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Open Hand

YHWH looked down from the heavens on the sons of Adam to see, “Is there someone discerning, someone seeking out God?” Psalm 14:2 (Hebrew text)

Discerning – What do you think about when you read the word “discerning?” If you’re like most people of contemporary civilization, you think of a cognitive process. You think about choosing one thing over another. You think about careful examination of the alternatives. In other words, you’ll think that discernment is a mental exercise.

Now let’s look at the Hebrew word. It’s sakal. The consonants of the word paint a very different picture than our Greek-based cognitive assessment. The picture is about eating from an open palm. Think about this in a nomadic culture. Think about what it means for an animal to eat from your open hand. It means trust. When an animal is willing to eat the food that you hold out in your hand, that animal trusts you. That animal discerns that there is no evil intent behind your offering. That animal senses care and faithfulness. You see the difference. In Greek thinking, discernment is a mental process that results in choosing. In Hebrew, discernment is the active display of trust. God isn’t looking for decisive people. He’s looking for those who will trust Him. He seeks those who are willing to eat from His open palm.

What a difference it makes to realize that discernment isn’t a mental process! It’s not about making correct choices or valid decisions. It’s about my willingness to place my well-being in God’s hands. Ultimately, it comes down to submission. No wonder the Bible often uses the metaphor of sheep for human beings. Sheep don’t have a lot of sense. Without a shepherd, they get lost. Without a protector, they wander into danger. If they need anything at all, they need discernment, that is, they need to trust in the shepherd. They need to know his voice and follow him (isn’t that what Jesus said in John 10). The next time you read passages about discernment, think of sheep. You’ll get the picture.

This verse contains a Hebrew parallelism, but you can’t see it unless you look for the pictographs in the words. The word for “seeking” is darash. It provides another image about eating. This time the word displays “the path of a person who eats.” Now you can see the parallelism. God searches for someone who will eat from His open hand, someone who follows the path of those who eat. There is nothing more basic to human life than eating. In Hebrew thought, all life’s provisions, especially food, comes from the hand of the compassionate God. If you want to eat, you need to find His open hand. That’s the source of life. Discernment is nothing more than searching for the source of your existence.

But here’s the twist. The psalmist says that God looks for those who are seeking. We will never find the source unless God does the looking. The Father is anxious to find those who search for His open hand, and when He finds them, they are encouraged to come and eat – and be filled.

When it comes to discerning, are you Greek or Hebrew? Are you weighing your choices or are you searching for the source? Who will feed you today?

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