Saturday, October 25, 2014

Prov. 25:13 and Psalm 19:7 -- The Torah of Yahweh is perfect, refreshing the soul

Back in 2010, the language of Proverbs 25:13 caught my attention during my devotions:

Proverbs 25:13 כְּצִנַּת־שֶׁ֙לֶג׀ בְּי֬וֹם קָצִ֗יר צִ֣יר נֶ֭אֱמָן לְשֹׁלְחָ֑יו וְנֶ֖פֶשׁ אֲדֹנָ֣יו יָשִֽׁיב׃ פ

NAU  Proverbs 25:13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

What struck me about this verse is the hiphil form of shub ("refreshes") with (nephesh soul). This is the same form that shows up in Psalm 19:7[H=19:8] “The torah of Yahweh is perfect, meshibat the soul.”  

A quick search on the hiphil form of shub with nephesh shows that if this construction occurs with the preposition "from" (min) it means "to restore from, rescue from" (Job 33:30; Psa 35:17). 

Without the preposition "from" this construction  has the sense of ‘restore, refresh,” and may involve emotional, bodily, or spiritual refreshment.  

Emotional refreshment is most clearly seen in Lam. 1:14 “Because far from me is a comforter, One who restores my soul.” The parallelism with ‘comforter,’ and the context of emotional anguish make clear that emotional restoration is in view. 

Physical refreshment is the focus in Lam. 1:19 where people seek meat/food to restore their souls. 

I’m inclined to read Prov. 25:13 as mental/ psychological refreshment. The confidence and sense of well-being that results from being able to trust a messenger can be “whole person” refreshment though it stems initially from the mind. Since nephesh may denote the “whole person,” it may also stand by metonymy for any part of the totality. Thus the spiritual dimension of the person may be in view as well.

Back to Psalm 19:7 -- the KJV reads "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul." I had always understood this in reference to spiritual conversion or salvation. The NASB reads, "The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul." That didn't give me a much different idea. But reading Psa. 19:7 in Hebrew in the light of Prov. 25:13 was quite different: "The torah of Yahweh is perfect, refreshing the soul" -- just like the cold of snow in the time of harvest.

Does Yahweh's torah really refresh the soul? I began to wonder. At first, I was skeptical because after teaching Bible or theology courses all day, I was not inclined to seek mental refreshment in the evenings by reading Scripture again. In fact, just the thought of it made me tired.

However, I decided to do some experimenting. So, when I found myself tired in the evening, I would occasionally get out the Bible, read a psalm, or listen to Scripture online. I was surprised to find that my spirit seemed to be quickly calmed and refreshed -- much more than when I read some other book or watched something for entertainment.

That was four years ago. My experimentation was sporadic, but with increasing conviction that God's word really did have a soul-refreshing capacity. During those years, I read George MacDonald's Sir Gibbie, and was struck by the way in which he portrayed the farmer's wife who, high up the mountain, could usually be found with her large Bible in her lap, delighting in reading God's word.

I have made this a matter of prayer -- asking God to increase my delight in His word (Jer. 15:16). I'm finding that nothing both refreshes and satisfies my soul quite like the torah of Yahweh. Of course, when David wrote Psa. 19, he had the first five books of Moses in mind. How's that for a different perspective? Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy ... soul-refreshing!  

I'm still growing in this, but I believe God has been doing a work in my heart that fits it to find its true refreshment in what He designed to be its refresher -- His word.

3 comments:

The Dickinsons said...

Thank you, Philip Brown, for this post. I also have found the Word of God to be refreshing. I have found that the reading of it drains away my stress and brings rest and delight to my heart and mind. Many unsuccessfully try to find rest by many time drainers but none work like God's Word. The Holy Spirit ministers and gives us the "re-creation" that we need.
Blessings,
Phillip Dickinson

Anonymous said...

Excellent thoughts, Phil! It's great to see you posting on your blog again and I appreciate you taking the time to bless the rest of us with what God has been showing to you...

Stephen Smith

Philip Brown said...

Thank you, Phillip and Stephen. I appreciate your encouragement to keep posting.