“You have trouble in the world, but let your heart be brave; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels
Trouble – Look, I don’t want any more trouble. I’ve had enough. I’m tired of the “my fair share” politics and the “everyone has to sacrifice” social correctness. So I’m not happy with Yeshua’s pronouncement of impending (and continuing) distress in life. I need a vacation. Maybe you do too.
Is there really enough reward on the other side to keep us going day-after-day in the treadmill of life? Do we really have to have all these trials in order for God to finally say, “Now I know you love Me”? Frankly, while I might intellectually understand the concept of future reward, it often doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. If the truth be told, I am often afraid to make a deeper commitment because I expect that deeper commitments will bring more suffering. Job reminds me that I want to stay under the radar. What good is it to have God extol my righteousness if it results in personal disaster?
The Greek version of this verse uses the word thlipsis for “trouble.” That word is about tribulation and affliction. It comes from a root meaning “to crush, to press, to break.” Not exactly appealing. Nevertheless, it seems an accurate description of a good deal of life. Scattered joy and victory between the pages of silence and stress. It’s hard to be Braveheart when the end is dissection by quartering. Maybe the only reward is to die courageously. But that doesn’t seem to be what Yeshua is suggesting. A look at the Hebrew helps us.
The Delitzsch reconstruction of the text in Hebrew uses the word tsarah. Tsarah means both a rival (a threatening enemy), and a time of extreme affliction or stress. Perhaps both nuances are needed to understand Yeshua’s statement. In the world followers of the King will experience stress. The paradigm of the world opposes God’s righteousness. In addition, we will face the enemy, the one who is a threatening source of despair, whether we find him in other human beings or in the person of ha-satan. Since Yeshua spoke Hebrew, not Greek, perhaps we need to revise our thinking about His statement. It is certainly true that those who seek the Lord encounter hostility, but the emphasis in this statement is the fact that all hostility has been overcome. The focus is eschatological. Righteousness will prevail. We might not see it in our span of years, but it is guaranteed by the life, death and resurrection of the Son. Yeshua exhorts us to look beyond the immediate and realize that we are on the winning side. We are encouraged to live within the context of victory. We are asked to conform our lives to the inevitable result.
Maybe Yeshua meant something a bit different than days of ‘atsav (sorrow). Maybe He was talking about reversing the results of the Fall. What would life be like if we took up this challenge instead of bewailing expected strife?
Topical Index: thlipsis, trouble, tsarah, John 16:33