The word “midst” appears over 200 times in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. Understanding the meaning of “midst” can provide valuable insight into key biblical narratives and God’s relationship with His people. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the definition, usage, and significance of “midst” throughout Scripture.
The word “midst” in the Bible refers to being in the middle or center of something. It is used to describe the position of a person, object, or event in relation to other people, objects, or events surrounding them. Here are some key takeaways on the meaning of “midst” in the Bible:
- It often indicates something is surrounded, engulfed, or embedded within a group or environment.
- It communicates proximity, presence, and direct connection.
- It highlights the centrality and prominence of the person or object in the midst.
- It shows God’s desire to be present and move among His people.
- It emphasizes the importance or impact of an event taking place “in the midst.”
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Now let’s explore some of the key passages that reveal these insights about “midst” in the biblical context.
Old Testament Usage and Meaning
The Hebrew word predominantly translated as “midst” in the Old Testament is qereb, meaning “inner part, middle, midst.” Qereb communicates being inside something and often indicates being surrounded. Let’s look at some examples:
God’s Presence in the Midst of Israel
One of the most prominent biblical usages of “midst” involves God’s presence in the midst of His people Israel. For example:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be their slaves no more. I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. You will know that I, the Lord your God, am in the midst of you” (Leviticus 26:13 NIV, emphasis added).
This communicates God’s desire to move freely and openly within His people, rather than be restricted to the tabernacle. It speaks to His lovinglordship and the special relationship He wants to have with Israel.
Another good example is:
“The Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:14 NIV).
God’s presence is so manifest among the Israelites that He is described as moving about their camp personally. Yet His holiness demands a proper response from Israel.
Events in the Midst of Israel
The phrase “in the midst” is also used to locate significant events among the Israelites, highlighting their prominence and impact. For example:
“Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ‘Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.’ Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God” (Exodus 17:15-18 NIV, emphasis added).
This feast with Jethro and the elders of Israel took place in the midst of the camp, marking God’s deliverance from the Amalekites. The midst denoted accessibility, celebration, and thanksgiving to God.
Objects in the Midst of Places
The phrase “in the midst” also simply refers to physical locations – something being in the middle or center of a place. For example, when God commands Moses to strike the rock at Horeb, He says:
“I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:6 NIV, emphasis added).
The rock was located in the middle of the place where Israel was camped, demonstrating God’s provision for His people.
There are many instances like this of “midst” marking the central or middle location within a place.
New Testament Usage and Meaning
In the New Testament, the Greek words mesos and mesou are typically translated as “midst.” While the words can still refer to physical locations, they more frequently show a strong symbolic meaning of presence, proximity, and prominence.
Jesus in the Midst
One prominent theme in the New Testament is Jesus being “in the midst” – emphasizing His centrality, divinity, and oneness with the Church.
For example, Jesus declares:
“For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20 NKJV, emphasis added).
He promises His manifest presence whenever believers gather together.
After His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples and:
“Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them” (Luke 24:36 NKJV, emphasis added).
He is not merely among them – He is directly in their center, emphasizing His prominence and Lordship.
Similarly, in Revelation we find:
“Then I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne … stood a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6 NKJV, emphasis added).
Even in the midst of God’s throne, Jesus is central and preeminent.
Events in the Midst
As in the Old Testament, the New Testament writers situate key events “in the midst” to highlight their prominence and sacredness.
For example, at the Transfiguration, Peter excitedly says, “Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – missing the point of Christ’s supremacy. In response:
A bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (Matthew 17:5-9 NKJV, emphasis added).
In the midst of this incredible transfiguration, the voice of God the Father emerged, affirming that Jesus is supreme and must be listened to and obeyed. Even Moses and Elijah faded away, leaving only Jesus in the midst – the complete focal point.
Believers in the Midst
Another key New Testament theme is believers living in the midst of the world as witnesses to Christ’s love and truth. For instance:
“You are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14,16 NKJV).
Positioned in the midst of darkness, believers are called to reflect God’s light through good works.
And Paul tells the Philippians:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15 NKJV, emphasis added).
Here, living in the midst of sinfulness highlights the need for believers to shine brightly and purely as a witness.
Significance and Implications
What are some key implications from how “midst” is used in Scripture? Here are some takeaways:
- God profoundly desires to be present and move in the midst of His people, unrestricted by buildings or religious regulations. This speaks to His loving lordship, faithfulness, and desire for relationship with us.
- When God or Jesus are in the midst, this highlights their centrality, prominence and divinity – they are intricately involved, not passive or remote.
- Events situated in the “midst” take on enhanced sacredness, prominence, and impact – from holy feasts to the Transfiguration.
- Believers have the sober responsibility of living in the midst of a fallen world as light-bearers and ambassadors of God’s love.
- “Midst” implies direct connection, proximity, and prominence – not being isolated or peripheral. This reinforces the need for relationship and wholehearted commitment to God.
In summary, the recurring theme of “in the midst” powerfully communicates God’s passionate desire for presence, relationship, and prominence among His people – from the Old Testament through the New. As believers, may we live fully in the midst of God’s transforming love!