Hebrew Highlights 142 – Feelings
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
Once in a while I catch myself saying some common Christian phrase, and get a flash of interest in its origins. We quite often use jargon, which has no biblical base whatsoever. In most cases, there are some simple replacement words, which can rectify the situation.
In today’s study, I would like to look at a word, which I have admittedly used very often, but will try to avoid in the future. That word is “feel”.
How often have we said some of the following phrases? I feel the Holy Spirit is saying such and such. I felt lead to do something or other. I feel a check about so and so. I have a feeling about some or other subject.
Believe it or not, all of these phrases, and any others misusing the various forms of “feel” are totally unbiblical. Bear with me as we explore some alternative vocabulary.
When I first began to explore the Hebrew, English, and Greek concordances for some hint of feelings, I thought maybe we could simply replace “feel”, with “sense”. I figured that surely it is OK to “sense” something in the spirit. Unfortunately, that idea also fell flat on its face.
First of all, let’s look at what we should “feel” according to the bible. In its 34 appearances in the bible, the various forms of the word “feel”, discounting those, which pertain to the sense of touch, are actually very important. However, they have absolutely nothing to do with the phrases I mentioned before.
We are expected to feel compassion, remorse, pity, security, humiliation shame, indignation, love, necessity, and awe. All of these play important roles in both our repentance, and our carrying out God’s ministry here on earth.
I chose to place the words believe, know, faith, decide, and hope in juxtaposition to sense and feel, as possible alternatives. Together, they are used 1535 times in the Bible. This fact in itself should prod our curiosity. I will also mention other words later in this study, and explain why I think we often hide behind the word “feel” in our modern Christian or Messianic phraseology.
Trust me when I say that my goal today is to help all of us speak in a manner which is more Biblical, more believable, and perhaps most of all, more binding.
We may as well deal with the phrase which I think is most common, and if we look at it subjectively, most silly. “I feel the Holy Spirit is saying.” In our modern charismatic apostolic age, many of us claim to have the gift of prophecy. This is a wonderful thing, since we are told in 1st Corinthians 14 to earnestly seek this particular blessing from God. However, if we want to prophesy, we may want to take a look at how the prophets in the Bible expressed themselves.
ISA 2:1-2 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah
and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.”
Notice that Isaiah said, “it will come about”, not “I feel that it may happen.”
JER 1:4-10, “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth." But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. "See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Jeremiah said, “the word of the Lord came to me.” He did not say, “I feel God is saying.” In this first paragraph in Jeremiah’s account, we see his humble acceptance of God’s call. He realized both the honor and responsibility connected with speaking God’s word. Yet, God encouraged him, and basically said, “Go for it.” He not only promised the young prophet to put His words in his mouth, but said they would have power over kingdoms.
In 1st Corinthians 14:3 we are told that “one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” How can we possibly edify, exhort, or console anyone if we tell them we only “feel” that we may have a message from God for them. Either we do, or we don’t. If we are not sure, we had better be quiet.
EZE 14:1-4, “Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? "Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God," etc, etc.
Once again, Ezekiel said boldly, “the word of the Lord came to me!” He did not say, “I sensed God speaking.” Then God said, “speak to them and tell them!” He did not say, “mention to them and try to convince them.”
Here’s another example, GEN 41:25, “Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.” If Joseph had said to Pharaoh, “I think maybe this is what your dream may mean”, he may have been sent back to prison. It was his bold assuredness in his interpretation which convinced Pharaoh that that this young man knew what he was talking about.
HOS 1:2, “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord."
Can you imagine what would have happened if Hosea said “I felt like marrying this questionable lady?” The elders and priests of the time would have said, “in that case Hosea, you had better go and repent of your lustful thoughts.”
JOE 1:1-3, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel. Hear this, O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers' days? Tell your sons about it, and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation.”
If Joel had said, “Hey elders, I think maybe you should hear this,” the next generations would have forgotten him.
It should be obvious by now, that I could continue down the list of prophets in order to strengthen my point. However, that would come under the category of axe grinding. My axe is sharp enough already.
I’d like to mention again, that until the day I sat down to do this study, I was using the “feeling” words as much as the next guy. I am now saying boldly and prophetically that God said to me, “Stop that”, and has given me this study to correct my own speech.
1CO 14:26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
If this treatise makes you “feel” unsure of yourself, then I am not getting my point across. I merely think each of us should take more responsibility for our words. Perhaps, we will be more careful if we first consider our choice of vocabulary.
Whenever we use the word “feel”, we are automatically opening up a loophole in the case we are wrong. We have a way out. If our words are not fulfilled, we can simply say, “I guess I misunderstood my feelings.”
We are also, by default, really saying that it is our own spirit or mind behind our idea. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. However, we should say something like, “I personally believe”, “I think”, or “In my opinion.” We should use the name of God or the Holy Spirit sparingly and carefully. If we “know” what God is saying, or even “believe” what the Holy Spirit is urging, we should stand behind what we say.
Here is an example: ACT 11:28, “And one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius.” This New Testament saint stated that “there would certainly be a great famine.” He was certain. We don’t even know if he was still alive during the reign of Claudius. He maybe did not get to see his prophecy fulfilled. However, because of his certainty, the saints probably prepared themselves for the coming famine.
There is another interesting phrase in ACTS 19:21, “Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."
What does it mean that Paul “purposed” in the spirit. Paul was a mature believer. Those of you who have known the Lord many years can probably testify to the fact that as time goes by, God does not give so many directions as he does when we first come to faith. This does not mean we have stopped hearing Him.
As God’s word and character become a permanent part of our lives, God allows us to make decisions together with Him. Our spirit interacts with the Holy Spirit. We make decisions, and the Father is happy that he no longer has to tie our shoes for us. Just as in the case of an earthly family, the Father is still around we need advice on major decisions such as purchasing a house or getting married.
I think even when we make honest mistakes, God turns them around for His and our good in the end.
Let’s end with 1CO 2:11-13, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
As we have seen, “I feel” are not spiritual words. “I believe”, “I know”, “I proclaim”, or “I heard” are words, which lay on us, as the speakers, a responsibility to stand behind what we say.
In the end of course, we discover by reading a few more verses in the 14th chapter of Corinthians that “ the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” In other words, we need to be a check and balance for one another. On the one hand, we need to speak boldly. Again, if our brothers say we misheard God, we may have to eat humble pie.
I “heard” the Spirit of God speak to me about this teaching. I “know” that it will help me guard my own mouth in the future. I “believe” it may be of use to you also. I am “certain” that this is my last sentence.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem