I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Three of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”
In my mid-20s, I moved to Amsterdam (in the Netherlands, in Europe) to join a team of people starting a new church in the center of the city.
In the process, my newly-initiated study of New Testament Greek was paused for a full decade because I needed to devote that brain power to speaking Dutch.
Still, one of the ways that I worked to improve my Dutch was by making a deliberate choice to read through the Bible, in its entirety, in a Dutch version of De Bijbel. And even though I don’t want to romanticize that period of my life too much, I have to say that I gained new appreciation for God’s Word, reading through it in another language. It took me some extra time and effort, but everything also felt fresh and new and interesting.
I also loved the way that it spoke to my experiences as a foreigner in a strange land, looking for something steady and true.
Be good to your servant,Psalm 119:17-24
that I may live and obey your word.
Open my eyes to see
the wonderful truths in your instructions.
I am only a foreigner in the land.
Don’t hide your commands from me!
I am always overwhelmed
with a desire for your regulations.
You rebuke the arrogant;
those who wander from your commands are cursed.
Don’t let them scorn and insult me,
for I have obeyed your laws.
Even princes sit and speak against me,
but I will meditate on your decrees.
Your laws please me;
they give me wise advice.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible — both in the number of verses (176) and the number of words (2,445)! It’s an acrostic poem, devoting eight verses to every letter of the Hebrew alphabet (with every stanza starting every line with the letter associated with that stanza). And this poem is an ode to the Word of God. It talks about the beauty of God’s Word… the necessity of God’s Word… the power of God’s Word… And it uses a lovely variety of synonyms for the Word of God: instructions… commands… laws… decrees… advice… regulations…
Why?!? Because the Word of God is something special! The Bible is beautiful! The Bible is remarkable! I believe that the Bible is uniquely, verbally, and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit — without error in the original manuscripts. The supreme and final authority in faith and life in every age. The world might be messy. Our lives might be messy. But we need to recognize that it’s our mess that creates the dissonance, when we experience a sense of friction with the Word of God.
I learned a lot about myself and about the Word of God during our family’s Amsterdam years. Which, in retrospect, I believe was a significant part of preparing myself for what came after our return to the United States from the Netherlands…
[to be continued]