One day as Rabbi Akiva was shepherding his flocks, he noticed a tiny stream trickling down a hillside, dripping over a ledge on its way toward the river below. Below was a massive boulder. Surprisingly, the rock bore a deep impression. The drip, drip, drip of water over the centuries had hollowed away the stone. Akiva commented, “If mere water can do this to hard rock, how much more can God’s Word carve a way into my heart of flesh?” Akiva realized that if the water had flowed over the rock all at once, the rock would have been unchanged. It was the slow but steady impact of each small droplet, year after year, that completely reformed the stone.Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, page 152.
When I read this paragraph in Lois’s book, it reminded me that I haven’t arrived yet. I often want to jump hoops, skip steps, and “get it over with,” so I can be further ahead in my journey. I see where I want to arrive and who I want to be, but get frustrated with myself for taking too long, which only delays the process even more.
This story helped me see that it’s God who does the work of the Word in us (1 Corinthians 3:7), but this doesn’t mean we just sit around and wait for it all to happen. We have to do something as well. Our time in the Word helps us grow in Him. He turns the water impact of the Word into a drip, drip, drip to carve a way into our hearts of flesh, whether it’s within the same hour or in months or years to come.
In a few moments, we’ll talk about the 13th Hebrew letter and its definition. The psalmist helps us see how the Water (the Word) affects us in our daily life and also what we need to do to let it. No matter where you’re at in your walk of faith, I pray this will encourage you to trust God with your growth in Him, and that it inspires you to love His Word more each day. At the end, you’ll find several book recommendations to encourage you to keep reading and spending time with God.
Before we dive into the definition, I’d like to point out how in the Jewish culture, the letters (and many other things) are often symbolic. These symbols encourage and inspire the memorization and study of the Torah and other Rabbinic writings and teachings. Upon seeing certain letters, they become motivated to learn and understand the Word of God more deeply. It’s as if it works as a trigger to jog ones memory.
In Psalm 119, for instance, the letters and their definitions would help them remember what the psalmist says and means in each section. This helps us understand how each letter’s definition ties into the verses they write.
Definition of Mem
Just as the waters of an underground spring rise upward from an unknown source to reveal themselves, so does the spring of wisdom rise from the mysterious Source that is God.
Hebrew 4 Christians
The direct meaning of Mem is water. To a Jew, it might illustrate the spring of the Torah (living water) or the sea of Talmud (deep mysteries of God), reminding them that there is always more to learn in addition to what they already know.
And just like there are 2 bodies of water, you can write the letter in two forms: open and closed.
An open body of water flows from one place to another, whereas a closed one is more like a basin; a lake, pool, or even the ocean. According to some Hebrew scholars, the open form represents the revealed truth of God, while the closed form represents the mysteries of God. In shorter terms, there’s the accessible truth and the mysterious.
Ultimately, we can see how there are two sides to the Word: things we do and do not understand. Along with this dual truth comes another: it’s essential for us to study the Word, but equally important to rest in the truth that we don’t have to figure it all out right away. We must trust that through constant dripping of the Word, God is at work in us (Philippians 2:13).
Just like water, the Word sustains us daily.
In the following verses, the psalmist talks to God about His love for the Word and reveals how it has helped and affected his life. In prior sections of Psalm 119, he seems to cry out to God about his enemies, difficulties, and trials more than anything. But here, I think it’s more than a coincidence that the definition of Mem connects with these verses.
Just as water is a symbol of life, growth, and refreshment, so is the Bible for us today. We need it daily! As you read through the verses, think about the ways God’s Word affects you every day:
97 How I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day.Psalm 119:97-104
98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than those who are old, Because I have complied with Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, So that I may keep Your word.
102 I have not turned aside from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore, I hate every false way.
As I mentioned, it’s essential to study the Bible to know more about God and your relationship with Him. It’s not always easy to stay consistent, and dare I say, even enjoyable. It could get confusing and overwhelming. But the psalmist shares his secret, and it’s learning to love it no matter what. After all, that’s how he starts verse 97!
When people visit Colorado, it’s common for locals to overly encourage the visitors to drink lots of water. With the high elevation, thin air, and dryness, you can get sick and dizzy quick. I experienced this when I first moved here. And even after a year, I suffered the consequences of dry skin, nosebleeds, and painful scabs. I was not a big water drinker before, but I had to learn if I wanted to get rid of these symptoms.
I realized the more consistently you drink water, the more you want it!
The same applies to the Word. The more consistently you study it, the more you want it. You learn to love it as you go, even if it’s one verse or one chapter, one day at a time. And over time, you see the long-term benefits.
Conclusion: Word Impact
Every moment spent in the Word gets used to grow you whether you see it right away or later. Like water has its long-term benefits, so does the Word:
- It makes you wiser (98)
- It gives you insight (99)
- It gives you understanding (100, 104)
- It disciplines you (101)
- It teaches you obedience (102)
- It makes you want more (103)
I encourage you to read Psalm 119 in its entirety, along with my series here, and answer the following questions:
How can each letter in Psalm 119 serve as a symbol to you?
How do they help you understand the verses in each section?
What is it about God and the Word that keeps you coming back for more?
Finally, the promised resources to help inspire you:
- Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (Lois Tverberg & Ann Spangler)
- Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus (Lois Tverberg)
- Secrets of the Secret Place (Bob Sorge)
Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate marketer and am sharing these out of personal experience. These resources have impacted and inspired me to continue studying the Word to know more about God and what it means to be in a relationship with Him. I pray it does the same.
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- Psalm 119:113-120 | ס Samekh
- If You Struggle In Bible Reading, Read This
- For the non-Morning Person
- But When You Pray…
- Psalm 119:105-112 | נ Nun