Developing Trust in God

January 14, 2024

What does it really mean to trust in the Lord? How do we actualize the lesson of this verse? What is it calling on us to do?

Trust “in” or Trust “to”

The beginning of this verse calls on us to “trust in the Lord.” As always, the precise Hebrew contains a nuance that is not apparent from the English translations.

The Hebrew for “Trust in the Lord” in our verse is made up of three words:

B’tach – Trust

el – in (to)

ADONAI  – the Lord

To anyone familiar with Hebrew grammar and syntax, the anomaly in this verse is clear. The second word of the verse does not mean “in.” The word el means “to” or “toward”. The verb “trust” appears 120 times in the Bible. In almost all cases, this verb is followed by the prefix be meaning “in” or the word al meaning “upon”. In only 10 verses, this verb is followed by the word el, as it is here. In other words, the literal translation here is “Trust to the Lord.”

What is the significance of this uncommon usage?

What does “Trust to” mean?

Nine of the ten times that “trust” is followed by el – “to”, the context is trust in God. In eight of these nine, i.e. all verses with the exception of our verse, the context is prayer in the face of imminent danger. This is an important point. Not all verses that mention trust in God share this context. For example, here is a conventional “trust in God” verse, which does not use our unusual “trust to” form:

Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. – Psalm 26:1

David attributes his avoidance of sin to his trust in the Lord. He is not referring to trusting in God’s protection at a dangerous moment when facing enemies. Rather, trust in the Lord here refers to obedience to God.

Now, here are a few examples of “trust to” God in the Bible:

My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust – el – to You. – Psalm 56:2-3

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust – el – to the Lord…. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy. – Psalm 31:6,8

From these and other verses that use the word el – “to” – with the verb “trust,” it is clear that “trust” here is not an emotional sense of security and reliance upon God. Rather, to trust “to” God means to direct one’s energy toward trusting in God through prayer in times of crisis.

Although this may sound awkward in English, it actually makes sense. The Bible uses “trust to” in situations where the enemy is closing in and there is a legitimate reason to be afraid. This is a natural intuitive feeling at a time of acute danger. Even a person of strong faith in God will have a difficult time feeling completely secure and protected. Trust in God at such times requires effort. This is what our verse is describing. Trust to the Lord is different from trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord is that common feeling of security that faith brings under normal circumstances. To trust to the Lord means directing one’s energy to use faith to overcome the feeling of precariousness and danger from an enemy that is about to attack.

To sum up: When I trust in the Lord, I am describing how I feel under normal circumstances. When I trust to the Lord, I am describing the effort to move away from fear and towards God at a moment of crisis when my natural instinct is to feel distant from Him.

Moving Towards Trust in the Lord

Trust in [EL – to] the Lord with all your heart, and on your own understanding do not lean.

While our verse does not describe any explicit enemy about to attack, it does describe a situation where we might feel distant from God. When we put too much trust in our own understanding, we allow God to slip into the background. When this happens, we are vulnerable to attack by the enemy. At such times, we are called to put in the effort to regain that sense of trust. This is the message of our verse.

When we lean too much on our own wisdom and understanding rather than humbly submitting to the word of God, we are weakened. This verse calls on us to “trust to the Lord”, to work to move towards trust in God to save us from our own arrogant trust in our own understanding.  

 

This article was taken from Rabbi Pesach Wolicki’s new book, Verses for ZionVerses for Zion offers a profound exploration of devotional Bible teachings, intricately woven around the land, people, and God of Israel. Each page is a journey through history and faith, illuminating biblical narratives with insightful interpretations and spiritual wisdom. Click here to order your copy of Verses for Zion now.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki serves as Executive Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, and he is cohost of the Shoulder to Shoulder podcast

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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