Sunday, January 30, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Tela' The Wounded Lamb

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of hard service is over,
her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

A voice was saying, “Cry out!” Another said, “What should I cry out?”
“All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”

Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain.
Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly.
Raise it, do not be afraid! Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with strength, and his power establishes his rule. His wages are with him, and his reward accompanies him. He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment. He gently leads those that are nursing." -Isaiah 40:1-11

We’re starting a new series today titled “Hebrew Word Study” and each week we’re going to look at a different Hebrew word, it’s context, and the depth of meaning found in it. And we’re going to learn more about God, by understanding the depth and power of the Hebrew language. Are you excited? I’m super excited.

Our first word is the Hebrew word “tela’” it means “lamb.” Our context is from Isaiah chapter 40 verses 1-11. Isaiah is one of my favorite prophets, because the message he brings is difficult but also encouraging, because there is hope attached to it.

We see God speaking through Isaiah to Israel in chapter 40, saying to the people, your time of hard service and struggle is ending. They’ve been punished by God, because they’ve wandered. They’ve worshiped false idols. They’ve turned against God. They’ve broken all his commands. Never-the-less God says there’s hope.

Verses 3-5 are really a prophecy about the coming of John the Baptist, who would “prepare the way” for Jesus, so Jesus would have a straight path to travel, so that people would be ready for his coming. And verses 9-11 is a prophecy of Jesus Christ himself coming… and then we see in verse 11, “11 He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms”

First we want to understand the meaning of the word shepherd here. The Hebrew word here for shepherd is “ra-ah” pronounced “rah-ah.” There are numerous words for shepherd in Hebrew. But this word rah-ah indicates a “consuming passion.” And actually the Semitic root word here is “ra” which means evil. So in common language today, if we were speaking Hebrew, we would use the word ‘rah-ah’ to describe an addiction, like a drug addiction or a shopping addiction. It’s a consuming passion that takes over our lives, you might say, something overpowering. But this Hebrew word, for shepherd, can also be a consuming passion that is a good thing. Like if I’m your pastor, I have a consuming passion for you to know Jesus and follow Him. If you’re a parent, you have a consuming passion to keep your children safe and healthy. So here we see a shepherd, which his really talking about Jesus, having a consuming passion, a consuming love for the sheep, which is us. We’re the sheep.

So then we come to the word “tela’” which means lamb. Now, there are actually 9 other words in Hebrew for a lamb. But this is the only place in the entire Bible where the Hebrew word tela is used to say lamb.

Tela means lamb, but it actually indicates in particular a lamb that is “blemished, spotted, or wounded.” So this is not a perfect spotless lamb, instead we see the shepherd consumed with loving passion for an imperfect, blemished, dirty, or wounded lamb.

It kind of gives you a picture of a lamb who is limping behind the flock. A lamb who is sickly, who can’t keep up, a lamb who is not following the master properly, who is wandering off alone and into trouble. Or a lamb who keeps playing in the mud and making a mess.

So we see God portrayed as the shepherd, and the lamb, is us, and God is seeing us, a big mess, and coming to us, and picking us up, cradling us in his arms, all messy, but He is consumed with love and care for this lost wounded lamb.

A lot of us here at dinner church are black sheep of the family, aren’t we? I was the lamb who had gone astray, and fell down a cliff, and into a ravine, and into a mud puddle, and broken my leg, and smeared feces all over my wool. But there was one pursuing me, with consuming love, and he’s pursuing you as well, with consuming love, gentle love, the love of a shepherd. And he will carry you to safety if you let Him. Truly he will carry you to safety, with great love. The messed up one, is who he came for, you and me.