Posts Tagged With: Psalm 23

Warring with Amalek Part III

Valley Dwellers

For the best context, see Part I and Part II. Spiritually speaking, Amalek:

  1. Attacks when one is weary, weak, and discouraged. This is also when one is most likely to grumble, complain, and contend with the LORD, leadership, or other people, which is why Adonai allows the attack in the first place.
  2. Strikes one in the back – you don’t see him coming because your focus is on self and the issues and circumstances in front of you (instead of Adonai).
  3. Plays on the desires of one’s the flesh. Often, the things or positions one desires can become a snare for the flesh. Getting the thing or position takes precedence over relationship with Adonai and other people.
  4. Is a descendant of Esau, the red one ruled by appetite, desire, and “right now.” Spiritually, he is the beast-like (sin) nature of mankind.
  5. Is a valley dweller. Whether one is in a valley of doubt, despair, impatience, or even death, Amalek will meet you there.

King Saul and Amalek

King Saul lost his position on account Amalek just like first generation in the wilderness. Though he wasn’t completely disobedient to the Word of the LORD, Adonai still counted it as full blown disregard.

1 Sam. 15:1-3 (NASB) Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3 ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.‘”

Through the prophet Samuel, King Saul was given very specific instructions. He was to destroy every single thing that was associated with Amalek. But, Saul and the people were not so keen on the details.

1 Sam. 15:9-11 (NASB) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. 10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.

Saul and the people were not willing to destroy the goods that they deemed good or best. In Saul’s mind, he had done what Adonai asked; he had fulfilled the commandment. There is a lesson here. Instead of the “devil” being in the details, the reality is that Adonai is in the details!

1 Sam. 15:13 (NASB) Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”

Do you suppose that King Saul knew in his heart of hearts that he hadn’t fully obeyed? Or do you think that he had deluded himself into believing that he had fulfilled Adonai’s command by doing most of what He asked? Samuel points out the root issue: pride. Notice how he addresses Saul in verse 17 below.

1 Sam. 15:17-19 (NASB) 17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

Verse 19 says that Saul “rushed upon the spoil.” The Hebrew word eet (translated as rushed) has the idea of rushing to act with scorn or disrespect. It is akin to the fifth wicked spirit in Proverbs 6:18, feet that hasten to run to do evil.

1 Sam. 15:20-21 (NASB) 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

I did obey… but the people. This is not the heart of a leader like Moses who was willing to have his name blotted out even for the guilty. If other people are one’s excuse for not doing what you know to do, then who are you really following?

1 Sam. 15:22-23 (NASB) Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatryBecause you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”

Notice the sins that Samuel points out to Saul. He compared rebellion to divination. Rebellion is meriy in Hebrew. It comes from the root marah, to be bitter.[1]How is this like divination? Divination is the counterfeit of prophecy. It comes from another spirit that is fueled by the desires of the flesh. Bitterness and rebellion come from the same place. Samuel then mentions insubordination. This is the Hebrew word patsar.[2] It means to peck at, to press, pressure or push someone to do your will. This is likened to iniquity and idolatry. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible defines aven, iniquity, below. See if you can spot the Esau nature.

Vigor: The power within the belly, or loins, for reproduction or creative work. II. Vanity: The use of the power within the loins for vain or other improper purposes. [freq. 90] |kjv: strength, might, force, goods, substance, iniquity, wicked, vanity, affliction, mischief, unrighteous| {H202, H205}

We are insubordinate when we push people around to get our way. This push doesn’t have to be physical, as it is mostly about one’s words. Pressuring someone to yield to you, your desires, your preferences, or what you think is best, is not a mark of leadership or strength – at least not to Adonai. Instead, this type of manipulation is powered by the belly or appetites of nephesh (flesh). By yielding to such pressures, we are in effect worshipping an idol of someone else’s desire.

1 Sam. 15:24 (NASB) 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.

Samuel’s words bring clarity to the gravity of what Saul had done (and not done). He realizes that he feared the people more than the LORD. The people (and Saul) did not destroy the “choice” possessions of the Amalekites. Choice is the Hebrew reshit, meaning first, beginning, the choice or most excellent. It is the same word as bereshit, the first word of the Bible. It also refers to firstborn sons (beginning of strength) and first fruits of harvest (Lev. 23:10).

By not destroying the reshit of the Amalekites, they might as well have not done anything at all. In verse 21 (above), these goods are said to be “devoted to destruction” and would be given as a sacrifice to the LORD. This phrase is another link to the transgression of the Children of Israel in the account of the spies. The Amalekites and the Canaanites beat them down as far as Hormah.

Hormah comes from the same root as the phrase “devoted for destruction,” charam.[3] It means to set aside or apart for devotion whether for destruction or sacrifice. It often refers to judgment and utter destruction. In Isaiah, Adonai uses this same word to speak of Edom.

Is. 34:5 (TLV) For My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens. See, it will come down upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to judgment.

In Saul’s case, everything that belonged to the Amalekites had been devoted to destruction at the judgment of Adonai. Saul and the people instead reserved the reshit of these things and planned to place them on an altar of sacrifice to Adonai. Did you catch the subtle yet profound difference? Samuel likens these actions to divination, iniquity, and idolatry. Details matter.

Samuel, the one who hears God as a type of Yeshua, takes care of the “head” of the Amalekites. Notice that Agag presumes that “death” has passed him by. How wrong he is!

1 Sam. 15:32-33 (NASB) Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal. 

Samuel sliced up the enemy (like bread) at Gigal. As gory as it is, this is necessary in the war with Amalek. Every single shred of the lower beastly nature must be destroyed. If your eye is causing you to sin, gouge it out. Obedience is better than sacrifice. In other words, though the world with its wisdom from below says, “the end justifies the means,” Adonai vehemently disagrees.

Because of his careless handling of Amalek, Saul lost his kingship. Like Israel so many centuries before him, he lost his lofty position. Another would be raised up to replace him. The pattern of the “first” or “firstborn” being passed over due to disobedience of the flesh occurs over and over in Scripture. Ye, must be born again. The second born, the man of tents and faith, receives the promise.

Lack of trust and disobedience are marks of the faithless old man, like Esau. Greed, envy, strife, gossip, slander, murder, deceit, malice, arrogance, disrespect, selfish ambition, unnatural passions, impatience, jealousy, all of these things keep one from entering the Shabbat rest of Adonai. (Romans 1:16-32) But, these impulses can be conquered with the Words of Life. (Gen. 4:6-7)

Back to Yehoshua (Joshua)

In Part II, we looked at the first mention of Yehoshua. He is introduced as the commander of those that war with Amalek. (Ex. 17) The succeeding times Yehoshua appears on the scroll are also noteworthy. Near the end of this week’s Torah Portion, Mishpatim (Ex. 21:1-24:18), Yehoshua is positioned in a place that we only associate with YHWH and Moses:

Ex. 24:12-14 (NASB) Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.”

The text is unclear as to where Yehoshua was or what he was doing while Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights receiving the Luchot HaBrit (Tablets). But when Moses arose to go up, Yehoshua arose with him. The following verses close portion Mishpatim:

Ex. 24:15-18 (NASB) Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

“Luchot HaBrit” Painting by © Kisha Gallagher 2018

The second mention of Yehoshua is shrouded in mystery. Where was Yehoshua for these forty days and forty nights? What did he eat or drink? Why didn’t the cloud consume him? The third time Yehoshua appears in the text, Moses had descended the mountain. And, pow! There is Yehoshua, right by Moses’ side as he if he never left.

Ex. 32:15-17 (NASB) Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. 17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.”

I believe the Torah is purposely vague and mystical in these accounts. The natural questions that arise are meant to grab one’s attention. They are like a highlighter saying, “Look here! There’s more!” And, if Yehoshua being present as Moses ascends and descends the mountain failed to capture your intrigue, his fourth mention is just as mystifying.

Ex. 33:10-11 (NASB) When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

While everyone else in the camp stands at the doorway of their own tent, worshipping at a distance, Joshua remains in the Tent of Meeting, even when Moses returns to the camp. In Hebrew, it says that he would not depart from the midst or middle of the tent. Was he up close and personal with the pillar of cloud when Adonai spoke to Moses face to face? The text is unclear.

A few things are certain. Yehoshua was closer to Moses than anyone else. This is akin to being really close to the Torah or being intimate with Adonai’s instructions and the law giver, Yeshua. Joshua trusted and believed Moses (and thus, Adonai), and was a very loyal servant to him. Because of his closeness to Moses, he avoided grave sins such as the golden calf, and giving an evil report about the Promised Land. Can you see how Joshua emulated Jacob, the one that dwells in the tent of Torah learning, and not the appetite ruled Esau? (Gen. 25:27)

The example of Yehoshua’s relationship with Moses is revealing. The closer one is to him, the closer one is to the Mountain (Throne) of Adonai, and the less likely one is to fall into error in the wilderness of life. It’s as if Yehoshua is hidden (and protected) from the temptations of the camp.

Moreover, Yehoshua was able to see and go to places that no one else could. Is it any wonder that YHWH chose this man to succeed Moses, and lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land? Or, that the Messiah to come would bear his name sake, and do the same? I don’t think so.

The Hope of King David

There is hope for those that live in the valley with the heinous Valley Dwellers. Yehoshua teaches one to slay them with the mouth of the sword, and to stay close to Moses. King David, another type of Messiah Yeshua, teaches a song to overcome Amalek. He knows that worship turns the eyes of the flesh back to the Creator, an adjustment that is crucial in this war.

David’s most famous song is one that most people, no matter how close or far they are from HaShem, can quote by heart; that is Psalm 23. Do you think it is a coincidence that this Psalm mentions the “valley of the shadow of death,” and a “rod and staff” that brings comfort in a low place, emek?

Ps. 23:1-4 (NASB) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Did you notice how this Psalm begins? Because Adonai is my Shepherd, I shall not want. How does this differ from the attitude of the Children in the Wilderness? Have you ever been like them, having your “wanter” stuck in the “on” position? I don’t care to admit how often this is true for me. If one is of the flock of Adonai, they trust that He will meet every need, even when one is confused by His Higher ways, like Habakkuk.

Adonai provides pasture (food and rest) and water. He restores (cares for and provides for) the nephesh (flesh/soul). He knows exactly what one needs, and when it is needed. He did NOT deliver you only to kill you in the wilderness of life.

Be a bearer of Good News, repeat the good report of Caleb and Joshua. Remind your downtrodden neighbor that he/she can by all means trust in the Promises of God. Reverse the evil words, mockery, and doubts of the faithless. Do not let your flesh get caught up in their disobedience. Use the Sword to lacham (fight) Amalek. Slice him and all other enemies into perfect portions of lechem (bread) with the Sword of Adonai.

David sang Psalm 23 as a prayer; perhaps, it was a reminder for him as much as it is for us. These six short verses have brought countless comfort to worn out souls over the centuries. If you are exhausted and battle weary, remember that Yeshua holds the rod in His Hand. He has no need for anyone to help Him keep it held high. And, He promises that we will prevail. We will overcome BECAUSE He overcame! Keep trusting, believing, and clinging to Him.

Ps. 23:5-6(NASB) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

For more on Amalek, see this post on Esther, Costumes, and Purim.

Also, consider that since it is a leap year this year on the Jewish calendar (2019/5779), the haftarah reading the week of Purim is 1 Samuel 15:2-34, the text I’ve explored above. Haman descends from Amalek.


 

[1]H4805 מְרִיmerı̂y mer-ee’ From H4784; bitterness, that is, (figuratively) rebellion; concretely bitter, or rebellious: – bitter, (most) rebel (-ion, -lious). Total KJV occurrences: 23

H4784 מָרָהmârâh A primitive root; to be (causatively make) bitter (or unpleasant); (figuratively) to rebel (or resist; causatively to provoke): – bitter, change, be disobedient, disobey, grievously, provocation, provoke (-ing), (be) rebel (against, -lious). Total KJV occurrences: 45

[2]H6484 פָּצַרpāṣar: A verb meaning to peck at, to press, to push. It indicates a literal physical push against someone (Gen 19:9); figuratively, it refers to urging someone (Gen 33:11) to do something (Jdg 19:7). In a negative sense, it refers to rebellion against someone, arrogance (1Sa 15:23).

[3]Hebrew Word Study: H2763 חָרַם ḥāram: A verb meaning to destroy, to doom, to devote. This word is most commonly associated with the Israelites destroying the Canaanites upon their entry into the Promised Land (Deu 7:2; Jos 11:20). It indicates complete and utter destruction (Jdg 21:11; 1Sa 15:18); the severe judgment of God (Isa 11:15); the forfeiture of property (Ezr 10:8); being “accursed” or set apart for destruction (Jos 6:18). This latter application, being set apart, accounts for what appears to be a contradictory element in the verb. It is also used to mean devotion or consecration to the Lord (Lev 27:28-29; Mic 4:13). Just as something accursed is set apart for destruction, so something devoted to God is set apart for His use.

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