Musings – Habits


Today (6/4/13), the Moody Bible Institute put out a daily devotion on putting off the old self and putting on the new (Ephesians 6:22-24).  They connected overcoming habits with putting on the garments of Messiah.  This is a very profound connection.

Here is the Devotion:

Strategy of Godliness: Put Off and Put On

Put off your old self . . . and put on the new self, created to be like God. Ephesians 4:22, 24

Researchers at Duke University who study human behavior have concluded that more than 40 percent of our actions are not a result of conscious decisions; instead, they are the product of our habits. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells stories of people who have successfully replaced their bad habits by forming good habits in their stead. If habits do indeed guide much of our behavior, this should be an important point of focus when we think about personal change.

But does the Bible agree with modern psychology? Are we the habitual creatures that scientists say we are? And can the discussion of habits matter for a topic like the fruit of the Spirit and our desire to form the Christian virtues? The apostle Paul would say yes. The strategy proposed in our reading today is a playbook for the formation of spiritual habits. Notice that our text doesn’t simply illustrate where the Ephesians are going wrong morally. Don’t lie! Don’t steal! Don’t slander one another! Of course these actions are prohibited, but for every action that should be eliminated, Scripture gives us another action to replace it. Don’t lie—rather, when you speak, tell the truth. Don’t be angry and sin—rather, look to resolve your conflicts before evening. Don’t steal—rather, work with your hands in ways that are useful. Don’t slander—rather, use your words to encourage others.

It’s important to resist the sins we’re commonly committing, but we should also replace them with virtue. We need a balance sheet of do’s and don’ts, because prohibitions alone won’t work. We can look to form new godly habits because through Jesus Christ, we have a new self, which shares a new inclination toward actions and attitudes that are righteous and holy.

The word habit comes from the Old French ‘habit’ which means clothing or the appearance of one’s dress.  This word traces back further to the Latin ‘habitus’ which is speaking of taking hold of a thing or giving (giving & receiving).  Isaac Mozeson traces the etymology of ‘habit’ to the Hebrew words כפר ‘kopher’ which means a covering and הב ‘hab’ which means to give.

At first glance these words do not seem related but a further inspection reveals that they do.  כפר ‘kopher’ means to cover as in atonement.  The lid of atonement or mercy seat (כפרת ‘kapporet’) sat in the Tabernacle/God’s House (Exodus 26:34; 34:26; Deuteronomy 23:18).  הב ‘hab’ means to give, as in the gift of love of a house/family.  הב ‘hab literally means to look towards the house.

Both of these words are associated with clothing as well.  We can cover our bodies (our house 2 Corinthians 5:1-4) with the garments of Jesus’ salvation and righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; Isaiah 45:22-25; Isaiah 61:10; Romans 13:14) or we can cover ourselves in our own righteousness which is nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  We can be covered in His love (הב ‘hab’) or we can cover ourselves in the love of our flesh (Galatians 5:16; 1 John 2:16).  The habits we have will be indicative of the love that we are walking in.  To overcome habits of the flesh, we must walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-39) which is not accomplished by our power or might (Zechariah 4:6) but in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  The Hebrew word for grace is חן ‘chen’ which is literally picturing a camp of tents (homes).  The movement or path of these tents is rendered by the Hebrew word ארח ‘arach’ which comes from the root word רח ‘rach’ which means the spirit.  The spirit and the paths of nomads is connected because ancient nomads were familiar with wind patterns and would follow particular paths according to these seasonal patterns in order to obtain food.

The Hebrew word for aroma (ריח reyach’), or “odor carried by the wind” comes from this root word as well.  The ‘aroma’ of our garments will depend upon what garments we are wearing (2 Corinthians 2:14-17; Ephesians 5:2).  The Hebrew word for name is שם ‘shem’ which means the character or ‘aroma’ of a person.  We “smell” like Jesus when we walk in His “shem” His name…His Word…His character.  Contrariwise, the ‘garments’ of sinful flesh are foul smelling in the nose of the Most High (Isaiah 65:5).  This traces back to the fall of man as the Hebrew word for shame (as in the shame which came about as a result of sin – Genesis 2:25; 3:6-12) is בוש ‘bush’ which is depicting the foul smell of rotting matter.

To overcome the habits of the flesh, that we might walk in the “habits of righteousness” (cycles of righteousness) we must yield/submit ourselves to the Lord (James 4:7-10; Romans 6:13-19), offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah (1 Peter 2:5).

Those who wish to overcome fleshly habits often make “resolutions” to do so.  This word/concept reveals the same concept above.  The English word ‘resolution’ traces back to two different Hebrew words which represent two different paths.  One is the path of the flesh and relying on our own power.  The other is the narrow path of the Spirit where we put our trust in the Lord in order to stand.

The first word is חלט ‘chalat’ which means to make a judgment based upon what is comprehended in the mind.  חלט comes from the root חט ‘chet’ which literally means a cord that is knotted and used for measurement.  The cord is stretched between two points and the knots are counted for measurement.  This is also the word for sin as in the shooting of an arrow at a target which is missed.  The distance one misses is then measured with a cord.  This represents man’s attempt to make resolutions to improve themselves.  They will always miss and sin in the process.  Sometimes the cord is short, sometimes very long…

Pro 3:5  Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.

Pro 3:6  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

The next word associated with the concept of resolutions is נצב ‘natsav’ which literally means a standing pillar and is used for the concept of steadfastness and resoluteness in Hebrew.  Messiah is the pillar (Isaiah 6:13; Romans 11:16-29) that we must be grafted into in order to stand (Psalm 119:28).

2Co 12:9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

blessing 4



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