Floating or Feasting?
What do these passages have in common?
They are Hebrew poetry.
They reflect the glory of the Creator God who reveals Himself in the face of Jesus the Christ.
They have one word in common, one particular word that only a Hebrew scholar or a master of spiritual discipline would recognize. When someone pointed it out to me (thank you, Eugene Peterson!), it gave me an intense thrill of understanding and challenge.
Hebrew is a very cool language that shaped and was shaped by a unique people. Hebrew has far fewer words than English, but don’t for a minute think of this as a weakness or a disadvantage. It reflects a creativity, a certain flexibility of mind, and a comfort with metaphor and transcendence, that has been sorely lacking in our Western Enlightenment English-speaking ancestry. Certainly English has been a meduim for great prose and poetry. But one can hardly utter a sentence in Hebrew without turning a poetic phrase, making an allusion, or striking a metaphor. Those metaphors are not optional: they are at the heart of Semitic communication, and these three passages are no different.
Have you ever observed a dog with a bone or a favorite chew toy? A predatory canine or feline on National Geographic several hours after a kill? They will search for the perfect spot to recline, and after laying down, they set to work with single-minded passion. As they gnaw, their eyes roll back slightly and a gentle rumble of pleasure, a throaty growl or purr, thrums from deep within their core. Absolute focus, complete seriousness, total determination, and almost delirious delight come together and express themselves in that purr, that “growl over its prey” that Isaiah depicts.
That is hagah in Hebrew. Hagah also appears in the Psalms above. Instead of a bone or an animal, its object there is the LORD, and the law through which He reveals Himself to His people. In English, we say meditate, but isn’t that an awfully delicate and ephemeral word for what the lion does, what my Labrador does, what a wolf does?
Meditiate is TOO TAME a word by far for such an earthy, passionate, self-abandoned, total body experience. To become totally lost in God, and somehow return to myself. Not lost in nothingness, staring at a candle and letting individuality recede into oblivion.
Rather, being swallowed up in the total joy that is Personal, Ultimate Reality.
Being filled up by the One who will renew all things (Mt 19:28; Acts 3:21)
“Taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34:8; cf. 1 Pet 2:3)
“Eat this book!” (Rev 10:9-10; cf. Jer 15:16; Eze 2:1-3:4)
in HIS love,