake
    and a river wastes away and dries up,
12   so a man lies down and rises not again;
    till the heavens are no more he will not awake
    or be roused out of his sleep.
13   Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
    that you would conceal me until your wrath be past,
    that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14   If a man dies, shall he live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait,
    till my renewal should come.
15   You would call, and I would answer you;
    you would long for the work of your hands.
16   For then you would number my steps;
    you would not keep watch over my sin;
17   my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
    and you would cover over my iniquity.
18   “But the mountain falls and crumbles away,
    and the rock is removed from its place;
19   the waters wear away the stones;
    the torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
    so you destroy the hope of man.
20   You prevail forever against him, and he passes;
    you change his countenance, and send him away.
21   His sons come to honor, and he does not know it;
    they are brought low, and he perceives it not.
22   He feels only the pain of his own body,
    and he mourns only for himself.”

Matthew 24:26–35 ()

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26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Psalm 13 ()

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To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

13:1   How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
  How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
  Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
  lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
  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.

Proverbs 8:14–16 ()

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14   I have counsel and sound wisdom;
    I have insight; I have strength.
15   By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
16   by me princes rule,
    and nobles, all who govern justly.

Sat 21 March, 2020


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