Ancient Words

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?  If you do, chances are it may begin something like, “For God so loved the world…” or  ” I can do all things through him…”  Beautiful verses.  From the time I was relatively young, however, one of my favorite verses peculiarly has been Daniel 1:4.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz…to bring…young men….showing aptitude…and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.  He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Could there be anything more thrilling than studying to mastery the language and philosophy of an old and exotic people?  It sounded so romantic…in the literary sense.  I had always aspired to be involved in something equally exciting one day.  Except, I already was.  I may not have ever deciphered Hiitite code or Babylonian writings (although that reminds me another trip to the Oriental Institute may be in order), but as a Christian and daily Bible reader, I pore over ancient Hebrew and Greek texts regularly.  Perhaps not in the original language, but I am certainly familiar with their texts, and have even memorized pivotal lines from their pages.  I know many of you are more studious than I in your Bible reading and spend substantial amounts of time absorbed in its message.  I do not take access to this knowledge for granted.

Our minister launched a theology reading group a few months back.  We have been reading a relatively academic book on our own and meet monthly to discuss it.  To paraphrase him, if our study of theology does not result in doxology, it is in vain.  In other words, our looking into scripture should not be strictly cerebral.  Application is imperative.  It should inform the way we live out our lives.  If you are interested, here is the book we are currently wrapping up.

In opening the Bible, somehow we are able to live in harmony with ancient texts.  We, in the post-modern world, are inextricably tied together with these ancient and holy words through threads of oral tradition and the rites of ancient mythologies.  Something from my ten-year-old self thrills with this privilege.

The forms of kingly annals, wisdom literature, psalms of ascent, biblical poetry and the like are not foreign to my contemporary sensibilities because at an early age I heard them repeated.  They were recited and memorized, not with cold, analytical study, but so that they would retain their original fervor from the time they were initially pronounced.  Here is my challenge as a parent – to create a biblically literate culture for my own children to grow up in.  Living out our faith somehow breathes life back into “obsolete” documents of the distant past, and imbues them with significance.  Because of this, the Hebrew (and Greek) scriptures, their poetry and ancient civilizations have never been completely foreign or irrelevant to me.

Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Words of life, words of Hope

Give us strength, help us cope

In this world, where e’er we roam

Ancient words will guide us home.

 

Ancient words ever true

Changing me, changing you

We have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Holy words of our Faith

Handed down to this age

Came to us through sacrifice

Oh, heed the faithful words of Christ

 

Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Ancient words ever true

Changing me, changing you

We have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

– Michael W. Smith

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