In Matthew 19, we read about a rich young man. This man comes to Jesus and asks Him what good thing he could do, so that he could have eternal life. The reply from the lips of our Messiah is quite strange, and astonishing, because Jesus starts listing the ten commandments. “Thou shall not murder, thou shall not commit adultery or steal” etc. Just think about this for a moment. Remember the question was – how to have eternal life. Why does Jesus say this to the rich young man? We know we cannot earn our salvation through our own deeds or own righteousness, but only through the Blood of the Lamb of God, right? (Eph 2:8-10)
Not what he expected
The young man then replies and says to Jesus that from a young age he had kept all the commandments that Jesus mentioned. Jesus did not accuse the young man of lying, meaning that the young man was most probably obedient to the Word of God and a good person. Then came the real hard-hitting request from Jesus, who tells the young man to go and sell all he had, and give the money to the poor in order to have a treasure in heaven. The young man walks away sorrowfully because he was very rich.
Riches will not keep you out of Heaven
Jesus then teaches, through an illustration, something that is often misunderstood in the Body of Christ. He says to His disciples that, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” – Matt 19:24. I don’t know about you, but I have heard many sermons on this phrase. On face value, it almost seems as if it is a sin to be rich and that you will not see heaven if you are rich. Studying the Word however, you see that men like David and Abraham, who lived very close to Abba Father, were very rich men. Their riches were a blessing from God. Did this keep them from being part of the Kingdom of God? No, it did not!
Lost in translation?
I’ve heard sermons where it was preached that the eye of a needle was a gate at the city of Jerusalem and that it was very narrow and that a camel had to get rid of all the baggage it was carrying in order to fit through the gate. In studying the history of Jerusalem for many years however, there is no evidence of such gate. So what is the true meaning of this illustration that Jesus uses to teach His disciples? When we have a look at the language of Hebrew and Aramaic (a dialect of Hebrew), you see an amazing picture come to life from these words of the Messiah.
Look at the Greek and Hebrew
When you look at the Greek and Hebrew words for needle, you see that the word used describes a needle “as used by tailors in Biblical times” and has no reference to a gate at all. However, when you look at the word for camel, you see something very intriguing. The word translated as camel is a word of Hebrew origin – gamal – which means beast of burden. When you look at the Hebrew text of Matthew 19, however, the Aramaic word “gamla” is used – which means ‘thick rope’, like an anchor rope used to anchor ships/boats in the Biblical times.
A new meaning to the Scripture
I brought this to Abba Father in prayer and I remember saying “Lord what does it matter? Whether it is a camel trying to get though the eye of a needle or you try to push a thick anchor rope through the eye of a tailor’s needle, the impossibility remains the same.” Then I heard the Lord speak into my heart and say “No, it is not the same, take a closer look.” Studying this text in the Hebrew language, the meaning unravels. When you look at a thick rope, any rope, you will see it is made up of tiny threads woven together to make the rope. Even the thickest ropes are woven together with hundreds or even thousands of tiny threads. Try to push this rope through the eye of a needle, it is impossible, but if you were to untangle the rope into tiny threads, it will fit through the eye of a needle.
The picture the Hebrew context of this Scripture paints is as follows:
You have to loosen or untangle yourself from that which the world wants to bind you with. The moment you untangle yourself from that which is carnal and material, and seek the presence of God, you can build a covenant relationship with Him.
Put God first
The rich young man wanted to do all the deeds of obedience, but was not willing to put Abba Father in the rightful place in his life. Jesus wanted the young man to untangle his heart from material things and seek Abba Father. When you seek the ‘stuff’, you miss the Source of provision, Abba Father. Jesus wanted to turn his heart to the Father and get him to loosen his reliance on his purse. When you find the heart of the Father, all riches become the fruit of a blessing and not the target of purpose. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” – Matthew 6:33
Feature Image: Painting by Ilse Kleyn, visit artofkleyn.co.za
JOY! Magazine (January 2019)