The Rev. Eugene Stockstill

One of the main reasons believers often refer to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as "the Word": The pages are filled with words. And contrary to popular opinion, words are quite fun.

Complicated, too. Non-English speakers will tell you that English is among the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Why? Pronounce bear and ear. Do you see? Mom bought me a sweatshirt with the following words on it: "English is weird. But it can be understood through tough, thorough thought, though." Exceptions, exceptions, exceptions to rules.

When it comes to Bible study, you could do much worse than to make like a wordsmith. One or two examples will help. When the prophet Jonah disobeyed God, "he fled from the presence of the Lord." Would you like to know what the word "presence" literally means in Hebrew? Face. How about that? Running from the face of God. At the least, that adds to the comedy, if not the mystery (the face of God?). Picture a guilty child avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with mommy and daddy.

Here's one from Psalm 23, which just about everybody has heard. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." It is easy to envision goodness and mercy tagging along somewhere in the distance. But dyk what the image is here? Active pursuit. Fully engaged in initiating interaction. Goodness and mercy almost hunting down someone in order to be good and merciful to him. When was the last time your theology made room for such a strange thought?

One of the great preachers told about a meeting in heaven. Grace, Joy, Peace and all the other attributes and angels and saints made it on time, but Goodness and Mercy were tardy. They apologized when they arrived late but said they couldn't help it. "We couldn't leave until David died, because he wrote that we would follow him his whole life."

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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