Learning Scripture Like Language

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January 23, 2022

Isaiah 50:4 NIV

The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

CONSIDER THIS

Yesterday, a Daily Text reader emailed me their First Word—Last Word text, Isaiah 50:4. It reminded me of a scene in the 2005 movie, Walk the Line. Did you see the movie? It tells the origin story of Johnny and June Carter Cash. There’s a scene early in the movie where John and his older brother Jack are in in their beds talking before going to sleep. Jack is reading his Bible. John asks him something like, “Jack, why are you always reading that Bible,” to which Jack replies, “How can I help anybody if I don’t know the right story to tell them?” You are seeing the connection too, aren’t you? 

The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. 

One of my regrets in life is I never learned a foreign language. Over the years, though, I have come to understand Scripture as a kind of “language.” In one sense, it is a foreign language, yet in a much deeper way, Scripture is our most native language. The best way to learn language is by the simple and comprehensive way of immersion. We must immerse ourselves in the world of the Word. That’s the whole point of this series. We are largely taught to read the Bible for its practical relevance to our lives. This causes us to read it from an “extraction” point of view, which keeps us asking, “What can I get out of it?” That is not wrong. It is just woefully inadequate. It is the equivalent of going to another country and constantly asking, “How do you say . . . where is the bathroom?” and “How much does it cost?”—just the super relevant, functional and practical essentials. 

An immersion approach requires a submission to the language itself and the humility of realizing just how much instruction we need and how deep it must go. It is about having that getting up word (first word), that lying down word (last word), anchor buddy word, walking along the road word, talking with our children word, written on our gate, doorpost, forehead, hand, impressed on our heart, enfleshed in our lives Word. 

Ultimately, we aren’t trying to learn to speak in “bible-ease” but to inhabit the language of love. Scripture gives us the grammar, the syntax, the vocabulary, the frameworks, idioms, metaphors, the lexicons that can be translated into every culture and for the sake of every people group, indeed—for every single person. Isn’t that what today’s text is getting at?

The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. 

The fascinating thing about language is how it is so vastly interconnected and interwoven, producing what we might call a stunningly coherent complexity. The earlier referenced reader’s email came in response to yesterday’s Daily Text, Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 

Here’s what he wrote: “In an offbeat way this (Psalm 119:105) connects with my first Word/last Word verse Isaiah 50:4. Check it out if you find the time.”

The Holy Spirit made a cross-referential connection between these texts for this reader—in an “offbeat way” he noted. That’s how learning Scripture a language works. That’s how immersion in revelation works. Extraction for relevance has its place, I suppose—if you want to be a tourist. The people of God, however, are not tourists. We are on pilgrimage. We are pilgrims, journey-women and men and children. We are, “Marching to Zion.” Let’s give the great hymn writer, Brother Isaac Watts, the last word today.

Come, ye that love the Lord,
And let your joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne.

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful, Zion:
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

THE PRAYER

Yes, Lord, we are marching to Zion and not only are we learning to speak a language, you are teaching us to sing it. It is the melody of Divine love. So would you wake us up each morning to listen as those being instructed. Holy Spirit, immerse us in the Word of God such that not only are we refreshed but we become your refreshment for others. I want to be immersed in the wonder of the world your Word is making.  We pray in your name. Amen.

THE QUESTION

Are you grasping the difference between the “extraction” approach to reading Scripture and the “immersion” approach? How does this analogy of language and learning language help? What connections are you making? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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