What would you do if you found a closed basket on your doorstep and you knew that it could contain a coiled snake, ready to strike? Or it could be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. The choice to open the basket could potentially mean life or death.
That’s the meaning of the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, tet.
Psalm 119:65-72 ~ Tet
Do good to your servant according to your word, O Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (NIV).
Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, with eight verses for each letter. These verses all begin with the Hebrew letter tet. The ancient pictograph for tet is a snake coiled in a basket. The word tet is connected in meaning to the word tov, which means “good.” We first see the letter tet used in Genesis 1:4.
God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
The word good begins with tet, but here we see that although the light was good, there was also darkness. So in Hebrew tradition, children learning their aleph-bet would have been taught the connection between good and evil with this letter.
Paul also addresses this concept in Romans 7:18-21.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Have you ever felt like Paul? You know the basket could contain the snake, but you still want to open the lid.
That’s the nature of sin, which is evil and leads to death. But Paul tells us in Romans, that there is a good answer.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit (8:2-4, emphasis added).
Thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ and His Spirit in us, we don’t have to live according to the sinful nature! We can instead keep our minds set on what is good. Paul goes on to say that as believers, we are controlled by God’s Spirit and, because of that, we can choose what is good over what is evil.
See, that’s the nature of the basket: you and I choose whether or not we will open it.
Look again at the passage from Psalm 119. The Psalmist mentions “good” five times. He asks God to give him good judgment – the ability to know through the Word and through the Spirit whether or not to open the basket. Because sometimes, the basket contains good things, if we are willing to seek God and find out.
I once heard a story about a young soldier in the midst of a mine field. He was terrified to take a step, but he had to get to the other side. A man came along who had been there when the mines were laid beneath the ground and he knew where each one was located. He carefully instructed the young soldier and guided his every step to safety.
That is what the Holy Spirit wants to do for you and me. If we are willing to submit to His leadership, rather than be led by our own desires, He will guide us to safety–not just away from what is evil, but into what is good, pleasing, and bountiful.
There are many baskets before you today. Choose well.