This is a hard word to define in English. We are going to define emunah/faith biblically because it is so important.  Most think that doubt is the opposite of faith but it isn’t, it is unbelief. Doubt is something we all have but we have been taught that this is terrible to have, but it is actually healthy because it causes you to investigate and find answers. This is why it is important to study and seek knowledge. Doubt and questioning led me to knowledge and that will lead you to the truth. We have all heard it said “My people are destroyed by a lack of knowledge” but in Hebrew it says “My people are destroyed for a lack of “The knowledge” (ha da’at) which means there is a specific type of knowledge we should be seeking.  The answer is found later in the verse where it says that “because you have rejected knowledge I will also reject you from being my priest since you have forgotten the Torah of your God.” When you pursue “the knowledge” found in the Scriptures, doubts will disappear resulting in emunah/faith. In Jer 31.34 it says that we will “know” the Lord  and 1 Cor 13.9-12 says that we will know fully. The context for this is found in Exo 19.1-20.21 where Moses brings the people up to Mt Sinai. They camped as one people (heart and mind). They “saw” (Exo 19.5) and God wanted to see if they would obey, which also means “to hear” because the word in 19.5 for obey is “shama” and it is the root word for “shema” which means to hear. So they are to listen and obey. In Hebrew, emunah is an action word but in English it is a noun, big difference. So the first steps of emunah is “to see” or to have revelation, then you hear and obey. We have a picture of these steps in Gen 29.32-34 and the first four sons of Jacob. Reuben means “see, a son” and next comes Shimon which means “heard.” Then Levi comes along which means “to join” and then Judah which means “praise.” So, the steps of faith is first you see (Reuben), then you hear and obey (Shimon). You are joined (Levi) to the Lord and become a praise(Judah) to God. Paul alludes to this in Rom 2.29.  Now, at Sinai the people saw, they heard but they did not obey and draw near (Exo 20.21) so there was a breakdown of faith. Remember faith is action. They wanted Moses to speak to them. What was it that made Moses able to go meet with the Lord but the people couldn’t? Lets look at some back-ground. Moses has spent 40 years as a shepherd and is called a friend (re’eh) which means a shepherd/friend. Moses talks with God as a shepherd/friend. Moses has been on Sinai before, he has talked with God. He moved from unbelief (I can’t go to Egypt) to doubt (who are you and I have questions) to faith (ok, I’ll go because I know you). Moses moved from unbelief to doubt and with his new found knowledge finally to emunah/faith. This knowledge enables Moses to approach that mountain (Exo 20.21). So, Paul alludes to the thick cloud at Sinai with “seeing through a glass dimly” which means a lack of understanding and later we will see through a “glass clearly” which means to understand (1 Cor 13.9-12). So, to hear and obey is rooted in the Tanach but it was what James referred to in James 1.22 when he said we were to be doers of the word and not hearers only. The consequences of unbelief is that “you shall not” (Num 20.7-12). Moses did not believe God and it cost him, it wasn’t just disobedience. David disobeyed but was not cut off because he never moved into unbelief. So we must believe his commands which are called “mitzvoth” in Hebrew, which is another element of faith. We must do what the Lord says. Faith without works is dead and we must be hearers of the word. Another element of emunah/faith is love and that should be the basis and foundation. Charity is also translated as love which means we are to be generous, charitable works by obedience to God. So, basically, emunah/faith is the knowledge of God with understanding (like Moses was not afraid to approach God) and mitzvoth (hearing/obeying his commands) and love which is having the right attitude and generosity in what you are doing. Faith is action comprised of knowledge (da’at), commandments (mitz’vot) and love (ahav). It does not mean “to believe” as some think. They are not the same thing.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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