Monday, August 11, 2008

The Words of the Lord

“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)

        You will find the phrases, “the word of God” and “the word of the Lord several hundred times in the Bible, but you will also read “the words of the Lord” and “the words of God” over 130 times. The former ones would give us only an abstract and intangible entity; but with the addition of the latter two, we have something to hold on to—literally. God intended that His words not only be “settled in heaven,” His main objective, it would seem, was to make them accessible to generations of people. But where then are they, these “pure words”? After all, verse 7 promises that the Lord will preserve them “from this generation for ever.”

       When we speak of biblical preservation, I fear we only muddy the waters when we state the obvious, insisting that the human (fallible) element must be considered with any translation of the Bible. After all, this human (fallible) element comes into play just as truly in the doctrine of inspiration, as well. I understand, of course, that preservation is not at all the same as inspiration, but I also understand that they both call for the intervention of God, at one point or another. The words that God spoke through “holy men of old” (Heb.1:21) only benefit me if they are accessible to me. If my only source of authenticity was lost with the so-called “original autographs,” God’s preservation ability leaves a great deal to be desired, an unnerving thought for more than one reason (2 Tim.4:18). “Oh, don’t worry,” some will say, “God’s Word is out there somewhere in all the different translations from various Hebrew and Greek texts.” You will forgive me, I’m sure, if I don’t get too excited about that, since they often disagree with one another.

       I realized long ago that there was only one Book that had for me the ring of authenticity, and I allow that Book to correct everything and everyone else—including me. You’re right, it does involve faith; but then, you must admit, that isn’t an altogether unheard of virtue in the Christian life.

 “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” (Jer.15:16)

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