Thursday, March 1, 2018

Every Tribe and Tongue

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

Language sounds like music to my ears. As a musician, there is a part of my mind that hears pitch, tone, rhythm, pulse, duration, and melody in spoken language. Various languages sound like individual instruments in a great vocal symphony. Some are flowing and melodic, others forceful and percussive. Still other languages seem to work quite nicely in layers of people all exuberantly talking at the same time. All together, the languages of this world form a great symphony, bearing witness to the God that created us.

In Genesis 11, the story is told of how God confused the language of a people who were bound and determined to rebel against God. Instead of speaking one language and pursuing a life in rebellion to God’s plan, God graciously intervened by fracturing their language, causing them to stop building a great tower where they could worship the creation instead of the Creator.

Psalm 19:1-4 describes a universal language of the stars that “declares the glory of God” and the beauty of His handiwork. It tells how the whole world “hears” this testimony and no one is left out. Language is the medium of the expression of God sharing His glory with all of humanity. Elsewhere, Scripture encourages us to use language in ways that build up and edify and bless, instead of tearing down, demeaning, and destroying. The words of our mouths, expressing the thoughts of our hearts and minds, are powerful tools of help or harm.

The above text from Revelation brings a beautiful close to the Bible’s the use of language. In it, we see men and women, boys and girls, from all over the world, praising God. The author makes a special effort to describe to us that there will be believers from every nation, from each of their tribes, and each of their language groups. They call out and sing of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who washes away the sins of the world. What a beautiful sound that will be!

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