Okay, this is Skip Moen, a Doctor of Philosophy and Linguist. He writes on many topics, and has a website on understanding the Bible more clearly — from the standpoint of the meanings from the original languages and cultural contexts. I like a lot of what he says, but he can be a little rough. He has offended me, even when I actually agreed with what he was saying! But he has much to offer when speaking into our myopic postmodern Western Church perspective.
This snippet came to me today from Skip, and it blew my socks off! This is some of the best commentary I have ever read on the nature of FAITH! I teach that everything we need is in the secret place with Jesus; but right here, with a laser-like definition of a Hebrew word, he demonstrates just why this is true! Whatever Skip might seem to be, whatever our reactions are to what he might have to say, Skip Moen is really very good at uncovering the truth — using the original meanings of the languages that the Bible was written in.
“Behold, the soul of him is puffed up and is not upright, but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4
“The God Bottle
“Faith – We all know the second part of this verse. Paul quotes it in Romans as the centerpiece of the theology of grace. “The just shall live by faith.” We don’t earn our way to God. We come to Him by faith. Ah, but now there is a problem. Just what is this faith, anyway? Does this verse say, “The man justified by faith shall live,” or “The just man shall live by his faith.” You might have to read this twice to see the difference. Is “faith” something that I have to acquire and accumulate in order to live a life pleasing to God?
“You might say that the first reading is correct. We are justified by faith (whose?) and for that reason we live. But listen to the way Christians usually talk. “God will remove the barriers in your life if you have enough faith.” “You need more faith in order to see God bring about a miracle.” “She had great faith, so God answered her prayers.” All of this kind of talk makes it seem like “faith” is some sort of elixir in a God bottle. We need to collect more of it to be prepared for crisis. If we can just purchase an additional supply (say more “Hail Marys”, put in some extra offering, do a few more good deeds), then we will have it on hand when we need it the most. We want more “faith,” but we’re not quite sure how to get it. It’s definitely not on eBay.
“Part of the problem is that neither Greek nor Hebrew have punctuation marks. So, we don’t know where the comma is supposed to go (or even if there is supposed to be one.) We have to take our guidelines from the rest of Scripture. What we discover, of course, if that “faith” is not like medicine. It means something like, “trust in a relationship”, and just like in any other relationship you can’t bottle it or store it — or acquire it except in interactive exchange. The relationship exists only in the exchange. You don’t have a “relationship” with someone you never speak to.
“The idea that “faith” is something that I can acquire is as misguided as the idea that children are something I own. In fact, the Hebrew word, ’emunah, is typically a word about character, the utter reliability and fidelity of someone, particularly God. Faith is my active attitude of total reliance on God’s absolute trustworthiness. That means that my “faith” is demonstrated in the action of trust: of putting myself in His care, no matter what the circumstances! Until and unless I act on His reliability, I just don’t have faith. I might have a set of written beliefs that I can recite, but I won’t have any active relationship. Faith is only found in the action of trust, not the declaration. Israel claimed to have “faith” in God, but their actions revealed denial of His claim on them. The truth is that they were faithless.
“How much faith does it take to please God? The question itself is wrong-headed. If faith is the action of trusting Him, then I either act in trust, or I don’t act in trust. I either trust Him, or I go it my own way. There is no half-full measure here. So, how do I get this faith? God grants it, freely, abundantly, continuously. From God’s side of the relationship, nothing impedes your trust in Him.
All you have to do is act accordingly.”
– Skip Moen, D. Phil.
You can find out more about this email series, “Thirty Days of The Hebrew Worldview”, on this page of Skip’s website: skipmoen.com/hebrew