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“But let your communication be, ‘Yea, yea; Nay, nay:’ for whatsoever is more than these comes of evil.” Matthew 5:37
I don’t remember what got me really thinking about what You are saying here, Lord. But I think it was that I really felt You were talking about more than our communication here. I mean, let’s just stop and think for a minute. Where have You been taking us from and where are You taking us to? We’ve come from the “beatitudes”, the mirror image of the character of God exemplified through You, Jesus. Then You’ve shown us practical example after practical example lifted up to Your standards, not ours. So is this really about our communication or our behavior or our lifestyle? I think it is something more because of the word You chose.
It always comes down to the Word. The Word is everything. It’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The Word is life itself. The Word is power. Did I say already, the Word is everything? Why do I keep repeating Word? Well, the actual word translated in the King James Version as communication is the word “logos” which is the word for the Word.
But my question is, “Do I really understand what You mean by the word?” The BBE translation says, “But let your words be simply, ‘Yes or No:’ and whatever is more than these is of the Evil One.” But is that really all that You are saying here. After all You’ve been trying to share with us, would You just be telling us that we need to be accountable to our words? I mean, sure we do. But does that fit in here? Or is there something more to this “word” idea? Think about it. If someone says, “Will you take me to the park tomorrow?” And I obey in the sense of giving a simple, honest reply, “Yes.” And then it rains and I can’t go to the park, was my word true? So is it simply about saying “Yes”, or “No” and not making promises we can’t keep or is it about something more that we do have control over and that would be straight from the “Evil One”? Otherwise, how can I ever say, “Yes” without being in peril of lying? So what if this isn’t what Jesus meant?
What do You mean when You talk about the “word”? What does logos mean to the “Hebrew” mindset believer? What did it mean to You and what did it mean to the apostles? Logos, for You, Jesus, and the apostles wasn’t just about words and labels. It’s roots are in the Hebrew word “davar”. That’s the Old Testament equivalent. That’s where the Hebrew mind would go to understand this concept. But the Hebrew word and the Greek word are different. That’s what happens in language interpretations. So let’s look back.
“Davar”, the Hebrew word for word, does mean “word, speech, command, or saying.” It’s the word used to express that the Lord spoke to Moses saying the words He said. It’s the word that correlates directly to Jesus as found in John 1. If I were to translate John 1:1 into Hebrew, listen: “Bereishit hayah hadavar. B’davar haya et haElohim, vElohim haya hadavar.” And for us who don’t know Hebrew that says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The actual Hebrew name for the book of Deuteronomy is “Davarim” meaning “Words.” But is all this only about words, about abstract ideas? Or is it about something more?
In Acts 6:4, the apostles are posed with a problem in their ministry. They become so busy trying to meet the physical needs of widows within their community of believers that they felt it was diverting their attention from where it needed to be devoted. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” But what is the ministry of the word? Is the ministry of the word just about them preaching the word? Or does it take true prayer and the power of the word itself to minister through itself in order for the apostles to be able ministers through the word and by the word and in the word? Are we ministers of the word? Or are we ministers by the word?
Going back to Your words, Jesus, in Matthew 5:33, You say, “Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, ‘You shall not perjur yourself, but shall perform unto the Lord Your oaths.'” See, here it was told people over the years that we should perform what we say. But Jesus leads this up to letting our word be yes or no. As I’ve been taught to interpret this, it comes out as a repeat of not perjuring myself. But You, Jesus, pre-empted this with the word, “But!” So it has to be a different rendering. “But You, my child, aren’t guided by avoiding perjury to Your character which is connected to the character of Your community and Your God. You are guided by something more.” What is that something more? What is the “word” that guides in a greater way?
Hebrew thinking might have been a little deeper than ours. There was a lot more to things. Hearing wasn’t just hearing. Hearing was hearing and doing all together. You couldn’t separate the two or hearing hadn’t taken place. Just so, there is more to words than just meets our eyes and ears. Which takes me to Proverbs 14:23. “In labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Hm, that word for talk is our “dabar” again. But this is mere talk. This is mere words. It’s actually “the talk of the lips”. Do you get that? The talk of the lips are just words that have nothing to back them in “reality” for lack of a better explanation right now. Words that are just words, spoken from man, out of man’s heart leave us in want and extreme poverty.
See, the Greek idea of reality is based in things. But the Hebrew idea of reality is based in the “word”. That’s where “Dabar comes in. It’s the word, the deed, and the concrete object all wrapped up together. Think about it. Whenever God speaks, whatever He speaks is. In Hebrew thought there is no idea of “nothing” in the sense of “nothing” for the Greek. Nothing becomes a “not-word” or “lo-dabar”. So if dabar is the word, then lo-dabar is not the word. If the word is God and everything of His essence and all He speaks into reality, then anything not of the word is actually now a lie. Anything not the word “exists as a lie, but it is not real because it does not represent true reality.” (Skip Moen) I know that because You, God, are the Word, and You are Reality. The question isn’t whether something is or isn’t. Therefore the question isn’t about my yes or no. The question is all about what is true or not-true and that is only known by agreement with and knowing the Word.
I’m human. So is everyone else who lives on this earth or ever has. Aside from God, we may spout the most profound words but they are all just “words of the lips”. On our own they have no truth in them. Sure, they are real words, they can be promises, or famous sayings, or sonnets, but outside of God speaking through us, they have no truth in them. Skip Moen continues this thought, ” They are profitless because they do not produce a deed, an object or a declaration that aligns with God’s reality. They are lies. They may not be lies because they are deliberately deceptive but they are lies nonetheless because they are not a reflection of God’s order of the world. In this sense, from a Hebrew perspective, they are nothing.”
Now, maybe you disagree with me here, and that’s fine. Because I don’t know all these answers. That’s why I’m searching. That’s why I’m praying. That’s why I’m knocking continually and asking the Lord to help me know Him more. But what I’m seeing in these verses is that it’s not how I want to apply God’s Word that is important but how I allow Him to apply His truth to me and in me and to and in His world. Is the reality of Christ, who is the reality of God, His representative to us of His Word, which is Him, what is truth in my character? It’s not about my Yes or No. It’s about my submitting to God’s “Yes” and God’s “No.” To live by my own words and not the Word of God Himself in Jesus Christ is to live a lie and that is of the Evil One.
I want to summarize with these verses in James. I feel he’s pulling it all together, reigning it all in. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body…And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. .. Therewith bless we God, and even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (James 3:2,6,9) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed… Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s [religion] is vain. [Hm, like mere words?] Pure religion [should that be pure worship?, the expression of His Word in us] and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”(James 1:14, 19-27)
That doing the word is all about the word “poeio”. It’s that word that flows out of us like poetry flows from a poet or the sculpture from within the sculptor. Is the Word my truth that flows from me and is it my source of life and living? Are the “deeds” that come from my life, deeds empowered and enabled by Your Word? Are the words I speak from Your Word and am I speaking truth or am I deceiving my own self and leading others into deception. It’s not about religion. It’s about worship. It’s about true worship. It’s about Truth Himself. Your Word is Truth because You are Truth. Are You the reality that flows from me? Am I truly a doer of You? Am I that submitted? Are You my Yea and my Nay? If not, then I am wholly deceived. But if so, then I’m right where You want me to be.