Ohr haOlam

Ohr haOlam

Word of the Week

Ohr haOlam
Hebrew

Today we will consider the Hebrew phrase “Light of the World.” It looks like this:

איר העולם

One of my favorite songs is “Here I Am to Worship” which begins like this:

Light of the World, You stepped down into darkness,

Opened my eyes, let me see…

Perhaps you’ve sung it in church; you’ve definitely read the scripture from which we get the phrase.

“Therefore Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The one following Me shall not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”
Then He transfered that Light to us so that we would be a light to the nations.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).”
But what does the word “light” mean in Hebrew, and how would the people of God have understood it?

The word translated light is the Hebrew word ohr, and it looks like this:

אור

The Hebrew Bible defines the word “darkness” by using the word choshek.  It includes not only the dark, but misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, and wickedness. 

In opposition to the choshek, stands the ohr. The same word translated darkness in Genesis 1:2 relates that the darkness was a state that was unlighted and against which God would not place His crown of creation, man. Instead, He divided the darkness and inserted the light (ohr). The word means “light of day,” but it is deeper than that, for it also means “light of instruction” and “light of God.”

Genesis tells us that the Holy Spirit was m’rachpet, moving or brooding (like a mother bird), over the face of the waters (mayim), which in Hebrew has not only the plain meaning of waters, but figuratively means distress and violence.

So into the choshek God shines His ohr.

The lamp promised to David’s house

The word translated “light” in 2 Kings 2:19 is a different word, ner, meaning lamp. It is the word that is used in prayer for the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Yet it is quite obvious that the scripture there is not talking about a candle or a lamp, but the Messiah who is to come. The Amplified Bible gives a better translation.
Yet for the sake of His servant David the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, since He had promised to give him a lamp (enthroned descendant) through his sons always (2 Kings 8:19 AMP).”
Proverbs 6:23 further illuminates the Jewish understanding and use of both ner and ohr when it says:
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: (Proverbs 6:23 KJV).”

Since the newborn church was a Jewish church, their understanding of light was the same as that of their unbelieving brothers with the exception of one crucial point.

Matthew (who wrote to Jews) said that Yeshua was the light of the world, the ohr ha-olam. Yeshua Himself said that we are now the light of the world, set on a hillside to draw the nations to Him, so that God may be glorified.

So now, that is our calling, individually and as a church. We are to set our light so evidently before men that they will lift up their hands in holiness and bless the Lord.

A current cultural note

Before our Shabbat meal on Friday nights just before the sun sets, we pray the prayer over the lighting of the Sabbath candles as a part of our celebration of the beginning of the Sabbath. Jews who do not see the true Light, Yeshua HaMashiach, pray the prayer this way (remember that Hebrew is read right-to-left):
But Messianic Jews, knowing that there is actually nowhere in the scriptures where God does, indeed, command us to light Sabbath candles, instead pray according to their knowledge of what Light we are  commanded to light, thusly:
 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 AMP).”

Hebrew words in this post

Hebrew

transliteration

translation

איר

ohr

light

חושׁך

choshek

darkness

נר

ner

lamp

מרחפת

m’rachpet

hovering

מים

mayim

waters

A final question: If you were taken to court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Is God Your True North?

Is God Your True North?

How do you know when you’re on the right path?

Lots of scriptures tell us to follow God’s ways. But are we sure we’re walking in the Light?

When Luke set out to write his gospel to the “most excellent Theopolis,” he used his exacting skills as a physician to write an account of the days of Jesus’ life among the Apostles and the common, everyday people with whom He lived. Luke greatly relied upon Mark’s gospel for information, since he was a contemporary of Paul and never actually met Jesus in the flesh.

In his gospel, Luke credits John the baptizer’s father, Zechariah, with saying because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79).”

Zechariah was a priest, and he knew the scriptures. He knew that the Light of God was promised to Israel, as we read in the following:

(Num 24:17) A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.

(Is 9:2) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

(Is 60:2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

(Mal 4:2) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

The Jewish believers looked back to the law to see how they ought to behave. And that’s a good thing, because what God had said was good remained good, and what He declared evil stayed that way. Looking at the law was good for showing us our sin; but did it light our path?

Doing away with the law and the prophets was not Jesus’ purpose here on earth. (Matthew 5:17) Instead of destroying what God had so carefully and compassionately revealed to His people, His Son came to fulfill it in Himself.

So to what would they turn to know how to walk properly?

During Luke’s days (right before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD), the Jews were trying to figure out their new lives as believers in the Messiah. Grasping the concept that Jesus’ work was all-inclusive and did not require Gentiles to “convert” to Judaism was difficult for them and shows that they did not see this new faith as separate from Judaism.

They did not understand that Jesus came to deliver a relationship, not a religion.

Photo courtesy of Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

The Jews who recognized the Messiah were understandably confused. They knew that God had given them the Torah and they loved it. To know what to do meant that they knew the path that they should take by always relying on the law. So when the Apostles proclaimed freedom and they really didn’t know how to live it.

The relationship that Jesus brought was meant to shine light upon the path of all who believed. He modeled the perfect life, but never belittled those who could not live a perfect life with Him. He did it in their stead, showing them the perfect way to reflect His light to those around them, but never requiring or expecting perfection from them.

How do we know we’re walking in the Light?

We know the things that Jesus taught: love the Lord your God, love others, honor your parents, respect those in authority over you, give unconditionally… we know what He said.

But what about when you are struggling to find a new job or your marriage is breaking up, or you’re being attacked without cause by your coworkers? What about when you face serious illness or your children come home from school sobbing over the way a bully treated them? What about when you’re at a crossroads and don’t know which way to go?

What about the realities of life?

First things first. Remember that Jesus said that we would suffer tribulations. He said as He faced every trial and tribulation we would every face, He understood and had the answer.

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

Trials and tribulations do not mean you have wandered from the Light.

If you’re not feeling that “peace that passes understanding,” perhaps it is because you are trying too hard to understand it. To make it somehow fit the ragged emotions you struggle with.

Before we go a bit further, I want you to understand that I am NOT talking about blind faith. But there are times when we must simply acknowledge that God is greater and can stand at the beginning of our lives and see all the days He has ordained for us. His understanding is so deep and so wide that oftentimes our human minds cannot fathom what is happening.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Finley on Unsplash

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).”

Trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness brightens the darkness.

There are many reasons we may not be seeing the Light in our circumstances. We may be facing the wrong way. Perhaps we have our eyes closed. Maybe we’re simply not attuned to the truth about our situation. And sin can blind us to His Light, too.

Harboring sin in our lives is a sure-fire way to keep the Light out. Once we allow God to shine His Light into the darkest recesses of our minds and spirits, sin is revealed and His reconcilliation comes flooding in. We have the ability in Him to conquer sin in our lives, and when we confess it before God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

This by no means implies that we will understand all His ways in our lives.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

What is that picture you see there on the left? It looks like it could be a crack in the earth, a place in the desert where we could easily lose our way in the shifting sands. But that’s not what it is. It’s simply a regular plastic disk magnified to where all we see are the scratches in it. It isn’t dangerous even though until we know what we are looking at, we may feel frightened.

It all comes down to the object of your faith.

Do you trust that God has you? Are you truly safe in His mighty hands? If so, then spending time with Him will shine His Light on your path so that you can see. Perhaps only one step. Perhaps not even that much. Maybe He’s calling you to step out in faith and let Him lead you into the Light.

The Jews back in the gospel of Luke were trusting in the Torah to guide them. But once the Son of God came, a relationship began that is superior to the laws they had never been able to keep.

The Mighty One of Israel is His name. The Bright Morning Star cannot help but shine. It is His character to do so. The very first thing that God did was create light. Genesis 1:3 reminds us that God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. He continues to shine His Light on His creation. In Exodus, while the plague of darkness covered Egypt for three days, the scripture tells us that “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings (Exodus 10:23).” Elihu in the book of Job proclaims “Look, He scatters His light upon it (Job 13:30).”

There is a scripture in Isaiah that tells us how to know if we are walking according to the direction of God.

“You will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21).”

If you are a child of God, He promises light for your path. Jesus declared that those who believe in Him would not walk in darkness, but in light (John 8:12). Job assures us that: “You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you; And light will shine on your ways (Job 22:28).”

So when you wonder where your true north is, when you don’t think that you can see your compass in the dark, remember that God promises that not only will you have light, but it will shine brighter and brighter.

 

Trust God. He is the Light of the World.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day Proverbs 4:18).”

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Ravi Zacharias, this century’s indisputable leading Christian apologist, said in a video recently that the greatest lie mankind believes today is that unbridled pleasure is the means to the greatest happiness. As I listened to him, I realized that believing lies (particularly that lie) produces the world’s most rabidly anti-Christian beliefs.

Photo courtesy of Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

Why is that?

Let’s back up a minute and see why people so eagerly believe this particular lie.

Zacharias told the story of a journalist asking Tiger Woods during the time of his great discretion, “How could you lie to so many people for so long?” Putting aside the obvious irony here, Woods’ answer was eye opening. He said, “Because I lied to myself first.”

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, you know that my go-to solution to most problems is allowing Christ to shine His light on them. Exposing anything to His light will accomplish one of three things. It cleanses, or heals, or dissolves. Anything from the enemy dissolves when exposed to His light, exactly like when you turn on a light in a dark room. Suddenly what seemed true in the dark is shown for what it truly is in the light.

We often tell ourselves lies. It’s not always the enemy’s thoughts we’re listening to so much as it is our aligning our own thoughts with his.

Eden (as in the garden of Eden) means pleasure, and God placed Adam and Eve there. Didn’t they have unbridled pleasure? Didn’t God want them to be happy?

Let’s look more closely at that idea.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had perfect pleasure. They had perfect, immortal bodies, they had each other, they had a pristine universe, and they had God’s fellowship. But their pleasure had limits. They could enjoy the bounty of their perfect lives so long as they did not do one thing: eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So why weren’t they happy with what they had?

Enter the serpent.

That wily snake knew something Eve didn’t know. He knew that disobeying God in this single command would bring down the whole of humanity, even those not yet born. But that’s not what he told the woman. Oh, no! He said that eating the forbidden fruit would give her unbridled pleasure.  The serpent said that she would be just like God, implying that God was holding something back from her.

Debate abounds on whether or not Adam knew better and chose the approval of Eve over the approval of God. I tend to think that is so. He stood by and did nothing when she listened to the serpent, yet the Bible tells us in unequivocal terms that he was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:13).

Photo courtesy of Frank Fiores on Unsplash

Genesis 3:6 tells us the story: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Since he wasn’t deceived, we can’t blame the devil for Adam’s sin. Notice that it was HIS sin that brought humanity to its knees. And that’s where we need to stay, figuratively speaking, on our knees before our Great God.

Eve, on the other hand, thought the snake was telling her the truth. It sounded like it could be true. It certainly looked like it could be true. And she was sure it would taste as wonderful as it looked. That’s what gets us, every time we align our thoughts with the devil’s suggestions. We look for the bits of truth in his lies and ignore the flaming red flags trying to get our attention.

Photo courtesy of Daria Litvinova on Unsplash

Eve’s sin was the exact same sin as Adam’s. She willfully chose to disobey God. Her being deceived by Satan does NOT in any way mitigate her sin before God. She knew that He had said they were not to eat of the fruit from that tree, but she aligned her thoughts with the devil’s because she liked his outcome better than God’s.  Her Maker had said that in the day that they ate of that fruit, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Trying to make Eve less culpable because she wasn’t there when God told Adam not to eat of it is not an excuse. Either God told her or Adam did, because she told the snake. She knew the rules.

Adam and Eve both sinned equally by disobeying God. Even if Eve didn’t know why she shouldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she did know God had said not to. That should have been enough.

But the devil came in with a “mixed truth” statement. He told her that when she ate of the fruit, that “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” That much is true. But he also said she would not die, and that was a blatant lie.

It’s good to remember that a partial truth is a total lie. Click To Tweet

Satan always holds out on the entire truth. He didn’t tell her that the good and evil she would know would condemn her, just as God had said it would.

So she aligned her thoughts with the serpent’s, and then she acted upon them. And things went downhill from there.

Eve was under the impression that embracing the serpent’s “version of the truth” would make her happy. It would give her complete fulfillment and ultimate pleasure. In this case, aligning her thoughts with the enemy’s was devastating, not only to her and her husband, but because all of their future children would bow down to Satan’s hand.

So, as to the question “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?”

The answer is a resounding yes! He wants you to be ridiculously happy and filled to overflowing in joy. But true, everlasting happiness doesn’t come through getting our own way. We need God’s way.

To wrap it up, let’s look at 2 more things.

First, Satan wants you to believe his lies so you will never be happy. He wants to destroy you body, soul, and mind.

Second, the Dictionary of Bible Themes defines happiness as “a state of pleasure or joy experienced both by people and by God.” He wants you to experience His happiness and joy and He has given you an eternity to enjoy it with Him.

Even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming into the light of God’s presence, submit your thoughts to the purifying Light and let it cleanse you, heal you, and make you happy. Only in His presence is there fulness of joy!

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Do You Suffer From Spiritual Light Sensitivity?

Do You Suffer From Spiritual Light Sensitivity?

For weeks now, I have been struggling with light sensitivity.

Yes, I have very blue eyes and a bad habit of squinting against the light instead of putting on my sunglasses. Some days, I feel like I need them even indoors!

My doctor tells me that most people in Texas—where I live—have vitamin D3 deficiency. That’s crazy, when we know that only sunlight produces that vitamin in our bodies. You can get small amounts from eating things like mushrooms, but not nearly as much as your body needs. With the abundance of sunlight in Texas, you’d think we’d be the least likely people to develop this deficiency.

A study at Stanford

In a recent study at Stanford University, researchers found that women who spend at least 30-45 minutes in the sun everyday live longer and have less frequent breast cancers. Yet we’ve been told over and again to avoid the sun! And so we ask, what are we to do? (I’ll come back to that in a minute.)

Of even graver concern is the lack of spiritual light.

If avoiding the sun can cause physical problems in our bodies, imagine how avoiding God’s light can affect our spirits!

Consider the case of the New Testament Apostle Paul. Even though he wrote most of the New Testament, he had not always been a champion of the faith. Indeed, he had letters from the religious authorities to put in jail those who were following the Way. He was on the road to Damascus to do just that when something startling happened.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do (Acts9:3-6).”

Blinded by the light, his whole sense of who he was and who God was, was challenged. He had to be led into the city because he was totally blind.

But blind to what?

Saul was the young Pharisee who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was passionate for what he saw as the only way to worship God. But the Pharisees had put so many stumbling blocks in the way of the faithful that no one could be assured of not offending them.

However, God was offended by the Pharisees!

He knew that no one could follow the law perfectly. Not even pious Saul. So He enacted the solution He had prepared even before the beginning of time itself. He sent Jesus into the world, to live the life we should have lived. He did that perfectly. Then, He took on himself the penalty for every sin ever committed, past, present and even future. He paid the penalty and bought our freedom and forgiveness.

 

He became the light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).

 

When Jesus showed people the way, those who believed Him still struggled with believing. At one point, the boldest Apostle in the group, Simon Peter, denied he even knew Jesus.

Much later, when the beloved apostle, John, wrote in his letters, he made it abundantly clear who the light is.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:5-9).

This may be my favorite verse in the whole Bible. I love the light, because that’s where Jesus is.

But it is definitely not always easy.

I suffer from chronic depression. If you think Christians shouldn’t have depression, then you must also think they shouldn’t have diabetes, or heart disease, or any of a plethora of illnesses that are a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, until Jesus returns and make all things new, we live in a fallen and decaying world. One day soon, He will return and restore everything to the way He made it in the beginning, before the fall. (For more information on being a Christian with mental illness, see Amy Simpson’s Blog. You can also read my testimony about depression here.)

We have a worthy adversary—the devil. The word tells us that

he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8.).”

Do you know what that means? It means he is LOUD! He is ROARING his message of lies to us. But he is also a liar from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The enemy roars his lies.

In our ears, in the mirror, in our jobs and our families and even in our churches. That is why it is crucial that we stay in the light. When the light is shining, nothing is hidden. If we believe the lies the enemy roars at us (I’m unloveable; I’m a failure; I’m not pretty; I can’t do anything right.) then we are committing Peter’s sin.

We’re denying that we know Jesus Christ.

I’ve just come through one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve ever experienced. I tried walking backwards in the light, but all I saw were the shadows that I, myself, was casting. I heard the enemy’s lies, and I listened. Fortunately, I have people around me who saw what was happening and rushed to my aid.

Now I’m wearing an elastic band around my wrist. It says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Even though it’s a good reminder, that’s not why I’m wearing it. Every time I hear the enemy’s lies in my mind, I snap that plastic band. Then I counter the lie with the truth of Jesus. I am loved. I am succeeding in my adventure with God. I’m beautiful because God says I am. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

One day soon I’m going to publish my testimony on this website. It’s kind of long, so it will be on a page of its own and you’ll never have to look there if you don’t want to. It isn’t a pretty story, but it is a story of victory!

So how do we balance our need for light?

In the physical, we need 30-45 minutes in the sun every day to produce enough vitamin D3. But NEVER without sunscreen! And I know it’s hot and we would rather sit in the air-conditioned room than walk around the block in the heat of the day. But doing something good for yourself means you’re doing something good for the people you love, too.

And what about spiritually?

Fully live your Life in the Light!

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?