Friday, December 29, 2006

Pure Language

“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph.3:9)

Now that the year is coming to a close, I am once again reading in the Minor Prophets at the end of the Old Testament. (They are called that, not because they are “minor” in the importance, but only in length, compared to books like Isaiah or Jeremiah, etc.) It is easy when reading some of these enigmatic chapters to mutter under our breaths, “Come on, New Testament!” There are many times when I look up from the page and say to myself, “What in the world does that mean?” And it is only somewhat comforting to find that others, even some commentators, feel the same way. Still, there are other times when I read something I never noticed before that speaks to both my mind and heart. For example, this verse in Zephaniah.

Those two words—“pure language”—stand out to me as though in bold print. This is the only place you will find them together in the Word of God. It is commonly considered that the theme of most of these final books of the Old Testament is the restoration of the nation Israel in the last days. But there is much in them to give us insight into the mind of God. For instance, the verse tells us three practical things that are true for any time or situation. First, there is a pure language; second, it is the means of communication with God; and three, its primary purpose is universal praise and service to God, not just a means of communication and cooperation between the peoples of the earth. When everyone speaks the same language, there is a unity of sorts, but it isn’t always of God. We know this because of what we read in Genesis eleven about the Tower of Babel. (“And the whole earth was of one language…” v.1) Whatever that language was, we can be sure from God’s actions, it was not “pure,” in the way Zephaniah speaks.

Some of us would be tempted to designate English as a worthy candidate for this pure language, especially since it is quickly becoming a universal one. And if you are like me, it would be the impeccable English of the AV 1611 Bible. People have asked my husband what language he thinks we will speak in Heaven, and he usually replies that Hebrew might be a good possibility, since we have an occasion in the New Testament when God spoke audibly from Heaven in the Hebrew language (Acts 26:14). And He spoke these words to Saul of Tarsus, later to become Paul the Apostle, a man we know to have been multi-lingual.

Now that I’ve told you a little of what engaged my mind, let me tell you how God spoke to my heart. You see, the word “pure” not only means free from anything that would taint or adulterate, it also means to be innocent or morally clean. Matthew Henry, commenting on the text, said, “Converting grace refines the language.” And there are many who can personally attest to this. We read in Proverbs 15:26 that “the words of the pure are pleasant words.” Contrast this with Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” On the one hand, there is “pure language”; at the other end of the spectrum is “corrupt communication.” God does not require that you have a vast vocabulary, but He does insist that you exhibit a pure one, especially since Jesus pointed out that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt.12:34).

The best way to develop a good vocabulary is to read good literature; the best way to acquire pure language is to read pure words. And I know of only one Book where you are guaranteed of finding them, for it is the only one that rightfully claims of itself:

“Every word of God is pure..”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Boy Who Became a Dog

(an allegory)

Richard and Salle Sandlin

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh…” (1Tim.3:16)

There was once a kind, loving, and very rich Father, who owned a great plantation with acres of beautiful, green, rolling hills. This Father had an only child, a Son that He loved with all His great heart, and this same love was mirrored in the heart of His obedient Son.

There came a day when the Father and Son who were walking together, “chanced” to see a pack of wild, hungry dogs scrounging for something to ease their hunger. They were torn and bloody from fighting among themselves, and it was easy to see they suffered at the hands of a wicked master.

The Father stood for a great while watching the pitiful dogs, with His Son, all the while, watching Him. Finally the Father spoke.

“Oh, my Son, I know these creatures must be in awful misery. I do wish I could understand just how they feel; and I greatly desire to have them come to live with us. But neither is possible.” Suddenly, the Son realized that here was something He could do for the Father that He loved and wanted only to please.

“If I could somehow become a dog, Father, I could tell you all about them, and even better, I could tell them about you. They would all surely want to come and live at your house.”

The Father (who was able to do such things) looked intently into His Son’s eyes, and replied, “Son, I can give you the form of a dog, and the other dogs will think you are one of them, even though you will still be a human. But, I must warn you, although you will always be my Son, you will always look like them.” The Son realized that this would indeed be a high price to pay, and He would greatly miss being at home with His Father. But He also knew that this was the only way to fulfill the desire of His Father’s heart, and since this was His greatest desire, He would do it.

So, one day a little girl dog (hardly more than a puppy herself) gave birth to a boy puppy in a lean-to barn out under the stars. The birth was a miracle, because she had never been with a male dog, therefore, the puppy did not have a canine father. As He grew, the other dogs sensed there was something different about this dog (who, of course, was the Son), and at first, they were amazed by the things he could do and the kindness he showed to them. But later, when he began telling them that even though he looked like them, he was his Father’s Son, they became angry and jealous of him.

They followed him everywhere he went, taunting him, saying over and over, “Tell us the truth; are you a dog or a man?” And the Son would patiently tell them about his real home, and his loving Father who had sent him so that they, too, could come and live in his wonderful home forever. The only requirement was that they must admit what they were and acknowledge that he was a man and not just a dog. Some did believe and chose to follow the Son wherever he went. They were mistreated, too. Truly, the Son learned the great misery of being a dog, and His heart broke for them.

At one point, he was so overcome with pity for them that he cried, “Oh, dogs, dogs, I would take you all to my Father’s house, but you refuse!”

Finally, the dogs tired of his stories and his insistence of his true origin, and decided to kill him. This they did in a very cruel and hateful way. The dogs who had believed and followed him wondered what would happen then. But, again by a miracle, after three days, the Son who became a dog was raised by His Father, from the dead. He told the believing dogs that He must now return to His Father, and that they would come later. For since they had believed Him, and chosen to follow Him, the Father loved them now as He loved His Son. They would come to understand later that somehow His Death and Resurrection made all this possible.

And just as the Son promised, the dogs are now able to go and live at the Father’s house…as though they had always belonged there. It is even more wonderful than they imagine. Now, in great numbers, they gather to give praise and worship to the Father and Son. And, one day, when they have all reached the Father’s house, they will look at them, and think how strange it is to see the Son, still in their likeness, sitting next to His Father. And they will know that He chose to become one of them.

I wonder if those dogs truly understood how humbling it was for the Son to become a dog? and how much the Father must have loved them? Do you?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Womb of the Heart

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov.4:23)

If one wanted to think of this verse as referring to the fist-sized, blood pumping organ in our body (which it does not refer to), then we could also point to another organ from which life actually does issue—the womb. And this comparison is quite reasonable, scripturally speaking, in the light of the Gospel of John, chapter three. Here, Jesus calls the requirement for Heaven a “new birth,” which prompts Nicodemus to question, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (Jno.3:4).

The heart referred to in this verse, like so many others, however, refers to the inner workings of our being (to use a philosophical term) that makes us who we are. In the light of this, I will make this observation: As a mother, I can attest to the fact that as my own four children grew within my physical womb, love for them grew within the womb my heart; and long after their little bodies issued forth from my womb, wave upon wave of love continues to issue from my heart.

I realized recently that as I see my children go through trying times as their own children mature, I find myself concerned about how this affects them even more than what my grandchildren are going through. Don’t misunderstand; I love and pray for my eleven precious grandchildren and my dear little great-grandson, and I am as intimately involved in their lives as I am able to be. But, somehow, the spiritual and emotional umbilical cord that connected my life to the life of my children was never severed when the physical one was.

I am aware that such feelings can become debilitating to both parent and child, so I remind myself that it must always be an invisible, silken cord, with lots of “slack” for individual growth. Nevertheless, it is there; and as I found out when my own mother succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, when the mind lets go, the heart still holds on.