Why is Knowing Hebrew Helpful for Pastors?


I am going to the Central African Preaching Academy to teach pastors how to use Hebrew when preaching God’s Word from the Old Testament. How does that work? Let me see if I can illustrate it for you. Let’s look at Psalm 23:1 in a couple English translations.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. KJV

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. NASB  

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. ESV

There is no difference in these translations. Let’s look at Psalm 23:1 in Hebrew. Keep in mind that Hebrew reads from right-to-left rather than left-to-right.

 מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד יְהוָ֥ה רֹ֝עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר׃

The first thing to note is that מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד is actually what our English Bibles record as the title of the Psalm. The title is actually part of the text; it’s Scripture! Your English Bible might put the title in the same text formatting as the rest of the psalm. A good rendering of מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד would be, “A Psalm by David.” Notice I said by instead of of because the לְ in front of David’s name functions to denote authorship. It is an inscripturated fact that David wrote Psalm 23.

Next, all the English translations I quoted above refer to God as “The Lord.” Why is Lord in all capitals? Because it is God’s personal, covenant name that is being used. In the Hebrew text it is יְהוָ֥ה. At some point after the Old Testament was written, Jews began reading the Hebrew equivalent to Lord (master) instead of pronouncing God’s covenant name for fear of taking the Lord’s name in vain, breaking the third commandment (Exodus 20:7). However, this is a hyper-reverencing of God’s name. Taking the Lord’s name in vain means invoking it for worthless things that do not honor Him. His name is Yahweh.

It is important that David is using God’s covenant name in Psalm 23:1. First, God’s name is connected with His absolute being. This is seen when God talks with Moses from the burning bush. 

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Exodus 3:13-15 

We can see here that God is relating His name Yahweh to His eternal self-existence and independence. The Hebrew root for being/”I am” is connected to the root word of God’s name in Hebrew. You could basically understand God’s name as meaning “He is.” Yahweh has always existed and relies on no one and nothing else for His existence. He doesn’t need anything outside of Himself for His existence.

There’s more to David using God’s covenant name in Psalm 23 though. God not only made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people of Israel at Mount Sinai through Moses. He made a covenant with David Himself.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”2 Samuel 7:8-16

Here, the promise to David is that his kingdom shall exist forever. God had taken the shepherd David to be king over Israel and ultimately to produce a king in the Davidic line to rule forever. Shepherding was a common metaphor for kingship among the regions surrounding Israel. So, when we read “Yahweh is my shepherd,” we have to see the rich backdrop of God’s covenant with David. David is recognizing as Israel’s king that Yahweh is David’s king Who cares for David and has established an amazing covenant impacting the whole world.

What about the last part of Psalm 23:1? The KJV, ESV, and NASB share the same rendering because the 1611 version of the KJV used the wording, “I shall not want.” It has become engrained into English-speaking Christian culture. I grew up reading and memorizing this text. Often I would think that this was my response to God being my shepherd. I shouldn’t be discontent ever, I shouldn’t want anything, because Yahweh is my shepherd. While that is a valid application of the text, that isn’t quite what the text means.

The Hebrew verb has a root idea of lacking or having need. Some of the noun forms of the word have to do with poverty. Older English used “want” in the sense of need more often than we do today. That is why the KJV (and subsequently the NASB and ESV) rendered the verb this way. With the particular conjugation of the verb and the particular negation used, a good rendering would be “I shall never become needful.” The focus is not on David’s contentment per se, but on Yahweh’s supply so that David should never, ever enter into a state of need. It’s not just that David is not needful as he writes this psalm but that he will never even enter into the state of need.

I know what you’re thinking. How in the world can David claim this? In his life, whether fleeing from Saul or dealing with the Philistines or fleeing from his own son Absalom, he always seemed like he was in need. Let’s ramp up the tension even more. This psalm follows on the heals of Psalm 22 in which a king in David’s line suffers the most intense agony and persecution. How can a Davidic king claim to never become needful even in the midst of such suffering and deprivation? Because Yahweh is the everlasting God Who doesn’t need anything Who has made a covenant with David. Yahweh defines what David’s needs are, not David. David is expressing his faith in Yahweh even in the face of suffering and death (Psalm 22).

How does this apply to me as a Christian? Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate Davidic King Whom the Davidic Covenant promises. God in His grace gives new covenant relationships to not only Israelites but also Gentiles like me through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel writers intentionally interact with this psalm.

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass [Psalm 23:2]. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Mark 6:34-44, emphasis added.

Jesus is casting Himself as the shepherd of Psalm 23. This means Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh in the feeding of the five thousand. He does it again in John 10.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

 Jesus has laid down His life for me, and I am one of His sheep. He is Yahweh, the great I AM. I am in covenant relationship with Him. I will experience times of hardship, suffering, and persecution as a Christian. I am promised that, but I will never truly enter a state of need because Yahweh is my Shepherd.  Even death is not a state of need because my Shepherd conquered death itself.

I hope this look at Psalm 23:1 has given you a taste of why knowing Hebrew is so helpful for a preacher of God’s Word! God’s word is so rich and knowing how to use the original language properly can help a preacher give those riches to God’s flock.

As we prepare to leave for Malawi to seek to participate in one component of my Shepherd’s great commission, do we have real physical needs? Absolutely! Do I know that all of those physical needs will be met or that there won’t be hardship or suffering? No. But I do know that I will never lack anything that Yahweh says that I truly need for continued faith and to be able to do glorify Him with my life. There is such an opportunity here to bless the church in Malawi! Will you partner with us by prayer or financially?

 Check out the How to Give! page and consider filling out the form here to help us plan for our trip.

Saying Goodbye to Say Hello

(Ashley’s necklace from PlanetJill)

From Ashley:

New beginnings are funny things. It’s never JUST a restart, it’s always accompanied by saying goodbye to things – often loved things – in order to move to the next thing. For our new beginning to start, the first goodbye is saying goodbye to my job! I told my boss that I was moving to Africa last week and they are already interviewing (awesome, well qualified) candidates.

Leaving a job may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it’s a sad thing for me because I enjoy what I do and, because I work for small companies, I know there is so much room to grow! This job could have turned out to be my career. I am drawn to being successful and earning my own money and seeing the fruit of my labors. Which is not a bad desire! The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is a hard worker and earns an income from her labors. What set her apart, though, was NOT that she was a successful women but that she was a woman who feared the Lord.

It’s not easy saying goodbye to my job (probably forever), my comfortable apartment, my new friends (for a time) and the life in SoCal that we JUST seemed to adjust to. It’s not easy but the cost is worth it. It’s worth it all for Chris to be able to serve at CAPA training men to be able understand and preach the whole council of God. It’s worth it all for me to be able to use my administrative gifts for CAPA to help them connect with donors and help people get as excited as we are about what they are doing in Malawi for the gospel. It’s worth it all, it’s worth all of our lives, to obey God, to proclaim the Majesty of Christ and to share the treasure of His Word.

It’s a light, momentary affliction that is absolutely worth it (there are others trials happening, too, that I’ll share about later). The goodbyes are hard. But the next adventure that God has for us is breathtakingly worth it.

If you’d like to partner with us in this (financially and spiritually in prayer), check out our How to Give post or sign up here.

(And if you’re looking for a Mother’s day/Father’s Day/Birthday/Anytime gift, check out the companies I work for for the next few weeks: planetjill.com & luckyfeather.com) 🙂

How to Give!

If you desire to partner with us financially we can now accept donations for our trip! All contributions are tax-deductible.* To contribute, make a check out to Grace Ministries International and in the memo line put “Malawi-Chris Mullins.” Mail the check to Grace Ministries International at 13248 Roscoe Boulevard, Sun Valley, CA 91352.

Electronic giving is now available as well! If you would like to make a one-time gift, you can do so at gracechurch.org on their Short-Term Ministries page. Here is a direct link to our page as well. If you would like to give monthly or make a one-time gift at a later time, please let us know by filling out our form here. It will really help us to know if you are planning to give!

So far we have over $20,000 between what has been pledged ($5500) + given ($14500). That is over 2/3 of what we will need! It’s a race of faith that were are running and you all are helping us to run it! 

Thank you for your support and encouragement! It is so encouraging to learn of the people who have given and who plan to give in the future and we know that is the outworking of people praying for us (we need it! See our Current Prayer Requests for how you can pray for us right now!)! To God alone be the glory! We can’t at all do this on our own so we’re so grateful to have you all involved.

 *For the deduction to be allowed, contributions are to be made with the understanding that GMI (a ministry of Grace Community Church) has complete control and administration of the donated funds.


T-Minus Two Months!

Shuttle launch.png

Today is two months from our launch date for Malawi! Over the past few weeks, the reality of our leaving to go and help train Malawian pastors has become more and more real. We have purchased tickets to leave from Los Angeles on June 11th, and we will (Lord-willing) arrive in Lilongwe, Malawi on June 13th 

We know that it is God’s revealed will that men should be trained for the ministry (2 Timothy 2:2), and we know that it is God’s will that these men should accurately handle all His word including the Old Testament, originally written in Hebrew (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17). The Body of the Church has a need and he has, by His grace, given us an opportunity to fill it. We know that it is God’s revealed will that Christians are to use the gifts given to them by God for the purpose of building up the Church (1 Peter 4:10-11). We know that apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5). We know that the Great Commission must be gospel partnership between senders and goers. Therefore, we go in faith, trusting that this endeavor is completely in line with God’s revealed will and trusting that God is able to supply the needs to go in His timing and in His way for His glory. It is with this faith in God and His work and His glory that we have gone ahead and bought our tickets and continue to press forward to go to Malawi. 

We are so grateful to those of you who have been partnering with us by prayer and by pledging to give! We are grateful for our church, Grace Community Church and their sending agency, Grace Ministries International (GMI) for sending us out.

If you desire to partner with us financially we can now accept donations for our trip! All contributions are tax-deductible.* To contribute, make a check out to Grace Ministries International and in the memo line put “Malawi-Chris Mullins.” Mail the check to 13248 Roscoe Boulevard, Sun Valley, CA 91352.

Electronic giving will be available later this week! You can still fill out form to pledge to give electronically or monthly here.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! It is so encouraging to hear how many people are praying for us (we need it!) and to have already received pledges for financial support! To God alone be the glory!

 *For the deduction to be allowed, contributions are to be made with the understanding that GMI (a ministry of Grace Community Church) has complete control and administration of the donated funds.

We’re Approved!

Hooray! This week we received official approval from Grace Church’s Missions Department (GMI) that we’re approved to raise funds and be officially sent through them. We are praising the Lord for the official stamp of approval!

We will be actually set up in their system to receive funds by the end of this week or early next week. When those details are available, we will let you know! I do have to say that we are incredibly thankful for those who have signed up to give already, many of whom we know are not giving from plenty. It’s incredibly humbling and certainly sets a vivid example for us in generosity that we want to follow. We also know that many of you have been praying for us and asking about our progress with this–we also thank God for you as well! This process is teaching us to rely on God more & more and as we recognize our desperate need for Him, we are more grateful to know all of you who are praying for us. Please fill out our form here to let us know that you are with us in prayer and/or financially!

Other exciting things: plane tickets. By the end of this week we should have plane tickets purchased and our departure date set! Once we know this we’ll be able to plan our trip to Spokane & Boise (if you’re there, we can’t wait to see you!). Next week I will also give notice to my job. Phew! It’s getting real!

Already Chris & I are growing in this as we wrestle through each step… and we know that we will grow and learn so much more over the next year! Right now we are considering these things: What does faith look like now? How do we overcome the current pressures that threaten to steal our joy & distract us from our goal? What is the next right thing to do? How can we plan but be open to God changing those plans? What if X happens? It’s all certainly an adventure but I’m realizing that even adventures can be full of pain and hardships that God brings for the purposes of making us to rely on Him alone. Please continue to pray for us as we wrestle though these things and seek God in them. May we know Him deeply, personally and steadfastly as we raise support, prepare to go, and continue to do the other things He has called us to in this season before we go!

I bet we’re not the only ones to work through this. What things have you faced and how has God grown you in the process? Was there a time in your life that God worked in by using pressure and trials to bring you to Himself? Please share in the comments below for our & others’ encouragement!

The Mandate and Multiplicative Effect of Training Men for Ministry–A Brief Theology of Why We want to Help Train Pastors in Malawi


Jesus, the Head of the Church, gave the church the mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). A disciple of Christ is one who follows Christ and loves Him and shows his or her love by obedience to His commands. But a big follow-up question is, “How?” How are disciples to be made among all the nations of the world? Of course, disciple-making may take on a variety of forms, but what do the Scriptures have to say about how the Great Commission is to be fulfilled? Paul answers part of this questions in Romans 10.


For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:11-15


Sent preachers are the start of a chain reaction that God empowers to save souls. When Paul speaks of a preacher, he has the idea of a herald, an ambassador preaching his Lord’s edicts. Of course Paul has in mind the need for initial cross-cultural missionaries to speak the gospel to those who had never heard it (in fact his whole purpose in writing Romans was as a support letter to get the church of Rome behind him to bring the gospel to Spain [Romans 15:22-24]). Yet, if we left it there, we would have a very poor understanding of disciple-making in the New Testament.


After initial preaching and reception of the gospel, the model that we see in Acts is the establishment of local churches under qualified male leadership.


When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:21-23


After the initial establishment of an outpost of God’s Kingdom through the manifestation of a local church, disciple-making continues in the context of that local church through the preaching of the word of God.


Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 TImothy 4:13-16


Preachers in the church must be able to handle God’s word well and be able to train up men to teach others also.


and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15


It is through such men, morally qualified (see 1 Timothy 3) shepherd-teachers that the local church body is equipped to do the work of ministry, a work that is oriented around seeing the body of Christ grow.


And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12


The multiplicative effect of training men who will be able to train others also can hardly be overestimated. Consider that if you are a Christian, you are the fruit of Jesus’ training of a few ordinary men. Consider Paul’s ministry in Ephesus.


But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:9-10


No doubt, Paul’s ministry in Ephesus that reached Asia Minor produced men like Epaphras, a Colossian, who became preacher and shepherd to tiny Colossae 100 miles from Ephesus. Paul probably never went to Colossae, but his ministry impacted them through Epaphras.


just as you learned [the gospel] from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. Colossians 1:7-8


In the case of my own home church in Spokane, the obedience to the mandate to train men to be elders, missionaries, preachers, and shepherds has literally had ripple effects around the globe. Currently there are seven men from my home church at the Master’s Seminary. Four of these men I grew up with from elementary school or earlier. Three of those who I grew up with are actively pursuing future work in missions. A friend from high school now works with Bible translation efforts in Asia. An elder’s son is now doing missions work in South America. Many whom my church has invested in and sent to seminary now pastor churches in such places as Nevada, Michigan, and Florida. I attribute much of this to the mindset that we all grew up with: current leaders are to train men to have multiplicative impact. I am very blessed to be part of this heritage of training men.


How does this all relate to missions and Malawi? What is the strategy to have long-term impact for the gospel in Malawi and throughout the world? Is there a need for initial cross-cultural missions to proclaim the gospel in foreign countries? Yes! Local churches in Country A must send preachers to Country B. However, the baton of leadership in the local church must be given to qualified men in Country B for generational gospel impact.


Let’s view it another way. Does it make more sense to send 20 preachers from Country A to proclaim the gospel throughout Country B (an expensive undertaking indeed!) or does it make more sense for Country A to send one preacher and teacher to train 19 men from Country B as careful preachers of God’s word? Those 19 men from Country B will know Country B’s culture way better than the one missionary, and they will have natural inroads that the one man from Country A could never have.


This is The Master’s Academy International’s (TMAI) missions model. It’s model is to vigorously train national pastors for long-term multiplicative impact in not only the school’s country but surrounding countries. The TMAI in Malawi (called the Central African Preaching Academy) follows this same philosophy. Lord-willing, I will be helping current Master’s of Divinity students at this school (many of whom are current pastors) learn how to accurately handle God’s word in the Old Testament by using the original Hebrew language. What excites me about this opportunity is the chance to continue the multiplicative ministry of training men for ministry. With God’s empowerment and blessing such a work will have ripple effects geographically and generationally.


Will you commit to partnering with us by praying for God to use us at CAPA in Malawi? Will you seriously consider partnering with us financially in this multiplicative ministry? Thank you to those who have already committed to partner with us in these essential ways!


To help us know how many are willing to support us to go to Malawi while we are still waiting for official authorization from Grace Community Church for this trip (we should hear back later this week!), please fill out this form.


Thank you for reading and sharing our excitement as we prepare to go! God bless!