Mat Foster – Relying on Yahweh

Relying on Yahweh

H8172 שען H4937 משען H4938 משענה

Read Ps27

Sung hymn 15 a few weeks ago which is based on Ps 27 and the line, place on the the Lord reliance. Got me thinking about what it is to rely on Yahweh.

The hymn is using artistic licence and it isn’t a direct quote from the Psalm, but it can be said that the Psalm shows how David focussed his own salvation in Yahweh and the things which he desires are of Yahweh.

What we actually find is that in the english translation there is no use of the word “reliance” and only 4 uses of rely or relied, mainly in the same two verses. So not much luck there. However these uses are a Hebrew word which is translated in other ways, and carry the sense of what our normal idea of relying on something seems to mean.

We can have a quick look at these to set the scene.

2 Chron 13

15. Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.

16. And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.

17. And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.

18. Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.

2 Chron 16

6. Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha was building; and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah.

7. And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.

8. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.

9. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

So we have both a good outcome and a bad outcome in relation to relying upon Yahweh.

I want to try and draw out examples of what the sense of this relying on Yahweh is and how we can show this.

Gen 18 v 4

3. And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

4. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

The thing I’ve always wondered here is why Abraham doesn’t invite them into his tent, but is quite specific about where they should do. He tells them to “rest” under the tree.

Whilst there seems to be a sense of resting as if they have been on a journey and need to wash and drink some water, we can see that this isn’t the exclusive sense of the word, and from our reading of Chron, we can see that they weren’t actually resting in terms of relaxation, but it was more a state of mind.

Prov 3

1. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

2. For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

3. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

4. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

5. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Here, the Proverb says that we should trust in Yahweh, and LEAN not unto our own understanding.

We can see how the sense of rest is seen here as well, but combines with the idea of being supported by. The leaning draws this out and we see how this can influence our reading of Gen 18 with Abraham telling the messengers to lean under the tree.

Judges 16

25. And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.

26. And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.

Here we see an interesting blend of what it is to lean on something.

We have Samson who is asking to lean upon the pillars of the house, he asks the lad to show him the pillars so he can lean upon them. Clearly this is a deception of Samson because of what he intends to do. The real question in my mind here is what exactly is Samson relying on?

The answer to this is in the next couple of verses

28. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

29. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

30. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

He demonstrates by calling to Yahweh that he is relying on him. So I feel that this gives a insight as to an example of what it is to rely on Yahweh.

2 Sam 1

5. And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?

6. And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.

7. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered,Here am I.

8. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.

9. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.

10. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

In this false account of Saul’s final moments, we are told that Saul was leaning on his spear. Whilst this is a false report from a man trying to seek recognition from David, if we compare the battle here with the Philistines with the one recorded in 2 Chron 13, we can see that the battle is going a very different way and we know from other accounts that Saul did not rely on God. It is almost like the man recognised that Saul wasn’t relying on God and thought that this would feed in to what he said to David.

Isa 10

17. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;

18. And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard bearer fainteth.

19. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.

20. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

21. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.

Talking about the remnant of Israel and the punishment on the King of Assyria, we can see that there was going to be a time where Yahweh would change the thing that Israel would rely on. They would then be resting on Yahweh, and that this would be in truth.

So I suppose that we learn that an important aspect of the this idea of relying is that it is in truth upon Yahweh.

We see language describing the reverse of this in Isa 30

9. That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:

10. Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

11. Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.

12. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:

13. Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.

14. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.

We can see how the C of I were not hearing the the law, and telling the seers and Prophets to turn aside. They are described as trusting in oppression and perverseness.

There is then a consequence of this.

Briefly in Isa 31

1. Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

We see that one can incorrectly rely on horses and trust in chariots…

We can follow this through with the Egyptians into Eze 29

6. And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.

7. When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.

8. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.

Here there is a prophecy against Pharaoh of Egypt.

The nation was not helpful to Israel, when they leaned upon thee – thou brakest….

Interestingly in verse 6 we have Egypt have been a “staff of reed”

The word staff here is a form of the word we’ve been looking at and could be translated as “a leaner”

Normally a staff would be something that supported the person, almost without doubt, made of a piece of strong wood. Here though, the Egyptians have been a staff made of reed which is clearly not strong! Hence their impending punishment!

Staying on this idea

2 Sam 22

1. And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:

2. And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

3. The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

4. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

Similar themes of David trusting in the Lord as we saw in Ps 27.

If we go down to verse

18. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me.

19. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.

20. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

21. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

David declares that Yahweh was his “stay” and what this meant to David.

This word is from the root which we’ve been looking at, and is then connected to the word for staff that we saw in Eze 29 previously.

It is this staff that we see in Ps 23

4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

We see that God has a staff, and that his staff is with us to provide comfort.

This is in the context of Yahweh being the shepherd, so we have a clear picture of being a sheep with the shepherd providing comfort with his staff that he leans upon.

Zec 8

3. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.

4. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

5. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

We have a wonderful picture here of the Kingdom age where every man has a staff in his hand for very age, and this is described as a marvellous thing.

One thing that I have considered is that a staff is almost certainly made of wood, and in Gen 18, the instruction is to lean under a tree. There are also links with the staves made of shittim wood which were to support the ark, and also, whilst not clear from my own short study, the pillars that Samson rested could have been made from any number of materials, certainly many pillars in the temple were made from wood, more work needed to see if this is linked or not.

This led my thoughts to Jesus’ sacrifice and how in the NT there is much description about the horror which was Jesus being hung from a tree. This is clearly very different to leaning on one.

In summary

  • We see instruction to ensure we rely on the Lord
  • We see that the shepherd of Israel has a staff that we should draw comfort from
  • We see that we should not lean on our own understanding, but that of God
  • Perhaps we understand slightly more about Abraham’s instruction in Gen 18 regarding what the messengers should do and the reasons for Abraham saying such a specific thing.
  • We see possible connections with Jesus and the role of trees and wood in creation to remind us of God’s ways.


First word is always passive.

AV tried to capture with “rest yourselves”


“be leaning”

In this passive sense, there is something else going on that is active.

It says “under the tree” – not on the tree. There is reference to the shade – in the context of it being in the heat of the day.

The leaning is something else in addition to being under the tree.

Abraham is telling them what to do, but they are to be passive in doing this.

A whole lot of other stuff is going on, but by other people while they are being passive. There is a big contrast between what Abraham and his house is doing, and what they will be doing.

There is more about leaning upon the the house of Abraham. They remain there as he then stands there under the tree with them in v8.

When we think about being “lent” upon Yahweh. This is a model of what Yahweh does for us!! Interesting as these men represent Yahweh.

He implicitly understood their needs, saw them standing in the heat of the day and fulfils their needs.

“leaner” is good for the object. It describers it’s function, conveying it’s sense of purpose.

Ex 21

17. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

18. And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:

19. If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

Better translation

And that they will strive men and he will make smite man his fellow in stone or in

fist and not he will die, and he will fall to lie down; if he will rise and he will go

himself in outside upon his leaner, and he will be clear the making smite, only his

cessation he will give, and healing he will heal.

The test of being guilty is if he will rise and need a leaner. He has been injured and requires a leaner.

A parable for us, thinking about sin and death…. will we rise again? – we need to lean upon Yahweh. We are smitten, by sin and without the salvation of Yahweh, we would be dead.