Sounds like: yah-khad
In these days of quarantine it is, perhaps, more important than ever to cherish the very human instinct of togetherness and unity. It’s been a strange year of separation and even the most introverted of us miss working together, and playing together, and worshiping YHWH together.
Our sense of togetherness is seriously at risk… as we communicate more through email, texts and video-chats than we do in person. Thank goodness we have the technology to allow us to communicate in this way, but I worry that once the pandemic is lifted, we will forget to return to “normal”. We’ve become so ingrained with communicating from a distance, that communicating together may seem obsolete and outdated.
Churches and synagogues may be at most risk for losing their community. Church-from-home is easier (you can stay in your pyjamas), and cheaper (no gasoline is needed). But church is supposed to be about family: connecting, learning and praising together. Families can be maintained from a distance… but they cannot thrive when they are separated. Remote church is better than no church, but without adequate adjustments to maintain family connections, the church community will suffer.
Togetherness is of vital importance in the Bible. The word for unity/togetherness is yakhad and it comes out of the word for one and only: ekhad. We are all one-and-onlies, but we are meant to apply our uniqueness to community. We are meant to be together.
King David recognized the importance of family togetherness:
[David:] Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together [yakhad] in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, as on Aaron’s beard, the oil which ran down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for YHWH commanded the blessing there—life forever.
Unity, togetherness, life… they are intertwined. Individuals are brought together in community and that’s a necessity for healthy human existence.
The community of humans who worship their Creator are meant to stick together. God called on His sons and daughters to unite:
Isaiah 45:20-22 (See also Isaiah 43:6b-26a)
“Gather yourselves and come; come together [yakh’dah], you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge, who carry around their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and present your case; indeed, let them consult together [yakh’dah].
Who has announced this long ago? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, YHWH? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
YHWH wanted all the ends of the earth to join together and turn to Him. We are one, created, humanity and God wants us to unite. We are to gather together and serve Him:
This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise YHWH:
For He looked down from His holy height; from heaven YHWH looked upon the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death, so that people may tell of the name of YHWH in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together [yakh’dah], and the kingdoms, to serve YHWH.
But this is not how we are as a human race. We don’t always gather together… and when we do, it’s not always for good. We put a lot of stock in tribalism… us against them. We like to label ourselves to separate us from others. There is racial divide, gender divide, economic divide, cultural divide, and a division of nations. We are not united… we are not together.
The story of the Jewish people, found in the Tanakh (Old Testament), gives us a good picture of the dangers of these division.
When does the nation of Israel suffer the most? When they are fragmented.
Reuniting Israel & Judah
Only a couple of generations after King David, ten of the tribes of Israel rebelled against king Rehoboam and his stiff taxes and merciless behaviour. The twelve tribes were divided into two separate kingdoms: Judah in the South, and Israel in the North.
This was not pleasing to God. He wanted His people united, but they had turned on each other and they turned on Him. Instead they turned towards the gods of foreign lands. They forgot who they were and who their Creator was.
As a result, enemies (whom they had looked towards by worshiping pagan deities) came to them. Assyria defeated the kingdom of Israel and Babylon defeated Judah. The people were scattered and Jerusalem was razed to the ground.
But YHWH announced a future day when the tribes would once again unite:
Jeremiah 50:4-5, 33-34 (see also Jeremiah 3:117-18)
“In those days and in that time,” says the Lord, “The children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah
as well together [yakh’dah]; with continual weeping they shall come, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces toward it, saying, ‘Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that will not be forgotten.’
…This is what YHWH of armies says:
“The sons of Israel are oppressed, and the sons of Judah as well; and all who took them captive have held them firmly, they have refused to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong, YHWH of armies is His name; He will vigorously plead their case so that He may bring rest to their land, but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.”
This was the final goal: togetherness, unity, peace. God united with His human creation, and humans united together.
Unfortunately there were an awful lot of people who were united against YHWH and His people.
In the days of Joshua, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all united “together [yakh’dah] with one purpose, to fight with Joshua and with Israel” (Joshua 9:1-2).
When Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls in Jerusalem (after the Babylonian invasion), the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites “conspired together [yakh’dah] to come to fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Nehemiah 4:8).
For followers of YHWH this has been a very hard pill to swallow. If they were under YHWH’s protection then why were they always in such danger? Why was their unity at risk? Why did they have so many enemies?
The Psalmists prayed for God to take action:
God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire (together) against Your treasured ones.
They have said, “Come, and let’s wipe them out as a nation, so that the name of Israel will no longer be remembered.” For together [yakh’dah], with one mind, they make a covenant against You.”
An unnamed Psalmist pointed out the enemy’s power play against them.
For my enemies have spoken against me; and those who watch for my life have consulted together [yakh’dah], saying, “God has abandoned him; pursue and seize him, for there is no one to save him.”
But their enemies were wrong. God does not abandon His people. YHWH would save them.
Uniting our Hearts
YHWH would save them in a far more profound way than just delivering them from their enemies. He would save them from death itself.
[David:] Teach me Your way, YHWH; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart [yakhed l’vavi] to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever. For Your graciousness toward me is great, and You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
Saving our souls from Sheol was the purpose and the point of the “Greatest Story Ever Told”. Humans once walked in the Garden of Eden with YHWH, side by side, face to face. It was a beautiful union, a portrait in togetherness. But Adam (Humanity) and Eve (Life) got greedy… they desired to take the one thing God asked them to refrain from. Blatantly disobeying God they took what they desired in the hopes that they would become gods themselves, making themselves equal to God’s power. But no fruit could deliver that kind of power, and Eve and Adam, with their sin of disobedience, caused their own exile out of the Garden.
And with their exile came death. No longer where they under the divine protection in the Garden, now they entered the wild, chaotic, wilderness space… a space where humans were enslaved to death… and where Sheol (the grave) awaited them.
But this was not what God wanted. He wanted unity. He wanted togetherness with HIs people. So He put a plan into action. He would send His Anointed One, His Son, to defeat death and bring His people back home to Him in the Garden. By uniting our hearts to YHWH we could escape death. David understood this when he said, “You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
To the Grave Alone, or United Together?
The choice was left to humans: Alone or together? Go down to the grave alone, or unite together in the Presence of God.
As humans we were created out of dust and to dust we shall return… at least that’s the old adage (Genesis 3:19). But the Bible also has a lot more to say on the subject.
Job, who suffered more than anyone in the Bible, questioned this:
[Job:] “If I hope for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness; if I call to the grave, ‘You are my father’; to the maggot, ‘my mother and my sister’; where then is my hope? And who looks at my hope? Will it go down with me to Sheol? Shall we together [yakh’dah] go down into the dust?”
Will we just return to dust? Is that the extent of our lives? Is all of humanity doomed to go together, back as dust into the earth, fodder for the grave?
Job’s three friends came together to support him in his time of suffering and distress:
Now when Job’s three friends heard about all this adversity that had come upon him, they came, each one from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together [yakh’dah] to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.
When they looked from a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe, and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.
The comfort of Job’s friends got off to a great start. They did not speak words to him, they just sat on the ground with him and mourned with him in united silence.
But the supportive silence did not last forever, and eventually the three friends tried to make sense of Job’s tragic predicament. They may have been well intentioned, but their theology and advice was dreadful. Their words did not promote unity and togetherness, they assigned blame, saw themselves as superior, and created division.
Job responded to his friends:
“What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to ]the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God. But you smear me with lies; you are all worthless physicians. Oh that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!”
Like Job’s friends, we humans often start off well intentioned, but we are so in-tuned to divisiveness that it seeps into our conversations and our behaviours. We are quick to judge, quick to blame and quick to elevate ourselves at the expense of others. We are a world of separated people, and joining together in unity is a constant struggle.
Healing the Division
YHWH recognized that human division needed healing. There was an ever-widening chasm of separation between various fractions of humans; there was a separation between God and humanity; and there was a dividing line between life and death.
The only way for humanity to truly live in unity was to reconnect with YHWH in the Garden… and the only way to do that was to defeat the powerful grip that death had on humanity. The only one capable of that miraculous feat would be God Himself.
Christians and Messianic believers hold on to this truth: YHWH sent a part of Himself, His Son, to die, defeat death, raise again and redeem His people… and unite them to the Father. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as the descendant of king David, son of Jesse:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of YHWH will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of YHWH…
This shoot from the stem of Jesse would change the order of things. With His coming…
…the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened steer will be together [yakh’dah]; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together [yakh’dah]…
This little boy would would lead in a surprising way… things that were never normally together lived peacefully side by side. There was not hurting or destroying each other because everyone was united under the knowledge of YHWH. Isaiah continued:
Then on that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal flag for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
The resting place of the Root of Jesse would not be Sheol. He would unite His people (from all walks of life) and bring them back Home to the Father.
The Divisive Adversary
But there would be one who would not go back to the Father. The Adversary [ha-satan] wanted to separate himself, raise himself up above others, and be like God. He separated people, tore them apart, promoted disunity, chaos, and segregation.
Through Isaiah, YHWH spoke about the destiny of the Adversary:
“How you have fallen from heaven, you star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who defeated the nations!
But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
Nevertheless you will be brought down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you, they will closely examine you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’
All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb. But you have been hurled out of your tomb like a rejected branch, clothed with those killed who have been pierced with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit like a trampled corpse.
You will not be united with them [lo t-ekhad] in burial, because you have ruined your country, you have killed your people. May the descendants of evildoers never be mentioned.”
The Adversary, who once influenced kings, would not be united with them in burial. He wanted to raise himself up, instead he was brought down to Sheol. He would be alone, united with no one.
If the Adversary was to end up alone, his followers, too, would be united with no one.
Why should I fear in days of adversity, when the injustice of those who betray me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches?
No one can by any means redeem another or give God a ransom for him— for the redemption of his soul is priceless, and he should cease imagining forever— that he might live on eternally, that he might not undergo decay.
For he sees that even wise people die; the foolish and the stupid alike [together: yakhad] perish and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses are forever and their dwelling places to all generations; they have named their lands after their own names.
But man in his splendour will not endure; he is like the animals that perish. This is the way of those who are foolish, and of those after them who approve their words. Selah
Like sheep they sink down to Sheol; death will be their shepherd; and the upright will rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no lofty home.
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah
These people who trusted in their own wealth and power would sink down to the grave. Death was their shepherd and they had no lofty home, to go to.
Living Together with YHWH
But for those who put their trust in YHWH, Yeshua (Jesus) promised a room in the Kingdom:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.”
Uniting with God would be the greatest end to our story!
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.
To live well in God’s community we have to take care of each singular person within it. It is vital that we encourage each other and build each other up to strengthen our unity and ensure a healthy community.
Creation Worships Together
But togetherness isn’t just for humanity:
“The morning stars sang together [yakhad] and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7).
“The rivers clap their hands, may the mountains sing together [yakhad] for joy before YHWH” (Psalm 98:8).
When YHWH calls on the heavens and earth, “they stand together [yakh’dah]”, (Isaiah 48:12).
We are called to join in unity with all of creation to worship our Creator:
How delightful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices, they shout joyfully together [yakh’dah]; for they will see with their own eyes when YHWH restores Zion. Be cheerful, shout joyfully together [yakh’dah], you ruins of Jerusalem; for YHWH has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
Let us all follow king David’s proclamation and exalt God’s name, YHWH, forever:
I will bless YHWH at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in YHWH; the humble will hear it and rejoice. Exalt YHWH with me, and let’s exalt His name together [yakh’dah].
Next week: Revisiting HOPE