Category: Holy Scripture

Jan 12 2013

God’s Word or God’s Words?

Photo of the BibleIsn’t it funny how we sometimes lead ourselves astray by simply misinterpreting a word.  Years ago we licensed a new lay reader in our church.  We’re talking about the Episcopal Church, so when passages from the Bible are read in a service, the lay reader ends each reading by saying “The Word of the Lord.”  However, this newly licensed lay reader did not read the instructions carefully and we found him saying “The Words of the Lord.”

So which is it?  Some folks would argue that every word in the Bible is to be taken as God speaking directly to us in His words.  To do so is to completely miss a very different and much more important use of the word “word”.  If I promise to meet you at noon for lunch, I have given you my word.  I haven’t given you a literal text but a promise.  When we refer to God’s word, we refer primarily to His promise, not His words.  Or more to the point, his promises.   The Bible is full of God’s promises.  In Exodus 6:7 we read,  “I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God.”   That’s a promise.  In John 11:25, Jesus promises, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”  In Matthew 28:20, we read, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  These are promises.  The Bible is full of promises.  Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they are hidden within the major themes of the Bible.

If we think of the Bible as the words of God, we may miss the deeper truth that the Bible is a more a book of promises than a book of words to follow.  In fact it is a Testament of promises, but that’s another article.  In his daily meditations  Richard Rohr said recently, “The sacred texts of the Bible are filled with absolute breakthroughs, epiphanies, and manifestations of the highest level of encounter, conversion, transformation, and Spirit. The Bible also contains texts which are punitive, petty, tribal, and idiotic.”  If this is true, which I believe it is, then it is pointless to look at the Bible as the words of God.  God is not a punitive, petty, tribal and idiotic god.  On the other hand, the Bible is a book of wonderful promises about life that are revealed all among the words in it.

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