Icebergs Daily Readings

This page contains readings that could be read straight or as daily readings at any time of year. Or they could simply be read alongside the Lent course, “Icebergs in the New Testament”. The title may seem strange because almost all of the readings are from the Old Testament. The whole course is about understanding the New Testament better by looking at the Old. This page is not dependant on the other materials but is designed as a supplemental feed.
The readings for each day are fairly short. We hope that you might read each one more than once and dwell on them. The effect is intended to be cumulative. They are spiritual nourishment that should feed your mind and refresh your spirit. Your mind will build a vocabulary of Old Testament thought which will help your understanding of both the Old and New Testament. It is not just an intellectual pursuit, it is also about feeling. We want you to get the drift of the concepts behind the words and hope this will build you emotionally.

Daily Words

1. Transgression
2. Iniquity
3. Sin
4. Cover
5. Blots Out
6. Holy
7. Holy
8. The Lord
9. The LORD
10. Elohim
11. LORD Almighty
12. Wise
13. Fool
14. Flesh
15. Wait
16. Wait
17. Still
18. Rest
19. Kindness
20. Mercy
21. Redeemer
22. Ransomed
23. Righteous
24. Salvation
25. Marvellous
26. Love
27. Love
28. Love
29. Arm
30. Breath
31. Breath
32. Glory
33. Glory
34. Woe
35. Compassion
36. Keep
37. Empty
38. Time
39. Law
40. Peace

Note - Words in Italics identifies the Hebrew word of the day. Words like this are linked to another word

Day 1 Transgression

We start with a concept of sin. Not just because you might be reading this in Lent and are supposed to feel guilty but because sin is such an important factor in a biblical thinking. If our belief about sin is wrong it will affect everything especially our view of God.
The three ideas behind sin in the Old Testament are summarised by the words pesa ‘transgression’, awon ‘iniquity’ or hatta ‘wrong-doing’.
Pesa is translated by the words transgression, rebellion, sin or trespass; it is descriptive of a state of humankind in deliberate and wilful rebellion against God’s authority.

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.’ (Isaiah 53:5a)

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.’ (Psalm 51:1,2)

This rebellion has deadly consequences. The last verse of Isaiah makes this clear, ‘…and I shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men that have rebelled against me.’ (Isaiah 66:24)

This state of rebellion affects all of us, all that we do and all we think. Yet it is our choice and we are responsible for it and its consequences. Repentance is the gift from God which allows us to turn from rebellion and accept his law and his rule.

Think - do I still have a tendency to rebel? Who is the boss in my life? Is it Jesus or am I still fighting for possession?

Day 2 Iniquity

Awon is translated by the words sin, wickedness or iniquity, often with a focus on guilt and punishment. Whilst pesa is a state of rebellion, awon is a human condition like an illness. It comes from a root word which means to bend, or bend double.

‘I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.’ (Psalm 38:6)

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ (Psalm 51:1,2)

On the one hand we learned yesterday that we have chosen a state of rebellion. On the other hand we have sin like a sickness or addiction. We cannot cure ourselves. Only by turning to God and asking that in his compassion he would heal us can we find any treatment or relief. God looks on us with compassion. He can see the ugliness. He is always willing to wash the sores. He has put the cure within us and it is working.

Pray/think – what are the areas of weakness where I fall short regularly? What are the symptoms of my particular strain of iniquity?

Day 3 Sin

Hatta is translated by the word sin. It refers to specific instances of short-coming.

‘For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors…’ (Isaiah 53:12b)

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ (Psalm 51:1,2)

When King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan with the story of the lamb he cries out ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ (2 Samuel 12:13a)

Pray/think - come to God and confess individual acts that you know you've done in the past that were wrong. Try not to plead mitigating circumstances, ignorance or any other excuse. Just confess and ask for forgiveness.

Optional extra reading - read chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Samuel.

Day 4 Cover

The main Hebrew word that speaks of the way God deals with sin is kipper literally meaning ‘to cover’. This can be in a financial sense - we too say ‘this should cover it’ when handing over money for a debt – or a hide/forget sense such as when we put a cloth over something or someone. ‘

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.’ (Leviticus 17:11)

‘With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ (Isaiah 6:7)

‘You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.’(Psalm 85:2) Note this is a different word for cover in Hebrew but similar idea.

Think - God has got my sins covered. They can no longer be seen. The whole long list has got correcting fluid covering every wrong deed. There has been a huge deposit of righteousness into my account and I am no longer overdrawn.

Day 5 Blots Out

Maha is translated variously as ‘blots out’, ‘wipes out’ and ‘sweeps away’.
Forgiveness and the taking away of sin is something that flows from God’s inner quality.

‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’ (Isaiah 43:25)

But the same word has a different feel elsewhere. Through his prophets God promised to clean up Jerusalem like someone washing the dishes and leaving them to drain. It is more like ‘blotting up’ than ‘blotting out’.

‘I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes out a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.’ (2 Kings 21:13b)

‘I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.’ (Isaiah 44:22)

David uses the same word when he asks God to be harsh with his enemies. In this example to blot out is to erase, as pencil writing is erased from a page.

‘May they be blotted out of the book of life and not listed with the righteous.’ (Psalm 69:28)

The literal translation of a Greek word Paul sometimes chose to use in this context is ‘wiping out’. ‘

He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations…’ (Colossians 2:14)

Think - sinfulness is as nothing to God. He has soaked it up. It is lost in his infinite compassion and sacrifice.

Day 6 Holy

Qados is translated by the word holy. Opinion is divided as to whether this is based on brightness (can’t look at it), or separateness (too far away) but in fact both ideas are helpful.
Holiness is the characteristic of God. It is the adjective most often twinned with the name of God in the Old Testament. When Isaiah sees the Lord on the throne the seraphs are crying:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

For Isaiah, God is too bright to look at. Doing so, he feels ruined.

‘‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’’ (Isaiah 6:5)

Think - God invites me into his presence, he covers or blots out my sins and I can approach the unapproachable.

Day 7 Holy

If qados was about brightness yesterday, today is about distance. Not just a physical or geographical distance but a sense of otherness.

‘This is what the high and lofty one says – he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit…’’ (Isaiah 57:15)

The big surprise of holiness is that whilst the Bible says how holy God is even the Old Testament says that God is willing to be approachable and to make ordinary people holy.

‘But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.’ (Isaiah 57:13)

Even more than that is the surprise that God comes to be with us Emanuel (God with us).

‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7: 14)

Pray – Lord thank your holiness does not leave me excluded.

Day 8 The Lord

You may never have read the introductory pages to a Bible but, almost without exception, the translators use these pages to explain their thinking behind their use of the words Lord or Lord in the text.
Where the lower case Lord is used it translates the Hebrew word adonnai. It emphasises God’s sovereignty.

‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.’ (Isaiah 6:1)

So, in the year the King died, Isaiah saw a king sitting on a throne. When the seraphs’ voices are heard they identify the King as Yahweh by name.

‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.’ (Psalm 86:3-5)

Think - when I approach God I am approaching my sovereign. He is Lord of all the universe.

Day 9 The LORD

The name ‘the LORD’, when it occurs in capitals in the Old Testament, is the name of God Yahweh used from ancient times by Abraham’s clan and which God uses to introduce himself to Moses. ‘

God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name for ever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’’ (Exodus 3:15)

If we are not aware of the difference we may well confuse those moments when God is intimate, and to be known by the name he gave to Moses, and those moments when the Bible is emphasising his nature as a sovereign.

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

‘‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.’ (Malachi 3: 1)

Jehovah, although not apparent from the English, is made up of the vowels of adonnai and the consonants of Yahweh.

Think - try to be aware when reading the Old Testament of the difference between ‘Lord’ emphasising sovereignty and ‘the LORD’ which is a personal name.
Optional extra reading - read Psalm 86 and Malachi 2:17 -3:1 taking note of the above.
 

Day 10 LORD Almighty

LORD Almighty appears in English Bibles because Yahweh Sabaoth is not easy to translate. Older versions used to use ‘LORD of hosts’. Literally it means ‘Yahweh who is armies.’
There is only one God but he is unlimited. It is as if there are whole armies of him. He is capable of anything. In fact what this phrase is saying is, ‘He is capable of anythings all at once.’

‘The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ (Psalm 46:7)

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

‘Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.’ (Habakkuk 2:13-14)

Think – has my view of God become limited?


Day 11 Elohim

Elohim is translated ‘God’ but strangely it is a plural form but singular in meaning.

‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image,…’’ (Genesis 1:26a)

But the religion of the Bible is fiercely monotheistic.

‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’’ (Exodus 20:2,3)

Sometimes in Hebrew plural is used to show that something has totality, extent or diversity. God is a variety. He is everything a god could need to be.
In a world where most religions had a number of gods of different character it is as if the use of Elohim means that God is not limited by his singleness. He is complex.

Think – imagine the most complex human being you’ve ever met; someone unfathomable. God is infinitely more diverse.


Day 12 Wise

Being wise (hakan) is the ability to choose the right option leading to effectiveness and correct moral choices.
It is the same word as that used of a craftsman; one who knows how to do a job. It can also mean ‘skilled’, ‘shrewd’ or ‘sage’.

‘Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.’ (Ecclesiastes 8:5)

‘Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:13)

The Queen of Sheba finds Solomon’s wisdom apparent when she sees both his wealth and his management style:

‘The report I heard in my country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But … in wisdom and wealth you have far exceed the report I heard.’ (1 kings 10:6,7)

Think/pray – Do I take God into account in my decision making? Pray that God might give me wisdom.


Day 13 Fool
 

There are several Hebrew words for fool but they all carry the idea of moral stupidity; the opposite of wisdom. It is the inability to see the consequences of your actions, stubbornness even.

‘Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.’ (Psalm 107:17)

‘The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgement.’ (Proverbs 10:21)

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.’ (Proverbs 1:7)

One of the words surprisingly was given as a name to someone who turned out to be a fool.

‘May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name - his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.’ (1 Samuel 25:25)

Optional extra reading - read 1 Samuel 25. It's an enjoyable story and illustrates the biblical idea of foolishness.

Day 14 Flesh

The Hebrew word basar normally means flesh, soft tissue or meat.

‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;’ (Genesis 2:23)

‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.’ (Exodus 11:12)

The meat provided to the wandering Israelites went off if kept too long. Often in Psalms or Isaiah the word basar is translated as ‘men’ or ‘mankind’ and something seems to be lost in translation:

‘…the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry? All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.’ (Isaiah 40:5,6)
This makes the following verse from the New Testament remarkable:

‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…’ (John 1:14a)

Think - Jesus became flesh, meat, like Adam, Eve and us, mortal and capable of perishing.

Day 15 Wait

Hope, wait, trust and patient resting have a huge overlap in Hebrew. We sing, ‘I’m trusting in the cross.’ How about ‘I’m waiting in the cross’. To ‘wait’ is one of the most common commands in the Old Testament. There are two Hebrew words meaning the same thing, qawa and haka. They both mean rest, trust, wait or hope.

‘…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.’ (Isaiah 40:31a)

‘Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.’ (Isaiah 5:2b, also in vv4 and 7)

There are huge swathes of time in Israel’s and Christian history when the only thing worth doing is waiting.
Think – what am I waiting for? Waiting for Jesus is not like waiting for a bus.

Day 16 Wait

Try to get the feel of qawa or haka in the following verses from the King James Version: ‘

And I will wait (haka) upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look (qawa) for him. (Isaiah 8:17)

‘And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited (qawa) for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited (qawa) for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ (Isaiah 25:9)

‘And therefore will the LORD wait (qawa), that he may be gracious unto you,’ (Isaiah 30:18)

‘O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited (qawa) for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.’ (Isaiah 33:2)

‘Thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait (qawa) for me.’ (Isaiah 49:23)

‘Surely the isles shall wait (qawa) with for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far,’ (Isaiah 60:9)

Try substituting ‘wait’, ‘trust’, ‘hope’ and ‘expect’ to get the feel.

Optional extra reading - if you have time, look these redings up in other Bible translations.

Day 17 Still

The concepts of resting and quietness are a part of waiting. If you are restless, fidgety, noisy or impatient you are not waiting properly.

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’ (Isaiah 30:15)

Modern writers have been taught that unless repetition makes a literary point it is best to find synonyms rather than repeat a word. This can lead to imprecise translation. There are many Hebrew words conveying the idea of silence, inaction or rest and many occasions when God encourages his people thus.
The Hebrew word hares means ‘awed silence’ as in the following:

‘The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.’ (Exodus 14:14)

The Hebrew word saqat means ‘remain quiet’:

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’ (Isaiah 30:15)

These two passages convey the same sense – sometimes you must leave everything to God. Nothing else is required.

Think – do I struggle with issues and weaknesses which I should leave to God?

Day 18 Rest

The same word manoah, and another closely related word can mean ‘rest’ or ‘home’. The two ideas are often closely related as in:

‘May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.’ (Ruth 1:9]

‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?’’ (Isaiah 66:1)

God wants to be ‘at home’ with us and, since the intimacy Jesus won back for us, we can be ‘at home’ with him.

Optional extra reading – read the book of Ruth over the next few days. It’s an enjoyable story in which the idea of home and kinship is explored.

Day 19 Kindness

Hesed is a word that is translated in many different ways into English. It might be translated by ‘kindness’. But the feel of the concept underlying in Hebrew culture is something like ‘faithful as to a covenant bond, the love which displays itself by sticking to a promise whatever the cost.’ It is a description of God's love for us and a quality that he longs to find us.

When Naomi in the book of Ruth is widowed and her two grown-up sons also die leaving her with two daughters-in-law to support in a foreign land she says to the daughters-in-law:

‘Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me.’ (Ruth 1:8)

The idea of showing kindness to the dead is very odd. What she is saying is that they are acting like family and sticking with a covenant between family members above and beyond the call of duty.
When in the mysterious passage in chapter three Ruth offers herself to Boaz by lying at his feet his response is:

‘The Lord bless you my daughter … this kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier’. (Ruth 3:10)

He is not speaking of kindness to him, she had nothing to offer, but her showing hesed to Naomi in accompanying her back to Israel from her own land of Moab.

Think – do you accept strangers, people who are different from you? Do you welcome them into your home and family?

Day 20 Mercy

Hesed is also translated mercy. When Rehab the prostitute has risked her life and her family's lives sheltering spies she surely asks for mercy when she says:

‘Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.’ (Joshua 2:12,12).

She is effectively saying, ‘I have treated you strangers like family and now you must include me within your family and save us.’ Later on in the book of Joshua they do save her. She is included within God's people, given land and is one of the few women included in the genealogy of Jesus. So is Ruth the Moabitess.

‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.’ (Hosea 6: 6).

Think – God has included me in. Like Ruth, like Rehab, I am not beyond the pale.

Day 21 Redeemer

There are two words that get translated ‘redeemer’ or ‘ransom’ interchangeably. There are two quite different concepts underneath.

Ga’al emphasises relationship. The redeemer chooses to be next of kin, taking the needs of a helpless relative as their own.

‘… a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness … But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return.’ (Isaiah 35:8-10)

So it is only for those who have experienced a family relationship with the Lord.
Go’el is ‘redeemer’ or ‘redeem’. It describes the next of kin who buys back a relative from slavery, or even avenges a murdered person.

‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold.’ (Leviticus 25:25)

‘…if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest…’ (Numbers 5:8)

‘In its classical expression the work of ‘redeemer’ was a right which no other dare usurp. It was a right rather than an inescapable duty, calling for willingness.’ (Motyer page 275)

‘Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.’ (Ruth 3:12)

‘Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ (Isaiah 43:1b)

Think – God in Jesus has chosen to be my redeemer/kinsman. He has stood up for me and taken my place.

Day 22 Ransomed

Pada means ‘exact payment’, or to pay the ransom price. It stresses the exact equivalence of the payment with what is required.

‘… a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness … But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return.’ (Isaiah 35:8-10)

In other words it is only a roadway for those who have had the price paid.
The ransom was what you had to pay to avoid sacrificing your best foal.

‘Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.’ (Exodus 13:13)

‘Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.’ (Isaiah 1:27)

Think – when we read the New Testament and encounter the words ‘redeemer’ or ‘ransom’ one or more of these Old Testament ideas will be behind it. They include an idea of substitution (so we can understand that Christ died in our place) - a sacrifice, a relationship or both.

Day 23 Righteous

Sedeq when spoken of God refers to his absolutely right purposes that match his righteous nature. Of humans it means doing the right thing but is also something God allocates.

‘Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ (Genesis 15:6)

It also implies vindication:

‘‘…no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord.’ (Isaiah 54:17)

… and future hope:

‘Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.’

Think – ‘The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.’ (Isaiah 32:17) These are the consequences. Enjoy.

Day 24 Salvation

The Hebrew words yasa – save and yesua – salvation, are the general words used for rescue. Almost always there is a sense of saving from something.

‘Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.’’ (Exodus 14:13)

‘The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation,’ (Exodus 15:2)

‘Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.’ (Psalm 68:19)

What are you saved for? To be in relationship with God, in his favour and to praise him.

‘In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation’ (Isaiah 25:9)

It is what the name Jesus means.
Think – what have I been saved from? What have I been saved into?

Day 25 Marvellous

The Hebrew word pele means ‘marvellous’. There is no Hebrew word for supernatural or miraculous, but pele means beyond normal expectation. Jonathan’s love for David is described using this word.

‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful,…’ (2 Samuel 1:26)

‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’ (Psalm 118:22,3)

The transformation of the rejected stone is something that the Lord has done and it is pele – amazing, marvellous, wonderful and then some. If we were political or sports commentators we would be talking about an amazing comeback.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace.’ (Isaiah 9:6)

Pray – Lord I know you are wonderful. Please meet me this week in a way that is beyond my normal expectation.

Day 26 Love

Many people will be aware of the clear distinction in New Testament Greek between erotic and non-erotic love. This distinction does not exist in Hebrew. The Old Testament writer searching for a word for love would not have had that choice.
The Hebrew word ahab is to love, to like or to be a friend but is occasionally used of romantic love.

‘Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased.’ (1 Samuel 18:20)

‘And Jonathan made David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.’ (1 Samuel 20:17)

‘I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.’ (Psalm 116:1)

‘I hate double-minded men, but I love your law.’ (Psalm 119:103)

Think - of all the different things/people you would say you love. Bear them in mind over the next two days. Which love words would be appropriate?

Day 27 Love

Ahaba is a bit more intimate, includes family love, is often used of romantic love but is also used in some passages to show the intensity of God’s love. Neither this nor the previous word can be taken to mean a physical act of sexual love.

‘And Jonathan made David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.’ (1 Samuel 20:17)

In the following verse ahaba appears twice but the NIV editors have opted for two different translations:

‘I grieve for you Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.’ (2 Samuel 1:26)

‘Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.’ (Song of Songs 2:7b)

‘In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.’ (Isaiah 63:9b)

Motyer described this word, ‘It is the love which delights in the companionship of the loved one.’

Think – God delights in my company. I should spend time just being with those I love, including God.

Day 28 Love

The perfectly ordinary word yada translated ‘to know, recognise or understand’ is also used to mean an intimate sexual relationship. The Authorised Version of the Bible uses ‘Adam knew his wife’ but our modern translation says:

‘Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant…’ (Genesis 4:1)

“You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no God was formed nor will there be one after me.’’ (Isaiah 43:10)

Think – God knows us very intimately.

Day 29 Arm

Zeroa is the perfectly normal word for ‘arm’, but when referring to God often means him taking personal, forceful action.

‘May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die.’ (Psalm 79:11)

‘Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.’ (Psalm 98:1)

In Isaiah the arm of God seems to take on a life of its own which builds in importance as God rolls up his sleeves and works salvation:

‘See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.’ (Isaiah 40:10a)

‘The Lord will lay bare his holy arm…’ (Isaiah 52:10a)

‘Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ (Isaiah 53:1)

‘…his own arm worked salvation for him…’ (Isaiah 59:16)

Think – Jesus is the arm of Yahweh become visible. The arm is God in personal action.

Day 30 Breath

Ruah is a word that is translated by ‘spirit’, ‘breath’ and ‘wind’. These are three very different things to an English speaker but all one concept in Hebrew. Often context tells us which translation to use:

‘…at your rebuke O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.’ (Psalm 18:15b)

‘But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.’ (Genesis 8:1)

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’ (Psalm 139:7)

But we lose something if we have to opt for one word in, say, the following:

‘…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’ (Genesis 1:2b)

Think – mull over the verses above. Swap the words breath, wind and spirit around. Try to get the feel of the ambiguity.

Day 31 Breath

God’s actions are often carried out by his Spirit/breath.

‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.’ (Psalm 33:6)

‘The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.’ (Isaiah 40:7)

Leaders are endowed with it (Numbers 11:16,17; 1 Samuel 16:13), prophets promise a general outpouring of it (Joel 2:28) and the servant of God has it put in him (Isaiah 42:1).
Think - the New Testament Greek pneuma has similar ambiguities. Read John 3:6-8 with this in mind, looking out for the words ‘wind’ and ‘Spirit’.

Day 32 Glory

Kabod describes honour, splendour and wealth. It suggests external qualities of quality and weight. It has a certain heaviness about it as a word. Perhaps we might imagine someone weighted down by treasure. ‘

The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.’ (Isaiah 60:13)

‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.’ (Isaiah 60:1)

‘Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.’ (Exodus 40:34)

‘And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ (Isaiah 40:5)

This glory is outstanding quality.
Think – when we do church ‘to God’s glory’ it is his quality we want to be seen.

Day 33 Glory

If you read Isaiah 60 note how many times glory is used to do with wealth and how many to do with beauty/worship. Tip’eret describes a beauty which comes from within.

‘The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.’ (Isaiah 60:13)

‘Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land for ever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour.’ Isaiah 60:21

The New Testament writers only had one word available to them – the Greek doxa -so we have to guess which meaning is intended.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only.’ (John 1:14)

Perhaps when the glory of the Lord shone around as the angels announced Jesus’ birth it pointed to all the possible meanings - a beautiful thing of heavy consequence.

Think – was the glory these observers saw quality or beauty? God is revealing his glory in us. When we let Jesus spirit shine we are the splendour of God.


Day 34 Woe

Hoy or oi is a means of attracting attention, but it is translated as woe, ah! oh! alas or come. It is at the beginning of many passages.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;’ (Isaiah 55:1a)

Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north…’ (Zechariah 2:6)

It is the same God of love who calls oi to the hungry and oi judgement is coming.

‘Woe to the obstinate children, declares the Lord.’ (Isaiah 30:1)

‘Woe to you O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you O traitor, you who have not been betrayed!’ (Isaiah 33:1a)

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!’’ (Ezekiel 13:3)

Think – when God is trying to get your attention do you have a tendency to assume it’s a woe?

Day 35 Compassion

The Hebrew word raham normally means to show mercy, compassion or pity. Closely related to the word for ‘womb’ raham is the word for that compassion which stirs our emotions.

‘The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, ‘Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!’’ (1 Kings 3:26)

‘…they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children.’ (Isaiah 13:18)

‘He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.’ (Isaiah 49:10)

‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.’ (Isaiah 54:7)

‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;’ (Psalm 103:13)

Think/pray – it is God’s compassion that reached out for me. I should be caught up in his compassion for the lost. Pray for those on your heart who do not yet know God personally.

Day 36 Keep

The Hebrew word samar means keep, watch, guard, look after or observe. Two meanings are found in Deuteronomy 4.

‘Observe (my laws) carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations…’ (Deuteronomy 4:6)

‘Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Look for it six times in the following passage:

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore. (Psalm 121:3-8)

Pray – thank you Lord for your watch over my life. Help me to keep watch and keep your word.

Day 37 Empty

Tohu means nothing, empty, formless, void, vain, meaningless. Put it together with the similar word bohu and you get a rhyme, as in:

‘Now the earth was formless and empty…’ (Genesis 1:2)

The earth was tohu wa bohu. (The same rhyme is in Jeremiah 4:23.) But God gave it shape and purpose:

‘…he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: ‘I am the Lord and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.’’ (Isaiah 45:18b,19)

In Isaiah 24:7-9 much of society’s apparent sophistication is listed and then seen as empty.

‘The ruined city lies desolate.’ (Isaiah 24:10a)

Think – without God’s ongoing hold on creation the world is empty. Without him our lives are purposeless.

Day 38 Time

The Hebrew word ‘et is not the date on the calendar but the right occasion for the event.

‘In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you;’ (Isaiah 49:8a)

To God all times are soon. With Babylon’s destruction still some centuries away it was still inevitable.

‘Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged.’ (Isaiah 13:22)

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 every couplet begins with ‘‘e’t.

‘a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build’ (Ecclesiastes 3:12-3)

Pray – my life is in your hands. So much depends on timing and opportunity Lord – I put it all in your care.

Day 39 Law

Tora is one of several words translated ‘law’, ‘instruction’ or ‘teaching.’ Sometimes the books of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament from Genesis to Deuteronomy) are referred to as the Law.

‘Yet he did not put the sons of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…’ (2 Kings 14:6)

The English word ‘law’ has legal connotations which are not always there in the Hebrew.

‘The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.’ (Psalm 19:7)

‘Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.’ (Psalm 119:1)

But it is a general word for teaching or instruction.

‘Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.’ (Proverbs 1:8)

Think – for a Christian the law of the Lord is the body of teaching that we love. We should want to obey because then we will reflect God’s character. We do not need to obey it to be acceptable to him.

Day 40 Peace

The Hebrew word shalom is often translated as ‘peace’ but it means more than that. It incorporates the ideas of wholeness and well-being.

‘When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going’ (2 Samuel 11:7)

You would be forgiven for not noticing that the word shalom appears in this verse three times. In effect David asks:

Is Joab shalom?
Are the soldiers shalom?
Is the war shalom?

As a couple of Brummies we can see no better translation than ‘alright?’ Is Joab alright? Are the soldiers alright? Is the war alright?

Two shaloms in a row are translated ‘perfect peace’.

‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

Think – do I have a limited view of peace? Is it sitting with slippers on by the fire? Do I think peace with God leads to fruitful action?

Notes

All quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.
Throughout our preparation for this work we have been consistently helped by Alec Motyer’s commentary ‘The prophecy of Isaiah’ – IVP 1993. Our gratitude is immense.