Friday, May 6, 2011

A word about words

A word about words: you readers of this blog--some faithfully, some just stopping by--have you ever wondered about this title?  What in tarnation (as my rather salty sea-going grandfather, who had cleaned up his vocabulary by the time I came along, would have said) does she mean by that? And the question is valid.  When I began this blog, I had some idea that I might daily take on a concept, a word, if you will, of which we take a rather mundane view, and turn it on its head to see how God breathes within it.  But, as with so many things I set out to do, God twisted them for His good purposes so this blog has morphed into something a bit different.  Not altogether different, but definitely not so precise, so constrained as a single word leading to a more expansive one, one the Incarnate inhabits--as He inhabits the world.

However, today, I'm thinking precisely of a word in the most Biblical sense.  That is, I'm considering the idea of the word of the Lord as He gave to men, and, far less often, women to speak His truth into the lives of His people or a person.  We have learned to call this prophecy after the name given to these men in the Old Testament.  And many of us think of prophecy as a foretelling or promises of future events.  And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there is reason for this.  Consider the most important prophecies of the Old Testament for followers of Christ, like those of Isaiah 9: 6-7, "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be upon His shoulders..." The long passages of the Servant King beginning in Isaiah 49 are another example, and, of course, the words of Isaiah 53 which foretell the Messiah's painful purpose on earth.  We can be confident that Jesus was who He said He was, because He fulfilled every one of these prophecies.

However, more often prophecies were a word from God for a present situation. "Thus sayeth the Lord," (as it is written in the King James translation, which has its 500th birthday this year!) often accompanied these words to the person.  Nathan, for example, had a such a word, in the form of a parable, for David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  David apparently needed a something of a road map and a kick in the pants to realize that what he had done was wrong. Once David was smarting from such a kick, he was truly repentant.  Psalm 51 attests to that.  It's the the most beautiful prayer of repentance in scripture and has worn well through the ages for those who long to have a clean and restored heart.

Such words from the Lord are considered gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Every place Paul lists gifts--Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 come to mind--he mentions prophecy, this "Thus says the Lord for today" type of prophecy.  However, many of us in the evangelical church don't quite know what to make of some of the gifts Paul considers true.  The other (speaking in tongues) perhaps I'll tackle another day, but I know this:

God has often given me a word for another person, an unexpected, unasked for, word.  There was a particular season when, because I felt called to pray for a couple in ministry, the number of such words increased.  I suppose these friends (and they became much closer friends over the course of this praying season) needed such assurance as the pressure they faced increased.  Other times, for no particular reason that I can discern, God just puts something on my heart, pushes against me to speak it until I can barely carry on a conversation with anyone else until I have done what He has asked.  There was a Sunday morning at church several years ago when I felt I was supposed to tell our fairly new worship leader to read Jude.  I don't suppose I had spoken to him more than once before that morning and he certainly didn't know whether I had any credibility spiritually.  So I resisted.  Nevertheless, in the end, I did what God told me to do. He was kind enough, but you know how these things are.  I'm pretty sure he was thinking, 'who the heck is this woman anyway?" 

The next day I got an email from him saying that he had been at dinner at some friends in Olympia that Sunday afternoon, and one of his old friends told him she felt strongly that God was saying he needed to read the book of Jude.  He was amazed and humbled that God would speak and confirm His word two different ways.  He might have dismissed it simply from one of us, but each of us--completely unknown and unknowing--were used by God to make him certain of the truth of the word.

I think God wants to speak to us more often that we think and that, after the Word itself, He uses the word His speaks through His followers to speak through us to each other.  If He chooses to speak through us to others, we are disobedient if we do not speak such a word, a 'thus says the Lord.'  I have been guilty of that as well, though (thankfully) I don't know what the result of that disobedience has been.  I rather think it's a little like Esther to whom Mordecai said, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come from another place... but who knows that you have come to [this] position for such a time as this?"

For such a time as this, God might intend to use us to speak into someone's life.  Perhaps you don't think of it as prophecy.  Perhaps you only have a sense of a conversation you need to have with someone you work with, and you've been putting it off.  But it's possible that it's for this moment, for such a time as this, you were put in this position, not to harm but to help and bring light--to bring the Light of the World--to someone else.

Here's the other side, of course.  When someone comes to you with a word they believe is from God, you have the responsibility to determine whether it's true.  Though I have spoken such words, I do not think we should willy-nilly take every word without thought. Here are some quick thoughts about this as you pray:
  1. Is the word in line with God's word?
  2. Do circumstances confirm the word?
  3. Is the person reliable as a believer?
If these things are true, obedience is your next step.  Isn't it?

P.S. Can any of you tell what I did differently on this post?

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