LEAN/RELY: Sha’an. Verb. (Strong’s 8172)
Sounds like: shaw’an
Today my parents celebrate their 51st wedding Anniversary. They are excellent examples of two people who lean and rely on each other to navigate this gift called life. It helps to have someone we can truly rely on, someone we can trust to always have our back, someone to lean on in times of trouble, and someone to celebrate with in times of joy. The whole world aches for that kind of connection but not everyone is blessed with a human companion who they can fully rely on. What the world does have, however, is a 100% reliable Creator.
Leaning, Relying, Trusting
Leaning and trust are often found together. It takes a certain amount of trust to lean fully on something. In the Bible, translators have sometimes replaced sha’an (lean/rely) with the English word, trust. For example, Job’s friend, Bildad the Shuhite, understood the simplicity of leaning on the right support, and although most translator use the word trust when translating sha’an, it actually makes more sense to use the English word lean:
And the hope of the godless will perish, whose confidence is fragile, and whose trust is a spider’s web. He trusts in [leans on: yishaen] his house, but it does not stand; he holds fast to it, but it does not endure.”
We can visually imagine someone leaning against their house, and it topples over. The passage helps us identify what was worth leaning on. And YHWH made it clear: Lean on Me!
Trust in YHWH with all your heart and do not lean [al ti-sha’en] on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Leaning on the Wrong Thing
However, by nature humans rarely rely on YHWH. Seeing that we really want to be little gods of our own, in control of our own destiny, we lean on our own understanding more than anything.
Samson desired to control his own fate during his last moments on earth. He had been captured by the Philistines, bound with bronze chains, and blinded. As a result, he became obsessed with vengeance.
Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying,
“Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste our land
and multiplied our slain.”
It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.”
So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them [w-esha’en a’lehem].” Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.
Then Samson called to YHWH and said, “O Lord YHWH, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.
There’s a lot of debate about Samson’s death. Did he commit suicide? Was this an act of self sacrifice? Did her merely do the best he could in a hopeless situation?
The Philistines relied on their god Dagon, but blind Samson would not rely on YHWH. In the dark he found a way to control his own situation. He asked the servant boy to help him lean on the pillars in order to find the best spot to knock the whole house down. He relied on the pillars to put his self-destructive plan into action.
But did he ever consider relying on YHWH instead? Even when Samson prayed to God, he did not ask for God’s protection; he merely asked for strength so he could seek vengeance on those who blinded him. It is worth noting that God never gave him an answer. Samson prayed, did not wait for a response, and then took action on his accord. He leaned on pillars, rather than YHWH, to his own self destruction.
Leaning on the Right Support
In war, those who leaned on YHWH found themselves at an advantage:
2 Chronicles 13:14-18
When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to YHWH, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. When the sons of Israel fled before Judah, God gave them into their hand. Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain. Thus the sons of Israel were subdued at that time, and the sons of Judah conquered because they trusted in [leaned on: nish’anu] YHWH, the God of their fathers.
This was a civil war of the chosen people of God: Israel against Judah. But it was Judah that leaned on YHWH, and it was Judah that was victorious. Notice that YHWH did not do the slaughtering. He routed the enemies to Judah and gave them into their hand, but He did no killing on His own. We see this again when Ethiopia attacked Judah under the kingship of Asa:
2 Chronicles 14:9-13
Now Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up in battle formation in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.
Then Asa called to YHWH his God and said, “YHWH, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O YHWH our God, for we trust in You [on you we lean: aleka nish’annu], and in Your name have come against this multitude. O YHWH, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”
So YHWH routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar; and so many Ethiopians fell that they could not recover, for they were shattered before YHWH and before His army. And they carried away very much plunder.
YHWH routed the enemies before Asa, king of Judah, and Asa and the people pursued them and defeated them. King Asa had leaned fully on YHWH for support. It was a great moment for Asa, but it would not last.
2 Chronicles 16:1-6
In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of YHWH and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, “Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me.”
So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim and all the store cities of Naphtali. When Baasha heard of it, he ceased fortifying Ramah and stopped his work. Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber with which Baasha had been building, and with them he fortified Geba and Mizpah.
So king Asa made a financial deal with the king of Aram to break down the power of Baasha, king of Israel. Asa was successful, but he had leaned on the wrong support and God was watching:
2 Chronicles 16:7-10
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on [b-hi’shaen’ka] the king of Aram and have not relied on [w-lo nish’an’ta] YHWH your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand.
Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on YHWH [u-v-hi’shaen’ka al YHWH], He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of YHWH move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”
Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.
Asa had it right, and then he got it completely wrong. He leaned on YHWH for support and then he relied on foreign human powers. Because of his mistake (leaning on the wrong thing) he eventually could not even stand. He suffered with a severe disease of the feet, and died:
2 Chronicles 16:12-13
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek YHWH, but the physicians. So Asa slept with his fathers, having died in the forty-first year of his reign.
At the end of his life Asa relied on humans rather than relying on YHWH, and as a result his life slipped away from him.
Leaning on YHWH Wherever You Are
Believing in, and leaning on, YHWH were themes fused together. Those who fully leaned on YHWH were full believers of YHWH. In an interesting twist, king Asa relied on the kingdom of Aram (to his detriment), and the kingdom of Aram had a captain who came to rely on YHWH.
2 Kings 5:1-3
Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him YHWH had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”
Upon hearing that there was a man of God who might be able to help him, Namaan went to Elisha to seek healing.
2 Kings 5:9-12
So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”
But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of YHWH his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
But Namaan’s servants convinced him to give it a try. What harm would there be?
2 Kings 5:14
So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.
Namaan was amazed and joyously returned to Elisha with his new statement of belief:
2 Kings 5:15-17
When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.”
But he [Elisha] said, “As YHWH lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And he [Namaan] urged him [Elisha] to take it, but he refused.
Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to YHWH.
Namaan wholeheartedly believed in this God who cured him from leprosy. But he knew he had to go back home to a place where no one believed in YHWH. He would be going far from the presence of YHWH, and so to hold onto a small bit of the sacred space of Israel, he asked Elisha for dirt… two loads of dirt. Essentially he was asking, Can I take some of the sacred space dirt home with me, because I live in space dedicated to pagan gods.
Namaan also acknowledged that he would be in the sacred spaces of foreign gods, but even when his master leaned against him to bow down in the house of idols (House of Rimmon), forcing his own body to bow, his heart was still fully with YHWH:
2 Kings 5:18-19
[Namaan:] In this matter may YHWH pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans [ni-sh’an] on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, YHWH pardon your servant in this matter.”
He [Elisha] said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him some distance.
Naaman, a full believer, brought sacred space home with him. He did not separate himself from his pagan community. He lived within it, in the darkest of places, but he had YHWH with him in the midst of it all. His full reliance was on YHWH, and he could live anywhere with God by his side.
In comparison, only two chapters later, we read of another royal official on whose hand the king leaned. But this royal official mocked Elisha’s words of prophecy, and when the prophecy came true the official, on whose hand the king leaned, was trampled to death by the people (2 King 7:2, 16-20).
But Namaan, the official on whom the king of Aram (Syria) leaned, lived well as a believer in YHWH. In fact, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) first recorded teaching in a synagogue included a small lesson on faithful believers in the Tanakh. Yeshua recalled two people, both foreigners (non-Jewish) who were examples of great faith: the widow of Zarephath and Naaman.
“No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.
How dare this man, who grew up in their town, elevate foreigners (a Phoenician woman and a Syrian man) over God’s chosen people! Yeshua was boldly claiming that sometimes outsiders were quicker to believe and trust, than insiders. But more importantly, there are no foreigners in God’s Kingdom. All who lean on YHWH belong in the Kingdom of God, regardless of nationality. Namaan may have lived in a pagan nation, but he was a resident of God’s House.
You Cannot Rely on Two Masters
Leaning on YHWH without a sincere heart, wasn’t really leaning on YHWH at all. Sometimes people leaned on YHWH only for a sense of security. As long as they relied on God they figured they could do pretty much anything without consequence. But that was not the case. Micah the prophet highlighted the hypocrisy of those who publicly announced that they relied on YHWH but really relied on themselves.
Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhour justice and twist everything that is straight, who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with violent injustice.
Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on YHWH [w-al YHWH yi-shaenu] saying, “Is not YHWH in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us.”
Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest.
These religious leaders felt that they could do pretty much anything they wanted, as long as they “leaned” on YHWH. But they didn’t truly lean on YHWH for support; these priests and prophets relied on their money, not YHWH. Just like Asa, king of Judah, relied on the treasury to defeat Israel, rather than relying on God.
Who you lean on, is also who you serve. If you lean on the treasury, you serve the treasury. Yeshua made the point that you could not serve money and YHWH at the same time. You would have to choose which Master you would lean on:
“He who is faithful in [relies on] a very little thing is faithful [relies] also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in [relied on] the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in [relied on] the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
You cannot serve two masters. You have to rely on one or the other. We use money every day in our lives, and that’s okay if we use it to forward the kingdom, but we should not rely on it.
Isaiah, in pointing out the faults of relying on humans and the things of this world rather than God, questioned the people. Where would they leave the wealth they trusted in when faced with war and terror:
Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain.
Leaning on YHWH: Falling Down and Raising Up
Chaos, war, famine, plague… all these things were part of life in the Ancient Near East. Even the most God’s chosen family faced these terrors. They faced back-breaking servitude with the Egyptians, annihilation with the Assyrians, and utter destruction with the Babylonians, but each time YHWH, in His own time, brought them home.
…Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely [l-hi-sha’en] on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on YHWH [w-nish’an al YHWH], the Holy One of Israel.
Although there would be a day when the Hebrew people would no longer rely on those who dominated over them, that day was not yet. Regardless of all they went through, they still relied on old enemies before they relied on YHWH:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely [yishaenu] on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek YHWH!
The lesson was consistent: relying on humans was a guaranteed downfall and a recipe for disaster.
For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of YHWH; who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”; and to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Since you have rejected this word and have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied [wa-ti-sha’anu] on them, therefore this iniquity will be to you like a breach about to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant, whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar, so ruthlessly shattered that a sherd will not be found among its pieces to take fire from a hearth or to scoop water from a cistern.”
For thus the Lord YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing.
Those who leaned on humans would fall, collapse and shatter, but those who relied on YHWH would be lifted up, out of despair and into glory.
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from YHWH and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah.
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? YHWH strong and mighty, YHWH mighty in battle.
It’s More than Just Believing, it’s Relying
What do you rely on? What do you believe? Who do you lean on? These are all connected questions. Paul put out this question: do you rely on rules and regulations more than you rely on God?
But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonour God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
As “believers” we need to be careful that our belief is rooted in reliance. Following rules is rather easy; fully leaning on YHWH, heart and soul, is much more challenging.
A man brought his demon possessed son to Yeshua to be healed. He claimed to believe, but did he really? Did he fully rely on God, or did he just hope that he was believing in the right thing?
And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”
And He [Jesus] answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”
They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”
Yeshua questioned the father’s request. Do you fully rely on your God? If your belief is firmly rooted in leaning on YHWH, then anything can happen.
Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”
After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
Leaning in the Light
Believing wasn’t just a statement, it was an action. Believing was fully leaning on God, and relying on His goodness. As we saw earlier, Samson in his blindness (both physical and spiritual) could not see the light of God’s love and he fell to his death because of it. Yeshua called on us to rely on YHWH, practise truth, and live in the Light of His goodness:
[Jesus:] “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes [relies] will in Him have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in [relies on] Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in [relies on] Him is not judged; he who does not believe [not rely] has been judged already, because he has not believed in [not relied on] the name of the only begotten Son of God.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
The Son of Man would be lifted up; He would be lifted up onto a Roman execution rack. Yeshua would die on the cross, conquer death, and be raised up to save humanity from their inevitable date with the grave. No matter how hard we try, on our own, to save ourselves from death, we do not have the power to conquer it. But our Creator does! By relying on YHWH and His plan of salvation, the believers would not walk in darkness towards death; they would walk in the light towards YHWH’s Kingdom:
Who is among you that fears YHWH, that obeys the voice of His Servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of YHWH and rely [w-yishaen] on his God.
We need to stop relying on ourselves to make us happy, and leaning on ourselves to get through the day. Lean on YHWH in the height of your joy and the depths of your despair. Like a solid rock, He will not move. There is nothing more reliable, more solid to lean on, than your Creator.
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for YHWH; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, YHWH is a light for me.
No matter how hard you lean, He will not let you fall. No, He will raise you up in the light of His love.
Next week: counsel/counsellor