Saturday, March 22, 2014

Word order matters

As I was spinning away on the trainer the other day, I got to musing about word order in English. Specifically, this phrase in Hark! The herald angels sing (I know, a Christmas carol on one of the first days of spring! But it snowed about 6 inches yesterday, so why not!)
Pleased as man with men to dwell...
Obviously a poetic turn of phrase, but I suspect most people read (and sing) it as if it were saying
Pleased with men as man to dwell...
Catch the difference? Subtle, but significant, isn't it? In the first version, it doesn't matter what humanity has done, the initiative is all from God. In the second version, God is pleased with humanity, so he decides to dwell among us.

That little change in word order has a profound affect on how we see God. If we see God as coming because he is pleased with us, then we end up with a performance-based "gospel."

But if we see the initiative as from God to begin with, irrespective of what humanity does, we end up with a Gospel that is grace-based from beginning to end. All God, all the time!

By the way, there are two more verses that rarely, if ever, get sung. Personally, these have become my favorite verses after discovering them a few years ago on

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.


Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.


Isn't that great? It doesn't leave us at atonement only—it takes us to restoration. It doesn't leave us with a "sin management" gospel, but broadcasts the full deliverance from sin that is possible in Christ. That's something to sing about!

1 comment:

troutbirder said...

Oh my. I read a lot but obviously am very sloppy at it...:)2023546889