Our Source of Mercy

Those who worship vain idols give up their source of mercy.

Ps 19:14 – Let the sayings of my mouth, And the meditation of my heart, Be for a pleasing thing before Thee, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer! (YLT)

The sayings of my mouth.

Expressions that expose what is in my heart, revealing what I perceive to be truth and wisdom.

The meditation of my heart.

To earnestly, deeply think and to murmur with tenderness, evoking a strong emotional response.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. (Psalm 42:7 ESV)

As you read, study, meditate and contemplate Jonah’s experience with the deep, consider that it is much more than a simple story of one man’s personal experience. Rather, it is a picture of the profound mystery that every human being will experience in one way or another at one time or another. It is a picture of recovering spiritual truth and rediscovering who we really are, spiritual beings, vessels of mercy through whom the life and power of Christ Jesus himself flows.

John 3:5-6 – Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (ESV)

Deep calls to deep.

Note how Jonah described his experience with the deep calling to deep, the process of his falling and rising again:

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (Jonah 1:17-2:1-10 ESV)

For the first two-thirds of my life I did not know God, though I went to church every week. I did not, could not trust him. I was angry with him and blamed him for making my life miserable and for being distant and unavailable, though I kept working hard to please him.

I spoke words like Jonah’s words, except with accusation.

You cast me into the deep.
You drove me away.
You took my life away.

Unlike Jonah, I was totally unaware of the other half of the story.

Yet!
Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.
Yet you brought up my life from the pit.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!

I am driven away from your sight.

Then Jonah said, ‘I am driven away, cast out, from your sight…’

I am driven away/cast out: to drive out from a possession; especially, to withdraw oneself from one’s native land or from allegiance to it; or divorce.1

Had God driven me away? Had God cast me out because I didn’t meet his standards? Had the Lord God withdrawn himself from his native land or from allegiance to it? Or had I withdrawn myself from him, who is my native land, through my imperfect reasoning and unreasonable expectations of him?

I am driven away, cast out, from your sight.

Prov 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (ESV)

How our thoughts and ways and misperceptions block our path to knowing God and his thoughts and ways! I’ve discovered that I cannot hope to experience intimate communion with God if I rely on my physical senses, my own limited knowledge and logic, my fickle emotions and my misguided assumptions to discern reality from illusion, God’s thoughts and ways from my own.

Jesus understands and sympathizes with our human condition. As we humans nail him to the cross because he doesn’t meet our expectations, he begs his Father on our behalf.

Luke 23:34 – …”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (ESV)

I’ve discovered that we are influenced and guided by many thoughts, beliefs, expectations, wounds, desires, motives, emotions, and assumptions that are buried deep in our subconscious that we didn’t carefully, intentionally adopt and choose to store there. We often act and react by rote to daily experiences without any thought or understanding why we’re affected the way we are, why we do and say and feel the things we do.

But God knows exactly what is buried deep within us and how it rules over us.

Prov 16:2 – All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. (ESV)

Prov 5:21 – For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. (ESV)

Why does the Lord weigh the spirit of human beings? Why does he ponder all our paths?

Luke 16:15 – And he [Jesus] said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (ESV)

Might we all be stuck in this state of justifying ourselves and not even know it?
Jonah described his state, “I am driven away, cast out, from your sight [Lord God].”
What drove Jonah away? God? Jonah? Some hidden influence or power over his spirit?

Jonah 2:9: “Those who worship vain idols give up their source of mercy; (CJB)

Was this Jonah’s affliction? Is it mine? Is it yours? Is this the affliction of all humankind? Do we have a perverse addiction to worshiping vain idols and, consequently, give up our source of mercy because it’s impossible to serve two masters at the same time? Are we even aware of the vain idols that we’re worshiping even while working hard to serve the Lord God?

Do not turn aside after empty things and give up your source of mercy.

1 Sam 12:21 – And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. (ESV)

Jer 2:5 – Thus says the Lord: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? (ESV)

Is this what Jonah did and what he experienced? I’m certain this is exactly what I experienced for decades.

What kinds of idols, empty things, worthlessness, vain idols do you go after and so give up your source of mercy? Are you aware? What do you hold dear that fill people with joy and pride but is an abomination in the sight of God? Can we know what God discovers about us as he weighs our spirits and ponders our path?

Cain experienced being driven away, too.

Gen 4:3-16 – In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”</span?

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment [perversity, fault, mischief, sin, evil] is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

Then Cain went away from the presence [the face, the part that turns] of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (ESV)

A common thread

Does Jonah’s experience and Cain’s experience and my experience share a common thread?

If you do not do well…
If you do not stay connected to your source of mercy…
If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you.

Are we aware of our precarious condition when we are disappointed and become angry when we don’t get our way? Was the Lord God asking Cain to pause and examine his spirit, to understand what was going on deep inside him? “Why?” the Lord God asked him.

Unwilling to embrace his hurt, to make space for it to reveal the hidden secrets of his heart, to allow the Lord God to use his pain to transform him, Cain let his ego, his own wrong thinking and wrong doing, rule him.

2 Cor 10:3-6 – For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (ESV)

Are we aware that we are, or need to be, waging war? Are we aware of the strongholds, views, thoughts and attitudes, that hold us captive?

Rather than seek an answer, rather than take every thought captive through divine power to destroy the strongholds of his own will, thoughts, emotions, and imagination, Cain waged war according to the flesh. Rather than turning to God, he turned to Abel, his egoic anger ruling him.

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (ESV)

Like Cain, in our ignorance and self-will, being ruled by our wounds or passions or addictions or fears, do we resist and flee from the wrong One and end up subjugated to one who ruthlessly rules over us to our harm?

It seems that, like me, Cain didn’t know the other half of the story; salvation belongs to the Lord! He tried to obey, to bring a pleasing sacrifice to God, but God didn’t accept him. So, Cain responded by giving in to his frustration and anger and turned away from the Lord God. He went away from the presence of the Lord and settled down away from the One who made him, knew him intimately, loved him, longed for him, embraced him as his own. Cain became a slave to what God warned him he must rule over.

God’s chosen people also experienced this wandering that Jonah and Cain experienced.

Hos 9:17 – My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations. (ESV)

What a miserable state! To withdraw oneself from one’s native land, from allegiance to the Lord God and be unaware of what we are doing. Wanderers. Ruled over by what destroys us.

Because they have not listened to the Lord their God!

Ps 81:11-13 – “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! (ESV)

Do you hear the yearning and the plea in the voice of Lord God’s words? “Oh, that my people would listen to me!”

Listen. How do we hear the voice of God? What blocks our hearing and subjecting ourselves to God’s ways?

What needs, expectations, thoughts, beliefs, desires, wounds, motivations and/or idols blocked Cain’s ability to see and hear and respond appropriately to the Lord God? What is buried in your subconscious that keeps you stuck in ruts of thinking and feeling and behaving that don’t serve you well? Was Cain, am I, are you, worshiping vain idols and giving up our source of mercy, moving away from the presence, the face, of the Lord God?

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

But Cain didn’t seem to hear God, he didn’t seem to pause to examine himself to understand why he was angry. He apparently didn’t ask God what the secret is to doing well or how to rule over sin.

Was Cain so preoccupied with a different matter that he couldn’t settle down and listen to the Lord God attentively?

Cain said to the Lord, “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

How often do we, like Cain, follow the path that seems right to us, to protect ourselves, stand up for our perceived rights, driven by our own worries, desires, and reasoning? How often do we allow emotions and passions such as anger and fear to rule us, because we haven’t done the work necessary to become aware of them and rule over them?

The other half of the story.

What is the Lord God thinking and doing when he responds to our going after empty things rather than him, by making us fugitives and wanderers on the earth? Is he punishing us? Is he simply allowing us to experience the natural consequences of giving up our source of mercy until we come to our senses?

Gen 4:12 – When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” (ESV)

Ps 81:11-12 – “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. (ESV)

Cain said to the Lord:

Gen 4:13 – “My punishment is greater than I can bear…from your face I shall be hidden.” (ESV)

Cain understood the consequences of his deeds. Did he have any idea that there is more to the story?

Cain’s experience appears to be the Lord God’s universal pattern in dealing with every human being when we go after empty things.

Ezek 39:23 – And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them… (ESV)

For their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me, I hid my face from them.

Treacherous/to trespass: act unfaithfully; rebellious attitude; reject; mislead, withdraw; to break faith; the intent of being unfaithful to one’s neighbor for personal profit. The offense is against God, even when one acts unfaithfully against one’s neighbor. Forsaking God for selfish motives.2

Is the Lord God punitive, concerned with or directed to punishment when he turns or hides his face from us?

The word translated as punishment here has a broader meaning than simple retribution.

The most basic meaning of the word is “iniquity.” The word signifies an offense, intentional or not, against God’s law. “To do iniquity,” meaning “to bend” or “to deviate from the way.” It characterizes the way of life of those who are without God. The being of man is corrupted by “iniquity.” This word includes the whole area of sin, judgment, and “punishment” for sin. It encompasses the actual sin, the guilt of sin, God’s judgment upon that sin, and God’s punishment of iniquity.3

Punishment: perversity, moral evil, fault, iniquity, mischief, destroy, perish, to do amiss, bow down, make crooked, trouble, turn, do wrong.4

Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Mic 7:9 – I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (ESV)

He will bring me out to the light.

Why did the Lord God accept Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s?

2 Chron 12:14 – And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. (ESV)

Set: to be erect, stand perpendicular, establish, fix, prepare, apply.5
Heart: the feelings, will, intellect, the center of anything.6
Seek: to tread or frequent; usually to follow for pursuit or search, care for, diligently, inquire.7

S/he did evil, for s/he did not set her heart to seek the Lord.

How perfectly that scripture text describes me during the first two-thirds of my life. I injured myself and others because I did not set my heart to seek the Lord. I have learned since that there is a vast difference between attending church, prayer meetings, studying the Bible, praying, doing good deeds…and setting my heart to seek the Lord.

How we’d become aware and convicted of our wrong thinking and doing if we’d take the Lord God’s words to heart!

Set your heart to seek the Lord.

A few tidbits I’ve learned: With intention and attention set your heart to seek the Lord! It doesn’t happen by chance. Setting your heart to seek the Lord isn’t a ritual or formula. It’s more like a conscious awakening that is the work of the Spirit of God, that we can become aware of and participate in. Stop bending and deviating from the way of the Lord God by pursuing empty substitues that the world offers! Stop relying on your own thoughts, assumptions, emotions and expectations. Stop relying on others to teach you. Seek the Lord for yourself. Ask him to give you the desire to seek him and show you the way.

Prov 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (ESV)

Setting your heart to seek the Lord God begins with getting your priorities right, aligned with his.

Matt 6:33 – But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (CJB)

Why do we tend to do the exact opposite of what God longs for us to do? Why do we resist, hide and flee from God’s presence? Are we afraid to give up control? Are we afraid of what God might want from us? Have we made idols of our bodies and our intellect and our life and our stuff, withholding from God what is rightfully his?

How does God respond to our foolishness in giving up our source of mercy?

1 Sam 12:21-22 – And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. (ESV)

Oh, how merciful and gracious our God is! Though we resist, flee or hide from him, he will not forsake us! Instead, he searches for us.

Gen 3:8-10 – And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (ESV)

Wake up!

Why does the Lord weigh the spirit of human beings? Why does he ponder all our paths?

He does it to wake us up, so that we’ll hear and listen to his plea for us to return home to him. He does not, will not, fail to fully, faithfully, lovingly, powerfully, perfectly give to us according to our work. He administers discipline until it accomplishes his purpose, and you and I learn to listen to him.

Ps 62:11-12 – Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. (ESV)

Lev 26:17-20 – I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power… And your strength shall be spent in vain… (ESV)

God sees mischief and grief and takes the matter in hand. How does he do that? What is the result?

Ps 10:13-15 – Why does the wicked despise God and say in his heart, “It won’t be held against me”? You have seen; for you look at mischief and grief, so that you can take the matter in hand. The helpless commits himself to you; you help the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked! As for the evil man, search out his wickedness until there is none left. (CJB)

Salvation belongs to the Lord!
He will bring us out to the light.

The helpless.

The helpless commits himself to you. Helplessness, nowhere else to turn, is where I finally turned my face back to seek the Lord God, and I found him right there, graciously waiting for me!

Mischief: toil, wearing effort, worry of body or mind. Misery, pain, perverseness, sorrow, trouble.8
Grief: vexation, anger, indignation, provocation, spite, wrath, grief.9
In hand: the open hand, indicating power, means, direction.10
Helpless: to be dark, unhappy; a wretch, unfortunate; poor.11

For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make us a people for himself.

Let us not worship vain idols and give up, let go, lose connection with our source of mercy! But if you’ve made that error, remember who your source of mercy is and who you are, then call out to him and wait until he pleads your cause and executes judgment for you, for there is forgiveness and welcome awaiting you.

Interact with the words of Scripture through deep, careful study.

Read the Lord God’s words. Read slowly. Read reflectively. Not just with your mind but with your heart and spirit. Let his words sink in. Ruminate upon his words. Take from them what he wants to give to you.

Meditate. Experience the word of Scripture bodily by moaning, growling, uttering, speaking aloud each word, syllable by syllable. Experience the words of Scripture expressing the longing and desire and hope in the depth of your own soul. Become acquainted with your longing. Anticipate that your soul’s longing will be satisfied, its hunger will be filled with good things, and it will be healed and made complete again. Let the inspired word of God arouse feelings of awe.

Respond by setting your thoughts and emotions aside and let your heart speak to God without words.

Then move beyond logic and reason; move from head to heart to spirit.

Simply rest in God’s words. Listen to God at the deepest level of your inner being. Listen as Love speaks with a still small voice that moves you to silence and an ever-deepening listening in which the Word becomes active and alive in you, gradually transforming you from within.12

2 Cor 13:14 – the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, [is] with you all! Amen. (YLT)

 

Contemplate. Sit quietly without thinking, without murmuring. Simply be. Become conscious of your companions. Longing for you. Your longing for them.

Stay in this place of rest and fellowship for as long as you can.

When finished, select just one word or phrase and carry it with you all day, thinking about it, murmuring it, holding it, treasuring it. Let it soak deep into your soul. Tomorrow, meditate on the entire text again. Select the same word or phrase or a different one to carry with you all day, thinking about it, murmuring it, holding it, treasuring it. Do this practice every day. Let God’s Word begin to fill your soul with good things.

I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it. (Ps 119:15-16 MSG)

 

But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. (Job 32:8 ESV)

To help you begin to become aware of hidden things that may block your path to intimacy with the Lord pray the Welcoming Prayer each day and note the thoughts and emotions that arise as you let go and embrace his truth: salvation belongs to the Lord!

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.
Amen.

Rather than resisting or fighting our addictions (to thoughts, things, behaviors, etc.) we admit our powerlessness as the first step toward healing and freedom. While a set-aside time for meditation is truly valuable in rewiring our brains, the Welcoming Prayer helps us find serenity through surrender in the midst of messy, ordinary moments.13

 

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Resources/For deeper study:

1I am cast out: OT:1644 <START HEBREW>vr^G*<END HEBREW> garash (gaw-rash’); a primitive root; to drive out from a possession; especially to expatriate or divorce: (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

2TO TRESPASS

  1. Verb.

ma±al OT:4603, “to trespass, act unfaithfully.” This verb is not very common in Hebrew, biblical or rabbinic. It occurs 35 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, particularly in late Hebrew. Translations may give a separate translation of the verb and the noun ma±al, but most combine them into one phrase in which the verb takes the meaning of “to act” or “to commit” — e. g., Josh 7:1: “But the children of Israel committed [ma±al] a trespass [ma±al] in the accursed thing…” (KJV); “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully” (NIV). Some versions give the sense more freely: “But the people of Israel broke faith” (RSV); “But the Israelites defied the ban” (NEB).

The first occurrence of the verb (together with the noun) is found in Lev 5:15: “If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance….” The sense of the verb is similar to the verb “to sin.” In fact, in the next chapter the verb for “to sin” and ma±al are used together: “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor…” Lev 6:2. The combining of these two usages in Leviticus is significant. First, it shows that the verb may be a synonym for “to sin.” Ma±al has basically this meaning in Lev 5:15, since the sin is here out of ignorance instead of a deliberate act of treachery. Second, the meaning of ma±al is further expressed by a verb indicating the intent of being unfaithful to one’s neighbor for personal profit (“commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor…”).

The offense is against God, even when one acts unfaithfully against one’s neighbor. In 2 Chron 29:6 we read: “For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him…”; and Daniel prayed: “…because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee” Dan 9:7; cf. NIV, “…because of our unfaithfulness to you”.

In view of the additional significance of “treachery,” many versions translate the verb “to act unfaithfully” or “to act treacherously” instead of “to transgress” or “to commit a trespass.” Both the verb and the noun have strongly negative overtones, which the translator must convey in English. When God spoke to Ezekiel: “Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and… cut off man and beast from it” Ezek 14:13, He communicated also His displeasure with Israel’s rebellious, treacherous attitude. This is communicated in other versions: “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful…” (NIV); “Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness…” (NASB).

The verb ma±al generally expresses man’s unfaithfulness to God Lev 26:40; Deut 32:51; 2 Chron 12:2; Ezra 10:2; Ezek 14:13. The word further signifies man’s unfaithfulness to his fellow man; particularly it is illustrative of unfaithfulness in marriage: “If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, And a man lie with her carnally…” Num 5:12-13. In this sense also must Lev 6:2 be understood: “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him…” (NIV)

In the Septuagint we find these translations:

Athetein (“to nullify; reject; commit an offense”);

asunthetein (“to be faithless”); and

aphistaveiv (“to mislead; withdraw”). Modern versions set forth more explicitly the overt nature of the sin than the KJV (“trespass; transgress”): RSV, NASB, NIV, “act or be unfaithful; RSV, NASB, “to break faith.”

  1. Noun.

ma±al OT:4604, “trespass; unfaithful, treacherous act.” This noun is used 29 times in biblical Hebrew. In addition to the primary sense of “trespass,” given in KJV, there may be an indication of the motivation through which the sin was committed. Most of the usages support the idea of “faithlessness, treachery.” It is an act committed by a person who knows better but who, for selfish motives, acts in bad faith. The story of Achan bears out the attitude of treachery Josh 7:1. Joshua challenged Israel not to follow the example of Achan: “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit [ma±al] a trespass [ma±al] in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel?” Josh 22:20.

In 2 Chron 29:19 the “faithlessness” was committed against God: “Moreover all the vessels which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression….” Ma±al also appears in Ezra 9:2: “…yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.”

(from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

3INIQUITY

  1. Verb.

±awah OT:5753, “to do iniquity.” This verb appears in the Bible 17 times. In Arabic this verb appears with the meaning “to bend” or “to deviate from the way.” ±Awah is often used as a synonym of chata°, “to sin,” as in Ps 106:6: “We have sinned [chata° with our fathers, we have committed iniquity [±awah], we have done wickedly [rasha±].”

  1. Nouns.

±awon OT:5771, “iniquity; guilt; punishment.” This noun, which appears 231 times in the Old Testament, is limited to Hebrew and biblical Aramaic. The prophetic and poetic books employ ±awon with frequency. The Pentateuch as a whole employs the word about 50 times. In addition to these, the historical books infrequently use ±awon. The first use of ±awon comes from Cain’s lips, where the word takes the special meaning of “punishment”: “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear” Gen 4:13.

The most basic meaning of ±awon is “iniquity.” The word signifies an offense, intentional or not, against God’s law. This meaning is also most basic to the word chatta°t, “sin,” in the Old Testament, and for this reason the words chatta°t and ±awon are virtually synonymous; “Lo, this [the live coal] hath touched thy [Isaiah’s] lips; and thine iniquity [±awon] is taken away, and thy sin [chatta°t] purged” Isa 6:7.

“Iniquity” as an offense to God’s holiness is punishable. The individual is warned that the Lord punishes man’s transgression: “But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” Jer 31:30. There is also a collective sense in that the one is responsible for the many: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” Ex 20:5. No generation, however, was to think that it bore God’s judgment for the “iniquity” of another generation: “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” Ezek 18:19-20.

Israel went into captivity for the sin of their fathers and for their own sins: “And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword” Ezek 39:23.

Serious as “iniquity” is in the covenantal relationship between the Lord and His people, the people are reminded that He is a living God who willingly forgives “iniquity”: “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” Ex 34:7. God expects confession of sin: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” Ps 32:5, and a trusting, believing heart which expresses the humble prayer: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” Ps 51:2.

Isa 53 teaches that God put upon Jesus Christ our “iniquities” v. 6, that He having been bruised for our “iniquities” v. 5 might justify those who believe on Him: “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” Isa 53:11.

The usage of ±awon includes the whole area of sin, judgment, and “punishment” for sin. The Old Testament teaches that God’s forgiveness of “iniquity” extends to the actual sin, the guilt of sin, God’s judgment upon that sin, and God’s punishment of the sin. “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” Ps 32:2.

In the Septuagint the word has the following renderings:

Adikia (“wrongdoing; unrighteousness; wickedness”); hamartia (“sin; error”); and anomia  (“lawlessness”). In the English versions the translation “iniquity” is fairly uniform. The RSV and NIV give at a few places the more specialized rendering “guilt” or the more general translation “sin.”

°awen OT:205, “iniquity; misfortune.” This noun is derived from a root meaning “to be strong,” found only in the Northwest Semitic languages. The word occurs about 80 times and almost exclusively in poetic-prophetic language. The usage is particularly frequent in the poetical books. Isaiah’s use stands out among the prophets. The first occurrence is in Num 23:21: “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.”

The meaning of “misfortune” comes to expression in the devices of the wicked against the righteous. The psalmist expected “misfortune” to come upon him: “And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it” Ps 41:6. °Awen in this sense is synonymous with °ed, “disaster” Job 18:12. In a real sense °awen is part of human existence, and as such the word is identical with ±amal, “toil,” as in Ps 90:10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

°Awen in a deeper sense characterizes the way of life of those who are without God: “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail” Isa 32:6. The being of man is corrupted by “iniquity.” Though all of mankind is subject to °awen (“toil”), there are those who delight in causing difficulties and “misfortunes” for others by scheming, lying, and acting deceptively. The psalmist puts internalized wickedness this way: “Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood” Ps 7:14; cf. Job 15:35.

Those who are involved in the ways of darkness are the “workers of iniquity,” the doers of evil or the creators of “misfortune” and disaster. Synonyms for °awen with this sense are ra±, “evil,” and rasha±, “wicked,” opposed to “righteousness” and “justice.” They seek the downfall of the just Ps 141:9. Between Ps 5:5 and 141:9 there are as many as 16 references to the workers of evil (cf. “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” — Ps. 5:5>). In the context of Ps 5, the evil spoken of is falsehood, bloodshed, and deceit v. 6. The qualitative aspect of the word comes to the best expression in the verbs with °awen. The wicked work, speak, beget, think, devise, gather, reap, and plow °awen, and it is revealed (“comes forth”) by the misfortune that comes upon the righteous. Ultimately when Israel’s religious festivals Isa 1:13 and legislation Isa 10:1 were affected by their apostate way of life, they had reduced themselves to the Gentile practices and way of life. The prophetic hope lay in the period after the purification of Israel, when the messianic king would introduce a period of justice and righteousness Isa 32 and the evil men would be shown up for their folly and ungodliness.

The Septuagint has several translations:

Anomia (“lawlessness”); kopos (“work; labor; toil”);

Mataios (“empty; fruitless; useless; powerless”);

Pomeria (“wickedness; maliciousness; sinfulness”); and

Adikia (“unrighteousness; wickedness; injustice”). The KJV has these translations: “iniquity; vanity; wickedness.”

(from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

4Punishment: OT:5771 <START HEBREW>/w)u*<END HEBREW> `avon (aw-vone’); or `avown (2 Kings 7:9; Ps 51:5 [OT:7]) (aw-vone’); from OT:5753; perversity, i.e. (moral) evil: KJV – fault, iniquity, mischeif, punishment (of iniquity), sin.

OT:7 <START HEBREW>db^a& <END HEBREW> ‘abad (Aramaic) (ab-ad’); corresponding to OT:6: KJV – destroy, perish.

OT:5753 <START HEBREW>hw*u*<END HEBREW> `avah (aw-vaw’); a primitive root; to crook, literally or figuratively (as follows): KJV – do amiss, bow down, make crooked, commit iniquity, pervert, (do) perverse (-ly), trouble,  turn, do wickedly, do wrong. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

5Set/prepare: OT:3559 <START HEBREW>/WK<END HEBREW> kuwn (koon); a primitive root; properly, to be erect (i.e. stand perpendicular); hence (causatively) to set up, in a great variety of applications, whether literal (establish, fix, prepare, apply), or figurative (appoint, render sure, proper or prosperous): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

6Heart: OT:3820 <START HEBREW>bl@<END HEBREW> leb (labe); a form of OT:3824; the heart; also used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the centre of anything: (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

7Seek: OT:1875 <START HEBREW>vr^D*<END HEBREW> darash (daw-rash’); a primitive root; properly, to tread or frequent; usually to follow (for pursuit or search); by implication, to seek or ask; specifically to worship: KJV – ask,  at all, care for,  diligently, inquire, make inquisition, [necro-] mancer, question, require, search, seek [for, out],  surely. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

8Mischief: OT:5999 <START HEBREW>lm*u*<END HEBREW> `amal (aw-mawl’); from OT:5998; toil, i.e. wearing effort; hence, worry, wheth. of body or mind: KJV – grievance (-vousness), iniquity, labour, mischief, miserable (-sery), pain (-ful), perverseness, sorrow, toil, travail, trouble, wearisome, wickedness. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

9Grief: OT:3708 <START HEBREW>su^K^<END HEBREW> ka`ac (kah’-as); or (in Job) ka`as (kah’-as); from OT:3707; vexation: -anger, angry, grief, indignation, provocation, provoking,  sore, sorrow, spite, wrath. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

10With your hand: OT:3027 <START HEBREW>dy*<END HEBREW> yad (yawd); a primitive word; a hand (the open one [indicating power, means, direction, etc.], in distinction from OT:3709, the closed one); used (as noun, adverb, etc.) in a great variety of applications, both literally and figuratively, both proximate and remote [as follows]: KJV – (+be) able,  about,  armholes, at, axletree, because of, beside, border,  bounty,  broad, [broken-] handed,  by, charge, coast,  consecrate,  creditor, custody, debt, dominion,  enough,  fellowship, force,  from, hand [-staves, -y work],  he, himself,  in, labour,  large, ledge, [left-] handed, means,  mine, ministry, near,  of,  order, ordinance,  our, parts, pain, power,  presumptuously, service, side, sore, state, stay, draw with strength, stroke,  swear, terror,  thee,  by them,  themselves,  thine own,  thou, through,  throwing,  thumb, times,  to,  under,  us,  wait on, [way-] side, where,  wide,  with (him, me, you), work,  yield,  yourselves. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

11Helpless: OT:2489 <START HEBREW>ak*l=j@<END HEBREW> cheleka’ (khay-lek-aw’); or chelekah (khay-lek-aw’); apparently from an unused root probably meaning to be dark or (figuratively) unhappy; a wretch, i.e. unfortunate: KJV – poor. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

12Lectio Divina as described by the 12th century Carthusian monk called Guigo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guigo_II

13The Welcoming Prayer; Just This; Copyright 2017 by Richard Rohr; CAC Publishing, PO Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195; Pg 117

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