At a loss for words? Scripture gives brilliant tapestry for glorifying God
Through the music we sing in worship, the wordings of prayers and even in the preaching we hear, we see the struggle to find the right words to describe God, his power, his majesty, the extent of his love and his love for mankind.
I remember the first time I heard the song “Listen to Our Hearts” by Jeff Moore and Steven Curtis Chapman
How do you explain, how do you describe, a love that goes from east to west and runs as deep as it is wide? You know all our hopes, Lord, you know all our fears. And words cannot express the love we feel but we long for you to hear.
So listen to our hearts.
The ideas of that song touched a chord with me and expressed my frustration in finding the right words for prayer and for sharing ideas about spiritual life.
In high school I determined never to pray with the language, terms and cliches I heard in public prayers. I learned to rephrase common needs, concerns and ideas.
I admire language that makes me rethink, and I have often sought — not always successfully — better ways to glorify God and express my love and admiration. I have found Scripture to help me verbalize my own feelings about God. The metaphor, a comparison of God to some material object or activity, is frequently used to help convey important qualities of God.
Psalm 23, the well-known comparison of God to a good shepherd, is still understandable even though it was more powerful for a people who cared for herds. The shepherd provides food, protection and guidance for all that sheep experience during a year. Jesus picks up that idea and describes himself as the good shepherd who is the door to the sheepfold, suggesting that he sleeps at the gate of the fold to assure he restricts access to protect his sheep.
Jesus also says that the good shepherd knows the sheep and the sheep know him. This simple comparison had meaning to people of the time — and continues to have meaning to those who know the mission of Jesus in our world.
A common comparison in the Psalms is that God is rock, a stronghold and refuge. Psalms 9, 11, 15, 16, 18, 28 and many others compare God to the rock of refuge, the rock that cannot be pulled down, and even the sanctuary for followers of God (Psalms 125).
Zion is the constant reference for Jerusalem. Although we may best understand a stronghold in terms of troops in Afghanistan, the image still helps us understand stability and protection.
In the difficult book of Job, God never speaks directly to Job except at the end of the book — after the long debate among Job and his friends over the causes of Job’s suffering. Elihu interrupts the cycle of speeches to explain his view, and during his speech he is reporting that a storm is approaching.
Finally, Job 38:1 records, “Then the Lord answered Job out the storm.” The answer is a long series of questions about the workings of nature, reminding readers that God knows what is past the understanding of man, even though Job has no explanation for his losses.
The power of God is demonstrated both in the storm and in the knowledge of the material world reflected in the questions. Job is satisfied that he knows God as the book ends.
At times God gives a visual show to help people know him. Moses, an exile in Midian, sees a fire on a mountain near his home. When he climbs to the place where he sees the fire, he discovers that the fire burned without consuming the bush. Then God speaks from the bush, instructing him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites from slavery.
After Elijah had been victorious over the prophets of Baal, Jezebel, the wicked queen of the northern kingdom, threatened his life. He fled south — all the way to Mount Sinai. There he waited for God. Fire and earthquake came, but God was only in the very quiet whisper.
God wants us to stretch our minds to know and understand him. Finding the right language to address and glorify God is a stretch for each of us. We have our best model, Scripture, but we also have to be creative.
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