344 – Psalm 25 – Notice the Words?
As I was studying I was struck by how many repeating words or phrases can be identified in the twenty-two verses of Psalm twenty-five. Top of the list is the proper name of God, “Yahweh” which occurs ten times. In contrast, the generic but lofty reference “God” is only used three times. The word “ashamed” is used four times, three of which are used in verses two and three. The word “teach” or “teaches” appears five times. And it goes on and on. Maybe we’ll get a chance to discuss some of these as we work our way through this power-packed passage.
Let’s back up and get a walking start (we don’t want to go too fast) at this.
Psalm 25:1 (NKJV)
1 To You, [YHWH], I lift up my soul.
This verse at first glance seems simple enough. King David, as identified in the superscription, addresses Yahweh directly and informs Him he is doing something very specific. What is David doing? He is lifting up his soul to Yahweh. Seems straightforward enough, right? But what does it mean to lift up one’s soul to Yahweh? I picture David having something in His hand and physically lifting it up to Yahweh for Him to take possession of, but that can’t be right. Even if the soul is something physical it’s not something David has access to is it?
Let’s peek behind the curtains at the original Hebrew to see what we can see. First of all, the three words “I lift up” are only one Hebrew word, the word “essa”. Before we go any further I want to remind you that when you look up a word in a source language lexicon the glosses (possible meanings) listed don’t define the word in every context. You need to let the text help you select the proper gloss that gives meaning the the word in a given passage. As an illustration, let’s say you don’t speak English and you encounter the word “car”. You look it up in an English Lexicon and it offers the glosses a vehicle with wheels that is driven; a large container that sits on a set of tracks pulled by a train. Is a car both definitions all the time? No, the context tells you which “gloss” is the correct definition for the given usage. How about the word “coach”? Does “coach” always mean the leader of a sports team and a section on an airplane at the same time? No.
With a proper understanding of glosses and their functions let’s review a few glosses we would find when consulting the Lexicon in Logos Bible Software. “I lift up” can mean “carry; lift, lift up; raise; bring, take or take away; raise high; exalt; maintain; have a longing for”.
I don’t find the first four glosses particularly helpful in defining our phrase, but what about the gloss “bring”? Ok, maybe David is bringing his soul to Yahweh, but is that really clarifying anything for us? I guess we could say that David is simply using a creative way to say that he’s bringing himself to Yahweh. If we accept that as the gloss does that mean David can physically go to Yahweh’s location while yet alive or does it mean something else? What about the gloss, “have a longing for”? Is David simply communicating that He yearns to be in fellowship with Yahweh? Argh, this is getting muddy, right?? Not to discourage you but I should mention that depending on which Lexicon you consult there are a bunch more glosses we could consider. But wait! Remember that context helps us determine the correct gloss. We haven’t looked at the surrounding text for the phrase “I lift up my soul” yet. Let’s look at verses one through the first half of verse three.
Psalm 25:1-3a (NKJV)
1 To You, [YHWH], I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Notice the words I’ve bolded? What do you think now? Are we any closer to selecting the gloss or should we just throw up our hands and go with the translators “I lift up”? You decide. I would like to suggest that whatever we pick whether it is lift up, raise, bring, have a longing for we need to understand that “I” no one else can do it for David (or us) is submitting the core of his being (soul) to Yahweh because he trusts Him (vs. 2). A very significant part of “lifting up” one’s soul to YHWH is waiting on YHWH (vs. 3). By the way, the word “trust” only appears twice in this Psalm. Once in verse two and once in verse twenty.
Maybe we could have gotten this far by just considering the text. So why did I drag us through this very difficult exercise? It’s because YHWH’s book the Bible is composed of words and words not only have but convey meaning. If we don’t know the meaning of the words we can’t know the message they are transmitting.
Granted we can’t do this with every word we encounter in the Bible, but that really isn’t the modern-day Christian’s problem is it? To be frank, the problem is most Christians rarely if ever spend so much as a minute studying the scriptures. They “might” pick it up and read it, but hardly give a thought to studying it. I wanted to demonstrate that the tools are available to us today and we have the ability to do the hard work of studying the word of God.
Swim on the surface as much as you want, but an occasional deep dive will give you a greater appreciation and understanding of the vast ocean of truth found within the Holy pages of YHWH’s message to us.
Yahweh and Yahweh alone is worthy of all Praise, Worship, Adoration, Obedience, and Service.