All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is useful for teaching... correcting... training in righteousness....
- II Timothy 3:16
With all the visible reminders for God to bless and us to pray for America since Sept. 11, I expected attendance in our churches to surge, and sales of Bibles and religious books to go through the roof.
Most churches did see an initial surge, but few are breaking attendance records as normalcy returns. And when I called a local bookstore to ask if they were selling more Bibles than usual, I was surprised to learn that Bibles were selling about the normal rate for this time of year, and the surge is in the sale of books on prophecy, or what might happen in the future. The words of men, we concluded, are more enticing than the Word of God.
Last week, when I wrote about the difference between headline Bible study and digging deeper to find greater meaning, I opened a personal Pandoras box. I thought of all the times Ive been struck by a Biblical truth Id missed so many times before because I looked at the passage a different way - a new translation perhaps, or through someone elses eyes - and I wondered when I would have time or space to share it all. But after talking with the man at the bookstore, I wondered if its possible to convince people with busy lives and little knowledge of the Bible that the answers to their questions are in that inspired Word of God. Still, as with all good things, I think its best to keep trying, as St. Paul said, that... we might win some (I Corinthians 9:22).
Take the 23rd Psalm, for example. Those who know any Scripture at all are usually familiar with this Psalm. The symbolism of the Lord is my shepherd, is obvious, but I recently heard a new explanation for the part about not being afraid to walk through the valley of the shadow of death because thou art with me. There cant be a shadow, my teacher said, unless there is also a sun to create it. That small fact alters the meaning completely. Instead of dwelling on the shadow and the vague idea that someone is there with us, by realizing the sun is still shining on the other side of the darkness the words are no longer just a lovely poem, but a visual, hopeful reality.
New translations are also good teachers, but one of my new thoughts occurred when I tried reading the Bible in another language. We were living in Germany at the time and I wanted to learn the language well enough to read small portions of the Bible in German.
Even with my limited success, I was surprised that some of the things I didnt fully understand in English were clearer in German. My favorite example was translating the English word, bound, which the King James Version used when talking about the land God divided among the descendants of Abraham. The bound could either be the line between the land and the sea, or between each other. In English, I always assumed bound and boundless were opposites, but the German is more direct. Whenever our family traveled to a neighboring European country we had to stop at die Grenze, meaning boundary or border. I would understand this word even more when I read that the German equivalent of boundless was the word grenzenlos, or boundaryless.
The laws may have changed since we were there 25-30 years ago, but how well I remember the Grenze every time we tried to leave the country. To enter Holland we had to have an insurance green card, or pay a hefty price for a short-term tourist insurance policy. In Austria someone measured the tread in our tires before we could cross their Grenze, and from Berlin to East Germany we had to apply for extra documentation and undergo the kind of security search only now becoming routine in this country.
But, as my linguistic Bible study taught me, to enter Gods kingdom or qualify for His care, there are no restrictions other than accepting His invitation to come unto me.
Neither is there any line between His kingdom and ours because the distinction is grenzenlos, without a boundary in sight.
Whether in peace or war, whether we travel or stay home, God is the sun behind our shadows and, no matter what language we speak, His answer-book makes all meanings clear.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@aol. com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.