As a young adult I was dating a guy who had plans to spend six weeks in the summer at the University of Washington in Seattle studying Bible translation. I was fascinated and went to the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Los Angeles to talk to them. I met a gentleman who had returned from 30 years in the field, leaving a translation, a church, and an educational system. I asked myself what I would be leaving after thirty more years of teaching junior high mathematics. And so began a friendship that now has lasted 45 years and a love for languages. Pentecost was accompanied by the sound of a violent wind, a fire that separated and came to rest on each person but did not burn, and they “began to speak in other languages” so that all people heard the story of God with his people in their own language! (Acts 2:4, 11)
The ability to read and hear in our own language is the ability to think and decide for ourselves what we believe. I do not have to wait until someone thinks to share with someone they consider less smart. I do not have to struggle to understand idioms in a foreign language or ask my husband to translate when I get home. I can read and think for myself. I thought it was a wonderful gift. The men in the tribe we worked with were caring for flocks and herds far away or they went to the capitol to be night watchmen. Communications within families and friends was a challenge. This was before cell phones and of course there was no electricity for email. Being able to hear the words of God in your own language is wonderful.
As Christians we believe God speaks all languages and desires all to know of his love and salvation. The language is not holy but the God who speaks it is holy. So while the various translations and expressions of the Bible may seem confusing and often we fall into the trap of arguing about words but the important point is not the word used but that the God who speaks, speaks to us and desires to be in relationship with us. We do not need to climb to him by trying to lead perfect lives or by giving sacrifices that would feed our family but in Pentecost, God speaks to us in our language.
If you could hear one word today from God, what would it be? I love you? You are forgiven? Be at peace? You are valuable? God reaches out to us in his Word, the Scriptures to communicate with us and let us know we matter. Thank you, Lord!