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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Use Words You Don't Know

On September 12, 2001, America reeled from blows by terrorists the previous day. Among the efforts of our leaders to speak words of encouragement was a floor statement by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle which said this:

"I know that there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible, from Isaiah, that I think speaks to all of us at times like this:
'The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.' "

Mr. Daschle most certainly did not recognize the context of the passage. Isaiah is prophesying that when the Lord allows an enemy attack to destroy because He wishes to humble His people, the wrong response is a defiant resolve to rebuild. The verse looks like this when put in context:

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria
who say with pride and arrogance of heart,
"The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars."
~ Isaiah 9:8-10 (NIV)

This example is not cited for ridicule or criticism. I've no doubt that on some occasion, I myself have taken Scripture out of context in the effort to use it for good, and failed to apply it as the Lord intended.

Seeing Isaiah's words again, in context, simply seems like a good time to remind ourselves to be careful of how we use God's Word.

Lord, I thank You for allowing me the honor and privilege to host this blog. Please move me to always handle Your sacred Word with fear and trembling, mindful of its power. Please give us all hearts to thoroughly search out what You are saying when we read the Bible.

Comments, questions, and respectful disagreement are welcome. Reply to comments, or e-mail buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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  1. I was fairly young during this time and so all I remember about 9/11 is the graphic news reports that aired all day long. I'm thankful our country's leaders were brave enough to quote the Bible during bad times, but wish they were brave enough to quote it during the good. The more we use It, the less we'll make the mistake of using It out of context.

  2. Powerful post Anne. I'm always fearful and yet honored to have the Lord humble me. He knows best.

  3. Dakota ~

    You speak sound words. The same might be said of prayer. Just after 9/11, more people were praying. We need to stay on our knees more often, especially our leaders.

  4. Tana ~

    However painful His humbling, it's less painful than the alternative of pride. Which would make gratitude for humbling an appropriate response ...

  5. There has been a argument in speechwriting circles for decades (if not longer) about the use of quotations. One side says it's OK to use a quote that makes your point, even if the context may be something totally different. The other side says you have to pay attention to context - and if you use a quote out of it you're likely to get caught. Like Mr. Daschle.

    Personally, I belong to the "you have to pay attention to context" side. Good post, Anne.

  6. Glynn ~

    Though I'm careful with Scripture, I cringe to think how many quotes I've used to drive home a point which might have linked another, unintended message. You make a noteworthy point about all the ways we quote others, beyond use of Bible verses.

    One must wonder if Mr. Daschle or an anonymous speechwriter chose this passage. Though in the end, we are responsible for our own words.

  7. What a great reminder. I find I have to remember this with my work, too. I can get so infatuated with a new word I want to use it so badly even though I don't understand its full meaning.

    ~ Wendy

  8. What's funny is that there are hundreds of scriptures that speak of God's restoration. When it comes to the Bible, context is extremely important. This is a politician so that's a little different, but once we, as leaders and teachers, bend it for our purposes we're taking things to flippantly. If it's in ignorance, Lord, show us so we can repent, but help stay close to your heart and purposes.

    Thanks Anne.

  9. Wendy ~

    I SO get that infatuation we writers have with certain words. One of my all time favorites is "alpenglow," but working it into a novel once is always sufficient. I picked up a bad habit from my mother of using the word "ornery" as a synonym for mischievous. It drives my oldest daughter crazy and makes HER ornery. :D

  10. Jason ~

    Indeed! Restoration is one of the Bible's most predominant themes. I give your prayer a hearty 'AMEN!'


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