Curiosity led me to make a super fancy chart with the seven churches the other morning. Sure, I could find a completed chart online, but I’m the type of girl who needs to sweat a bit to internalize information. Since details and I are arch enemies, there was a lot of sweat involved! Today, I’m going to walk you through my (in-progress) word study on the word works.
Word study sounds completely nerdy and the details of it make me want to curl into fetal position, but (the proverbial but) they’re really fun and wildly helpful when trying to understand the intended meaning in a verse. A little secret, I was so terrified of word studies, I skipped over those questions in my bible studies for a long time!
However, last fall I had to back out of Bible Study Fellowship to care for my son. I began to pine for a deeper understanding of God’s word in my personal bible study time (no word studies required in BSF). Courageously I determined to learn and accomplish a word study (yes, it did take courage…when I say details and I don’t mix, I’m understating the situation).
Why did I choose works?
It felt like many of the letters overlapped but I wanted to know if this was more than a feeling. Guess what, there is ONE word used in each of the letters in the same way! The single overlap in each letter was the simple word: Works
On the surface (in English) it reads as simple labor, a job that was being performed. It seemed redundant within the letters and I began to wonder what this word meant on a deeper level. For example
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…” Revelation 2:2
I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” Revelation 2:19
Works, labor and service are synonymous and I didn’t understand why, essentially the same word, was repeated.
God is pretty simple when He communicates. He repeats Himself throughout the bible in different ways and in multiple layers, but I’m not familiar with verses where it’s like reading a thesaurus, so this word, the only word that is repeated in every letter, continued to stand out. (I nearly deleted this paragraph because I’ve thought of a few verses that countered my thinking, BUT, this is a window into the process and this is where my mind went.)
Word Study 101 in Five Steps:
FIRST: Grab a Strong’s concordance or go HERE for an online version.
SECOND: Choose the word you want to study
THIRD: Look up the word as you would in a dictionary. Super easy so far, right?
FOURTH: Find the number to the right of the scripture reference (I mark my page so I can easily come back)
FIFTH: This is where the fun revs up! Flip to the back of the concordance and locate the number you found beside the scripture reference. This provides you with the Hebrew word, pronunciation, part of speech, meaning AND related words.
Here’s how this process is playing out for me with the word works:
Picking up the Strong’s concordance, I looked up works and found the references to the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. If like me you’re old school and still use an actual book, just to the right of the scripture reference is a number.
I know thy w, and where thou….Rev 2:13 2041 (this is the number I was looking for)
Flipping to the Hebrew definition:
Herec: Noun. Demolition, destruction. From 2040 Harac
Naturally, I wondered if Harac would give me more information. In this instance, the word was a neighbor, but don’t be surprised if you have to turn the pages to find a related word.
Harac: Verb. To pull down or in pieces break, destroy, beat down, break (down-through), destroy, overthrow, pluck down, pull down, ruin, throw down, utterly.
A few initial and interesting thoughts I had:
- I scanned works to see if 2041 was a common use of the word. It didn’t appear until Matthew 5:16 when Jesus said,
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- There are many other meanings for the word works. Here are just a FEW examples of the differences in meaning.
4234 Machowl, from 2342; a (round) dance.
4639 Maaseh, from 6213; an action (good or bad), gen. a transaction; abstr. Activity; by impl. A product (spec. a poem) or (gen) property- act, art, bakemeat, business, deed, do (-ing), labor, thing made, aware of making, occupation, thing offered, operation, possession, x well, work (-ing, -manship), wrought.
4611 Maalal, from 5953. An act (good or bad); doing, endeavor, invention, work.
- Works is used in the letters when the churches are being praised, not rebuked. This tells me this work is a good work that pleases God. More fodder to study and understand!
Down the rabbit hole of wondering:
Remember, I’m a complete novice with word studies! I had some difficulty with the online tool, but I’m confident it’s user error.
The Hebrew definition makes the letters to the seven churches read strikingly different:
“I know your destruction/demolition, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…”
“…I know your destruction/demolition, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
“I know your destruction/demolition.”
What are they destroying/demolishing? I wonder…
We read in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5,
“…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high ting that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
I wonder, is the commendation for destruction/demolition because the churches are accomplishing this in some capacity? Were the churches standing for God by using His truth to counter ideas and ways of life that oppose God’s?
Can you see why word studies suck me into the scary details! Unless we can read Hebrew or Greek, we rely on translations and what those words mean to us. Going back to the original word can add a definitive twist, like the word works. I don’t associated the word to destruction or demolition, so these letters just got a massive twist!
I hope my flaying about inspires you to do some words studies on your own! Remember, nobody is grading you or hovering over your shoulder! There is no pressure, just the joy (and sweat) of understanding our awesome God better!
If you’re looking for a really great study that will take you deeper into God’s word I HIGHLY recommend Kristy Gant’s studies. I’ve done several of these and they do not disappoint! Yes, word studies are involved:) No matter where you’re at in learning about God, check out the studies at In Praise of God Ministries. (This isn’t an affiliate marketing situation, it’s the real deal!)
Because I’m a complete novice at word studies please share any tips below!