Language; August 12, 2019

Psalm 61:4 I long to dwell in your tent for ever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

I think every believer has moments when this is the primary cry of their heart. We get more than tired of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and just want to be comforted in God’s presence. It isn’t necessarily suicidal, but just being tired of putting up with all the junk. We don’t have any description of God that specifically involves wings, but four times in his Psalms David uses the expression, “the shadow of Your wings,” talking to God, and it has been a dearly loved poetic image ever since. Isaiah mentions an owl caring for its young in the shadow of its wings, (Isaiah 34:15) and Jesus very famously used the image as He wept over Jerusalem. (Luke 13:14) For anyone who’s been around birds very much, it’s a very natural and beautiful image. It’s not that David, or even Jesus, was saying that God has feathers! The Bible has many poetic images, and being too literal can get us confused. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit to show us what He meant when He had people write the words we read today. Who better to interpret a book than the Author?

Having written poetry since childhood, the poetic images in the Bible seem very natural to me. Actually, since I wrote my first poem after I had read through the Bible for the first time, the influence probably went the other direction! I have a deep love of language, and at the same time I am sharply aware of its limitations. I am grateful to be bilingual, because some things are easier to say in one language than another. However, I think poetry can sometimes transcend all of that. It takes a lot of words to explain “in the shadow of Your wings,” for example. I need to let the Holy Spirit use whatever words or images are necessary to get God’s truth through to me, and I in turn need to let Him guide me in what I use to express that truth to others. I love to play with words, and I think that’s fine. Sometimes that produces laughter and sometimes groans, but my highest goal with words should be opening people’s hearts to God’s love and truth, whatever shape that takes.

Father, thank You for language. Thank You for reminding me at that moment that You spoke the universe into existence. May I speak Your words so that they may have their full effect, (Isaiah 55:10-11) bringing people into Your light and life for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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