On definitions and The Word


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I am re-reading A.W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God, during my morning quiet. It is a beautiful thing, reading a book more than once. It is something I rarely do, but am reminded–once again–the richness gained by meditating over a set of ideas multiple times. And so, of course, I’m finding Tozer’s “Beloved and Timeless Classic” even more meaningful this second time ’round.

Yesterday, while reading Chapter 6, “The Speaking Voice,” I was struck with the notion of words, their definitions, and how in defining one thing another thing is often automatically defined.

It is a reality which has its beginnings in the beginning with the words spoken by The Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”    –John 1:1
“The Word of God is quick and powerful,” says Tozer. “In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and it became something. Chaos heard it and became order; darkness heard it and became light. ‘And God said…and it was so’ (Genesis 1:9). These twin phrases, as cause and effect, occur throughout the Genesis story of creation. The said accounts for the so. The so is the said put into the continuous present.”

When I read that paragraph, I thought, But ‘chaos’ has a definition. So does ‘darkness.’ If these words didn’t have definitions, they wouldn’t be words.

Yes. They are words because of the the Word and His “Speaking Voice.” By His said and His so, He gave definition not just to order and light, but to chaos and darkness, as well. Without light, how do we know we live in darkness? Without order, how do we know we live in chaos?

It is like Paul saying to the Romans, “Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin…for apart from the law, sin lies dead.” (Romans 7:7-8)

It is how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives definition to salvation by grace, and not by works.

How many things in life do we not understand, unless we are shown the opposite definition of that thing? Are we not educated by the view and environment from which we were born and raised? We may have a vague notion of what a particular thing is—like light, if we live in darkness, or freedom if we live as slaves. But it is only our idea of it; an idea shaped and colored by our imagination, the stories we hear and read, the media in which we engage, the reality we experience. Then, depending on how accurate our notion is, when we finally come into contact with that thing we react—either in recoiled terror, or open embrace, or some strange semblance of the two.

Much like the orphan who has notions of what a mother, father and family is, but no definition for trust.

Much like the married couple who has notions of how life together should be, but no definition–or a flawed one at best–for reconciliation or one flesh.

And here, in this point of contact with a new definition, we come to a crossroads. What do we do with our new definition? How do we respond to the Word? How do we respond to His Speaking Voice? Do we reject the definition because living it is too hard? Do we take the definition for a test-drive? See how it works out in reality, but ready to discard it if the definition proves inconvenient or less than comfortable?

Or, do we accept that the new definition was given by The Word, who loves us enough to continue speaking into our lives even this very day?

It has been, and continues to be, my experience that accepting new definitions is hard work. Continually being open to God’s Speaking Voice in my life requires a constant humiliation of personal agenda and an acceptance that many of my definitions are really just chicken scratches etched in sand.

But, if I can stay quiet before Him, hear from Him, and embrace His definitions, I will be changed. My understanding of and relationships with those to whom He has entrusted to me will be changed. My marriage will be changed. Everything will be changed. Just like He changed darkness into light and chaos into order.

“And God said…and it was so.”

He is still saying…and it is still so.

Come Lord Jesus. Come into my here and now. Be the Speaking Voice in my life, and fill me with the power of your definitions.    Amen.


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