As we read God’s Word, we sometimes come across a word or phrase that sounds strange in the verse. It doesn’t seem to fit the context at all. So we check our concordances and compare the King James Version to other versions of the Bible. We can also check to see if any manners and customs are involved.
An example of a verse that has a phrase that doesn’t seem to fit is Psalms 77:2:
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
“My sore ran in the night” gets our attention. In some editions of the King James Version, “sore” has a marginal note, which tells us that the Hebrew word translated “sore” here is better translated “hand.” In checking a Young’s concordance, we find that “sore” comes from the Hebrew word yad, which is most often translated “hand.” This is the only time in the King James Version it is translated “sore.” In Psalms 77:2, yad would be more accurately translated “hand.”
The Companion Bible gives us more help. One of the notes on verse 2 tells us that “my sore ran” means that the psalmist’s hand was outstretched, that is, in prayer. Another note explains that “ceased not” means ceased not to be outstretched. The 1901 American Standard Version and The Amplified Bible give us good translations.
Psalms 77:2 [American Standard Version]:
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: My hand was stretched out in the night, and slacked not; My soul refused to be comforted.
Psalms 77:2 [The Amplified Bible]:
In the day of my trouble I seek (inquire of and desperately require) the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out [in prayer] without slacking up; I refuse to be comforted.
Understanding the manners and customs of this verse helps us appreciate the truth being conveyed here. Bishop K. C. Pillai was a wonderful Christian man whose purpose in the United States was to teach Western people about the manners and customs of the Bible. He often taught in our Summer School at The Way International during the 1960s. Bishop Pillai wasn’t just a former Hindu from India who knew only the customs of his country. He had been to Israel and studied the manners and customs they used. He compared his native customs to those of Israel and found many that were similar. This was how he could use the Eastern customs he learned in Israel to explain the scriptures that he read and taught to the people in America.
Bishop was concerned about verses like Psalms 77:2. When we read the verse and replace “sore” with the word “hand,” we have the accurate meaning that represents a custom common to both Israel and India. As the people went to bed at night, they would stretch out their hands in prayer.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore [my hand] ran in the night [stretched out in the night], and ceased not [to be outstretched]: my soul refused to be comforted.
This custom is also reflected in other verses in Psalms.
Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
Bishop Pillai also shared additional details about this custom. He said that at bedtime the Easterner would lie on his back and use two, three, or four pillows to keep his head up. He would stretch out his arms and legs and keep them limp. Then he could lift his mind easily and pray. After his mind was clear, he would raise his hands in prayer.
When Bishop Pillai taught the Word, he made comments about how such phrases compared to the customs of the East and West. He explained that when an Easterner lifted his hands toward heaven, he was signifying full and complete surrender to God as a servant. You can see this custom has carried through to customs of our day. A prisoner of war is ordered to surrender his gun and is given the command, “Hands up!” The person taking political office in the United States takes an oath that is testimony to his commitment to serve his country and fulfill the duties of his office. In effect, as he holds up his right hand, his hand is pointing upward to God, and God is his witness.
Bishop also explained the meaning of “my soul refused to be comforted” in Psalms 77:2. This means the psalmist would not stop praying with hands outstretched until he was satisfied that God had comforted his soul. Bishop said, “When you pray, take your time until you have the assurance and comfort on the inside that God has heard your prayer.”
In Psalm 77, we see that the psalmist poured out his heart and worked his mind to remember the Word so that he could receive God’s comfort. With hands stretched toward the heavens in prayer, the psalmist goes from being troubled and overwhelmed to remembering God’s wondrous works and strength.
I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?
Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?
Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
As the psalmist remembered these truths, he received God’s comfort. Then he could lower his hands and go to sleep in peace.
Today in the Grace Administration, day or night, we can receive God’s comfort as we remember the Word. We can speak in tongues and pray perfectly throughout the day. Then when we go to bed at night, we can leave it all to Him, close our eyes, and go to sleep.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [by way of the gift of holy spirit in manifestation], and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
This is a reprint from the March/April 2012 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2012 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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