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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Poet of His Word

A Poet of His Word

"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only." James 1:22 (ESV)

"Doers" of the word, in the Greek, means performers, especially used of poets, from the Greek word "poietes". The Apostle Paul used the same word in direct reference to poets:

"In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring'".
Acts 17:28 (ESV)

Poets perform their work by speaking to an audience or publishing books. A poem begins with ideas and emotions, feelings and desires and fears, but it is nothing until the poet uses words to create structure and meaning. Until the poem is spoken or sung or written or performed, the ideas and emotions and feelings and desires and fears are impotent and worthless. Even for the poet himself, if the poem remains unworded, unrealized, vague and internal, the poem does not affect or influence or satisfy.

But, "doing" the poem brings change. Speaking or singing or writing or performing the poem makes the original ideas and emotions real. It changes and forms the essence of the poet. It drives decisions and desires. It satisfies.

So with God's Word.

The thoughts and feelings, the desires and goals of God remain empty and worthless to us, if we only passively read the words without allowing them to drive our own inward desires and goals. Until we "perform" God's Word, the Bible is only an unpublished, unimportant, vague "poem", only good for sitting on a shelf.

How does one "perform" God's Word?

James wrote about a man who inspected himself closely, and then walked away from the mirror. Without constant reference to his reflection, forgetting his face was the inescapable result.

"If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like." James 1:23-24 (ESV)

James says constant reference to God's Word is absolutely necessary to ensure that it is remembered and performed.

"The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:25 (ESV)

The man stared into the mirror, looking but not seeing. James urges us to bend forward, getting as close to the words as we can in order to see clearly the meaning and import.

The result of humble, careful, constant reading and reference to God's Word, is a blessing. The Bible becomes a supremely happy reminder of how God is directing and moving in me to live out and perform the wonderful truths of His love, justice and mercy.

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless." James 1:26 (ESV)

James compares self-control with the bridle of a horse. "Bridle" in the Greek means to be a bit-leader, or to curb. The word is from "chaloa" (to lower as into a void) and "chasma" (a chasm or impassable interval).

The image is of a chasm or crevice, at the edge of which stands a man with a rope, lowering down a package or bag. The rope prevents the package from falling out of control, crashing down the crevice, lost and broken.

A leather bridle secures the head of a horse, giving control of the animal to the rider. Holding firmly to the straps of the bridle allows the rider to control the horse's wild instinct to run in panic or turn the wrong way.

I am so far from being a biblically honest "performer" of the word. I find it often easy, and rewarding intellectually, to study God's Word. God has allowed me talent in writing and analysis of ideas and words. But I'm a miserable "performer" of His Word.

Perhaps prayer is the arena in which my old self is shown to be most in control. Only last night, wanting to pray deeply, honestly, I could not, not even silently, by myself. In all my study, I still could not remember a single verse of Scripture on which to meditate. Without an open Bible, my mind is little better than an idolator or atheist.

I want God to so control my thoughts and words, that His Word is living in my mind every moment, every day. To "perform" His Word means to depend upon it urgently and publicly, referencing it in all situations.

I'm not describing an ability to memorize scripture; rather, a love and all-encompassing reliance and expression upon the truths of God's Word, not necessarily word perfect according to an arbitrary version, but absolutely biblical and complete in essence.

God, make me a poet of your Word!

Image courtesy of Guenter M. Kirchweger, modified with GIMP.org