The Invisible Word

I have taken a solemn pledge to drop a word out of my vocabulary. Regardless of the need, I will no longer, after this last usage, speak or write this now-forbidden word: “cruet.” I know that you’re wondering how I will be able to function without this important word, but I assure you that I can and I will.

Of course I could get by without ever saying–oh, I almost said it–this word. Other words are not nearly so easily abandoned. Try going a day without the word “the.” And then there’s today’s next word in Psalm 118:24: “is.” The single most common verb in the English language “is” is not something we can easily work around. In the King James Version, you’ll find the verb “is” italicized here.

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

If you didn’t know it, italicized words in the KJV represent words that are not actually in the original Hebrew or Greek. Translated literally, the verse might read like this:

This the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

While it sounds like old-school Tarzan, such a sentence structure worked in Hebrew. The “is” would be understood, sort of like the “You” is understood when we give commands or directions in English: (You) go down the street.

This invisible word uses the simplest of verb tenses, the present indicative. We have all sorts of verbs tenses in English. Linguists don’t even all agree about how many there are, but you probably use all of them without even thinking about it. The present indicative, however, is the starting point and used most often.

The Psalmist is not saying that this “will be” the day. It’s not “might be” or “had been” or “will have been.” This is the day that is the one God made.

Now stick with me here for a bit. This day that is God-made has twenty-four hours in it. That’s 1,440 minutes. Since every day (as we established last time) is the day that the Lord has made, then presumably every hour and every minute is the hour or minute that He made as well. Otherwise, if, for example, only the hours of 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. are the day that the Lord made, then we find ourselves having to use a different verb tense before 6:00 or after 9:00.

The faithfulness of God is a 24/seven/365 sort of thing. It’s there first thing in the morning and endures until the close of day. That’s a lot of mileage out of an invisible word that most of us wouldn’t give a second look.

The Tangles of Sin (Hebrews 3:13)

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)

I set my son to a task last week. “Take all manner of tools down the driveway and start clearing the brush off of the fenceline,” I told him. I passed him on my way out to run errands as he carried the tools and headed to the appointed spot. When I returned home, perhaps an hour later, he did not appear beside the driveway, nor did a large pile of brush greet my arrival. As I motored past, I grumbled at this failure to launch.

Yesterday, I set Tom to another task. Having hacked down a mountain of small trees and saplings, I glared at the piles beside the driveway and paled at the thought of moving them to my burning area. I delegated the job to Tom.

Curiously, this task, unlike the assault on the fenceline, ended in a magnificent success. Across the span of the afternoon, Tom, assisted by a friend Jared, dragged, piled, cut, and otherwise transported this immense mound of vegetation to the spot in the pasture where I could safely torch it. As I set to work mowing nearby, the pair of them drove by on the lawn tractor and trailer, waving at me. They had finished.

Where did the difference lay? We might argue that the job of moving the brush proved simpler than of hacking it down, but I would expect another explanation to be the right one. Yesterday, Tom had Jared. Jared had Tom. The pair of them encouraged each other and kept each other on the task.

How hard is it for us to live the Christian life in solitude? Some might manage it, but most of us would fail miserably. That’s what today’s verse reminds us. While God’s power is infinite and his faithfulness unbounded, ours are decidedly limited. Just as my fenceline, left to its own devices, will grow up in thorns and vines in short order, my attentiveness to holiness, left alone, tends to stray.

Let us encourage each other. While moving brush or moving through life.



Man’s Best Friend (Hebrews 3:2)

He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. (Hebrews 3:2)

Cassie, our Great Pyrenees, went missing earlier today. Rarely does she wander out of sight of the house, yet this morning we could find her nowhere. Since I had seen her in the woods just down the driveway, I decided to check that spot. I still haven’t discovered what she’s been doing in that area, but she did appear behind me when I walked to the locale.

The odd thing about this is that Cassie is so dependable. She lazes around the house all day so that she can go on night patrol, barking at anything that approaches too close and keeping the livestock safe. She’s even started picking up eggs laid in out-of-the-way places, and bringing them down to the front door. What an animal!

Cassie does not take the trash out, fetch the mail, or feed the chickens. As much as I would appreciate the help, I don’t expect it. She’s a guard and herding dog. At those tasks, she’s proven completely faithful.

When the author of Hebrews mentions Moses again, I find it surprising. After all, he’s just spent two chapters differentiating Jesus from Moses and the angels, so why then compare Jesus with Moses? Then it struck me that, having shown the two to be incomparable, the writer can now praise Moses in the same way that I can praise Cassie.

You see, my dog is utterly reliable. My wife is utterly reliable. The difference is that I rely on my wife for much more, I have much loftier expectations of her, than I do of Cassie. Moses was as faithful as a human can be expected to be. Jesus is as faithful as God can be expected to be.

As much as I appreciate that dog, I’ll prefer Penny in a heartbeat. And the same goes for Christ over even the most faithful of humans.