Psalm 1 – Meditation

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It’s easy for us to think that meditation has roots in the eastern (Hindu and Buddhist) religions.  And of course it does – but not exclusively. Meditation is also prominent in the Bible. It is foundational to Judeo-Christian spirituality.

There are 150 Psalms (poem-songs) in the Bible.  The first Psalm sets the scene. It has to do with meditation:

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The Hebrew word translated in English bibles as “meditate” is pronounced haga.  We get a good idea of what haga means by looking at the usage in the Bible.  In addition to the obvious texts that have to do with meditation, the word is also used of a lion that growls (haga) over its prey (Isaiah 31:4).  The lion is meditating presumably because it is doing something repetitive and audible and it is focused on its prey.  The lion is aware of the present moment! The Bible also speaks about the cooing (haga) of a dove (Isaiah 38:14).  The word haga in other contexts describes the wailings in the mourning rituals of the ancient Near East.  

The noun “meditation” (in Hebrew higgäyôn) in Psalm 92:3 refers to the melody played on a musical instrument.

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The word “law” in the Bible doesn’t mean what it means in English. The Hebrew word torah very often means: “teaching”, “instruction” and “guidance”.  Meditation in the Bible has to do with focus, recital, repetition, melody and chewing over the guidance given by the Good Lord.  The person who meditates on the torah

“is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3).  

Unlike trees growing wild or planted in the fields, where rainfall might be sporadic; the person who meditates on God’s good guidance is like a tree that has been planted beside irrigation canals (in Hebrew, palgê māyim, “streams of water”) – artificial water channels made for the purpose of irrigation.  Whatever he does prospers.

Rev Dr Peter Pimentel

See also: Pslam 1 – We are formed by what we love

Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)

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Click here to read Mark 6 – The power (part 1)

Jesus …came with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people …They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (The Gospel of Luke 6:17-19, New Revised Standard Version).

“Power came out from him and healed all of them.” The same Greek word is used here as in the Mark passage above. Dunamis! Not only run of the mill healings but power-healings! At first glance, the power seems to be some sort of spiritual energy that flows out from Jesus. It seems to be a kind of energy that is detachable from Jesus. What is this power? To answer this question, we do need a little 1st Century Jewish background. After all, Jesus was a 1st Century Israeli rabbi. In the time of Jesus, it was forbidden to use the holy name of God, YHWH (pronounced, Yahweh. There are no vowels in ancient Hebrew!). Whenever YHWH occurs in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the reader would use a substitute such as Adonai (the Lord), Ha-Shem (The Name) or Ha-Gevurah. (The Power). Most English Bibles translate YHWH as “The Lord”. In conversation one of these substitute names was always used. To utter the divine name YHWH was blasphemy and liable of the death sentence. So, it seems likely that the power that came out of Jesus was not some mystical or spiritual energy but that it was nothing less than The Power! YHWH! The manifestation of God himself in healing. At his trial, Jesus also avoided speaking the divine name YHWH and he used the substitute, The Power. The High Priest is interrogating Jesus. He asked Jesus if he is the Messiah. Jesus replies: I AM. Then he says:

And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of The Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

The Greek word dunamis again and with the definite article. Jesus would have used the Hebrew original Ha-Gevurah. Although Jesus did not utter the divine name YHWH nevertheless the High Priest deems that Jesus has committed blasphemy anyway because of the other things he has said:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Mark 14:63).

At this point, the Gospel has the ring of truth with a piece of detail of historical reliability. We know from ancient rabbinic sources that The High Priest tore his robe and that this constitutes the verdict of blasphemy. The sage Rabbi ben Qorha said that once the

witnesses have given their evidence, “the Judges stand and tear their clothing and never sew them back up.” (Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, 7:5).

Jesus, after his death but before his ascension, told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with Power from on high”. (Luke 24: 49). It is clear that Jesus didn’t think of this power as some sort of mystical or spiritual energy but rather as nothing less than the third person of the divine trinity – The Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8).

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Mark 6 – The Power (part 1)

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And he could do no power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (The Gospel of Mark 6:5-6, my translation).

Haha. That’s funny. Most churches today would be ecstatic with joy if they witnessed a few healings! Evidently there is a difference between run of the mill healings and power healings (miraculous healings?). The Holy Gospel of Mark is a 1st century biography of Jesus in the Greek language. The Greek word used in Mark translated above as “power” is dunamis from which we get “dynamite”! In the language of Jesus, the Hebrew behind dunamis is ha-gevurah.

It must be significant that Jesus was limited by the level of faith in the crowd. I wonder if Jesus is still limited today by the level of faith in many churches! Conversely, The Holy Gospels also inform us that where there is faith in Jesus amongst the people then a connection is made and the dunamis is able to flow through Jesus from heaven to earth.

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Click here to read Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)