What are the best words you ever heard? “It’s dinner time” how about that? Pretty good? “We have enough extra to go on holiday this year”. Is that good? “I put extra bacon in your sandwich because I know you like it”. That might be getting close.
Words give us meaning. They give poetry to what otherwise might be bland, if chosen carefully. They can build castles in the air for those trapped in a dark dungeons. They can allow you to armchair travel, to live the experience of someone who is far away, or from long ago. Words have power.
This can be true in the inverse as well. There are words that have knocked a chunk out of you, words that you buried deep inside and hoped to forget. Words have also cobbled out the nuts and bolts of life, those long and tedious agreements that we signed on for, the ones where you had to click the box to attest that you read and understood all the legal jargon, honest. Words bind us.
Words give us a way to tell our story. To make others understand what we have lived as experience. They are a way to reach out in a letter to someone far away. They are a means to pull someone close, whose understanding you seek. Wise King Solomon said, “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray.” We wait for words to help us, to give us direction. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” — Proverbs 29:18 That is where you hang on the words of politicians for hope, and pray that they are telling you the truth.
That words are true, is also important, otherwise they are empty and meaningless. That is the reason you swear by what is most holy to you in a court of law, put your hand on a Bible and tell a room full of people that what you are about to say will give clarity. It is the straight goods, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Nothing left out, no lie by omission. All in. The whole story.
Words frame meaning. They allow us to make sense of things which do not add up. They allow us to navigate through the wilderness, searching for that clear beacon of light in the distance that spells hope.
The best words might be something like “I love you too”, or “I still love you even after all this time”. You will know whether this is true because they are the kind of words which are empty when not backed up with action. Words frame intent and purpose.
The shepherd boy David, liked to sit and meditate on the promises of God. Looking out over a field of sheep, he would ponder the big story, the one to which he as a tiny player who still was looking for his part nonetheless.
David wrote a lot of words. He gave us many of the Psalms in the Bible. They are poetry, and a record of lived experience from both ends of the spectrum, hope, despair, joy and deep sorrow.
David loved the words of God as handed down from ages past. It allowed him to dream himself into the bigger story, bigger than being just a shepherd for life, looking out on an audience over time whose response he might only imagine. Words for those people out there somewhere, it is what every writer aspires to. The invisible audience.
One of the most beautiful of Psalms is Psalm 19. It is a classic and a favourite of many. He must have written it sitting on a hill looking at the sunrise in the desert, which I know from experience is spectacular. Seeing it, gave him the understanding that God speaks through creation. His words are backed up with the solid foundations of the universe, going about their purposes.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world…
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
A shepherd boy from long ago, sitting on a hill, nailed it. There is not much you could add to that. David heard words from God, as written on his heart. The words he most wanted to hear, came from the most high. The words of God.
People who have lived the most wretched of experiences, fought hard to print and to distribute the Words of God. It is a manifesto for the common man that spoke truth to power in the most dire circumstances. Its clarity judged kings and shamed tyrants. Its ongoing truth strained the power structures even of the church, throughout history.
Martin Luther, was firmly behind those great truths, the solas that formed the bedrock of the Reformation. Sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratis, sola Christus, Soli Deo gloria.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
“Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Their proclamation will go on until the end of the world, until their purposes are fulfilled, until God himself gathers them up with all of humanity and weighs all that has been in the great scales of justice.
Words are everlasting. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Those words. Write them down. Like God told Hosea, take my word and make it plain so that even a a runner can read it. That is our job, is it not? We scribe those words with our lives every day that we draw breath in this world.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”