God Spoke One Word

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Twice during my retreat I encountered this phrase from "The Sayings of Light and Love" of St. John of the Cross.

"God spoke one word."

I knew immediately the meaning, but it took a while for the implications to sink in. If God spoke only one Word, what are all those words in the Bible about? Yes, I know I'm slow, but obviously, every one of them is about Jesus Christ. How? Until I meditate on every one of them I cannot tell you. Truthfully even afterwards, I suspect that I will not understand the full mystery of it. Nevertheless, I know that it is true.

To give you an example, in this morning's Office of readings:

"Therefore, say to the Israelites: I am the Lord. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment."

There's more, but let's stop there.

What I heard as I read this substituted the words "your sins" for "the Egyptians."

" I am the Lord. I will free you from the forced labor of your sins and will deliver you from their slavery."

How will he do this? "I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment." Arms outstretched on a cross--the mighty acts of judgment, those which condemned the savior and brought Him to the cross, but also those that occurred after His death, in which the veil in the temple was torn in two, breaking the barrier between the Holy Spirit of God and His people.

This is an anticipatory reading of the passage. That is to say, it is reading into the passage and not the literal meaning. The literal meaning must be preserved, but the language used eerily forecasts the kind of redemption we were to receive.

Rolling this all into a ball and sending it spinning across the field, we come back to "God spoke one Word."

Praise the Lord!

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I think that "God spoke one word" is likely a reflection of Psalms 62:11, which says: "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard" (NIV). The key lesson of this verse in my understanding is that the words in the Bible are finite; if we take them as God's only words, we can only have a limited understanding of God's will. But each word in the Bible has multiple meanings. Interpreting the Bible by contemplating alternatives to the literal words -- as you did with this passage -- allows us to extract infinite "words" or meanings from the text. Psalms 62:11 goes on to say "that power belongeth to God" (KJV, which phrases this last part of the verse more aptly than NIV in my opinion). This tells us that when we interpret the Bible, we are not straying from God's intended meaning, but rather unlocking more meanings which can also be valid. In doing so, we unlock the power of God's words, which is that the Bible can have limitless meaning while only using a limited number of words.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 6, 2006 9:01 AM.

Silence is Broken! was the previous entry in this blog.

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