The Little Words

I tend to rush. Even when I’m kicking back on the couch to read a book, I find myself rushing through the pages. It’s not that I do not enjoy reading – it just seems that I am always in a hurry to do the thing that will come immediately after what I’m doing right now! When I read, I’m hurrying to get to eating the snack that’s next on my list of things to do. And when I begin to make that snack, I hurry to get to checking my email. I guess this is part of living in this North American society – we’re always hurrying to do something, even if that something is nothing.

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I even find myself hurrying when I read the Bible. I hurry to read the Bible so I can get to praying. After praying I can move on to reading the next book on my reading list. The problem is, when I hurry I miss things. If I read the Bible quickly, I always end up missing some important words. I never miss the big ones – I can spot a “justification” or a “imputed” a mile away. It is the small ones I miss. The “ifs” and the “buts” tend to escape my notice. It’s amazing, though, how the Bible changes when I take the time to soak in each of those little words. Ultimately, they are often more important than the big words that surround them.

Consider Luke 22 verses 31 and 32. “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’” When I hurry I miss the little words like “when.” That one little word in the context of this verse speaks to such an amazing truth. Satan asked if he could sift Simon like wheat. While we do not know exactly what that entails, certainly it shows that the devil was going to launch an especially vicious attack on Simon. Jesus, having prayed for Simon, did not say “if you return.” Rather, He spoke confidently, saying that when Peter persevered, he would be able to strengthen others. When we look at this verse in relation to other Scripture passages, we can see an affirmation of the principles of eternal security – that Satan, while he may attack us, can never separate us forever from the Lord. If I miss that little word when, I miss a great truth.

Another example of a little word with great meaning is in Ephesians 2 which speaks of salvation being by grace through faith alone in Christ.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

The first part of this passage discusses the natural human condition. Humans are dead in trespasses and sins. We walk according to the ways of Satan rather than God. We love to fulfill our own desires rather than God’s and we were children or wrath. But. But God. That one little word. This is how you were…but God. We then read how God, because of His great love, gave us life, saving us from our natural condition. Once again, so much hangs on just one tiny little word. That word ties the whole argument together, bringing us from sure condemnation to sure salvation.

I have learned that I need to slow down when I read, lest I continue to miss such great truths. When I slow down, read carefully and take time to meditate on the words of Scripture, I will be enriched by each and every word the Bible contains. I remember some of the first love letters my wife wrote me, so many years ago, and how I would read and re-read them, soaking in each word and each sentence. That is the type of devotion I need to show the Bible – to read each word, each “jot and tittle” – to ensure that I do not inadvertently miss out on any of the wonders of God.