Words play a central role in our lives, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed with words.
Yesterday and today on TSS we ask: How do I value God’s words over the avalanche of words pressing in on all sides of my life?
Last time we broadened our definition of ‘words’ to include the person and works of our beautiful Savior as the self-disclosure of the Father who dwells invisible in unapproachable light. Christ is the Word of God, the self-disclosure of a loving God who seeks to be known through His Son.
Today I want to pursue a second answer to our question: God’s words are intended to establish and maintain a deeply personal relationship with His children.
In our culture, words tend towards the impersonal because words are showered over our culture like a hurricane rainstorm. The flood of spoken and written words saturate the ground of mass consumption like talk radio, books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs. This current philosophy of words – downpour and hope a few words are absorbed before running off – has brought with it the impersonalization of words. We neglect 75-percent of the words in a newspaper, and find nothing missing in our lives as a consequence.
In contrast, Scripture reminds us that words are intended as deeply personal means of connection. At a foundational level, an inability to communicate drives us apart whereas common language and words tie persons together into close relationships.
In a culture saturated in cheap words, I think this deserves some further reflection.
Tower of Babel
Maybe the best example of how words unite and draw people together comes from the story of the Towel of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. It reads:
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves (self-glory), lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them (constraining wickedness – God prevents societies from being as evil as they could be). 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Lesson number one: To confuse language is to confuse relationships, disperse and separate. Sinners in Genesis 11 were conspiring towards self-glorification in the form of a tower. God intervenes and constrains the full expression of their wickedness. He constrains sin by separating sinners and He does this by confusing the common language.
Confused language separates. Using “the same words” unites.
This is not difficult to illustrate. What did immigrants do once they crossed into America through Ellis Island? The first step was to find their respective ethnic communities: Italians found their Italian communities, Germans found a home in the German communities, Irish, Polish, British, etc. Why? Because when you speak the same language you are naturally bound together. Communities, even in new lands, are established and bound by common words.
Lesson number two: The intimate communion between the Triune God operates by words. Now, I’m not saying God speaks Hebrew or English or even that God needs words like we do. The point is when Scripture reveals God’s intimate Triune communication, it says God uses words. So it is accurate to say the Triune God – the most intimate of all relationships – communes through words.
What all this means for the 21st century blog reader inundated with words is that God’s words are intended as a personal communication of Himself to us. God has spoken His words as an act of drawing sinners into an intimacy and closeness to Himself.
Carl Trueman writes, “God’s use of language is the basic element which allows the encounter between God and humanity to be considered as a personal relationship” (The Wages of Spin, p. 46).
God created words to speak to His children.
Words and friendship
Last time we highlighted that Jesus Christ (the Son) is the revelation of the Father. It’s significant that God did not just speak the Bible but His words came in the form of a man – Christ Jesus! His Word is the incarnate God-man to illustrate the personal nature of God’s self-disclosure.
Now listen to those Christ considers the closest and most intimate of friends: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Christ’s words reveal the very thoughts of the Father. When God opens our sin-blinded eyes to the beauty of Christ’s words in Scripture, we hear the Son echoing the words of His Father. And when we hear the voice of God through Christ in Scripture, we have entered into personal communion with God.
By God’s sovereign grace, we can hear the words of Christ disclosing the motives of the Father. For those who have ears to hear, Christ considers them close friends.
To state it another way: By His disclosed words, God draws us into intimate communion and fellowship with Himself!
Such amazing grace!
Abiding in Christ’s words – that is, reading and meditating upon Scripture and letting His words richly dwell in our hearts – means we are engaged in nothing short of intimate communion with Christ! To abide in His words is to abide in Him (John 15:7-9)!
May God prevent the mountain of words in our lives from making God’s words impersonal. They are not. Words are the “basic element which allows the encounter between God and humanity to be considered as a personal relationship.”
Related: See part one of this two part series here.