The Power of the Word

Dear Reader,

An older Christian woman once pointed out to me how it is amazing that God chooses words to relate to us. He does not choose images. We can see something of God in His creation. But the deep content of His revelation is through words, oral initially and then written. Even creation itself was made by the power of God’s Word. Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, is called the Word. The Word of God is a powerful two-edged sword able to pierce between body and soul. So many times we try to clutter up our lives, our worship, our faith with other things. But God tells us that the most powerful thing, the primary way He relates to us is through words.

I think the fact that we are made in the image of God encompasses many aspects. I have posted before about our ability to create in contrast to God’s. But in the realm of language too I think we see the image of God in ourselves. Animals do not have it, not in the same way at least. Yes, they communicate with each other. They have different sounds with different meanings. Some can learn our words. Some can intentionally communicate back with us. But all these are a far cry from human language. They cannot express abstract ideas like freedom or beauty. They cannot come out with long documents like the Declaration of Independence. The language they have is very limited. And their language limits their thought. There are times we may say, “I understand this concept, but I cannot explain it.” But there is a whole new level of understanding when we can explain a concept. This, I think, is why Miss Mason wants her students to narrate what they have heard or read. If you can put a thought into your own words, it becomes yours. Then you truly understand it.

What is the significance of the fact that God uses words to communicate with us? Well, one of the simplest conclusions is that we should not make images of Him. He is pretty clear on this point. He says we have heard Him but we have not seen Him. Therefore we should not make images of Him. And I think that we should respond back to God in a similar fashion. Certainly, there are times to fall silent before Him. But our primary way of responding is also through words (i.e. prayer). The Bible is full of admonitions to make sure our words count, to not use them carelessly or cruelly. Jesus cautions His disciples against vain repetition. Even in prayer, more words are not better. Quality trumps quantity. We must be aware of how our words can affect others. A word of encouragement is a wonderful thing. A hurtful word should not be given lightly. Words have power. Words also show intelligence. Of course sometimes one’s words are what shows one’s lack of intelligence. But I think the emphasis on words over rituals or routines shows that God wants thinking followers. Long theological debates may be more likely to fall into that vain repetition category. We must be very careful even when, or especially when, discussing the things of God to make our words profitable. But words mean thought and I think that is a good thing.

It all makes me wonder how to take the Tower of Babel story. The people with one language become too high. God scatters them, knocks down their tower, and diversifies their language. Here too the language seems to be part of the power. To diminish their power, God confuses their language. I am not sure what it all means.

And I wonder too what the language of God is. When He spoke the world into being, what language did He use? And if we could understand and use His language, could we also understand more of Him? There are many things which remain a contradiction about God for us. Things like free will versus predestination. Things like three persons in one God. If we had the right words, could we understand these things?


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