Forest and Trees

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Have you ever been confused? By that I mean, you know something is true (pretty much), but someone is saying it’s not true. They point to some rather small detail and say the entire structure must fall because of this particular detail. 

Over the years I’ve had repeated experiences where someone will come to me and ask about the first verse of the Gospel of John. You may remember that verse: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The dust that gets thrown in the air concerns that last phrase and the Word was God

In the Greek, the word for “God” in this last instance does not have a “definite article,” that is, a “the” in front of it. That’s true, it doesn’t. We have no problem with that. But there are those who insist that as a consequence, we need to deny that Jesus is God. They say we should translate the passage as “the Word was a god.” Is that true?

I trust you feel a little bit confused by this. Maybe not. Many people are, however. I can remember a time when I was. Those who point to this verse in that way are people who deny that Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus may be a divine being, they say, but He’s not on a par with Father God. So, it’s a little deceptive: Jesus is divine, but He’s not “God,” rather “a god.” 

So, how did I resolve this in my own mind? What do I tell those who come to me with the dust of confusion clouding up their thoughts? First thing to note is this is not the only time in the NT when this particular grammatical construction with regard to God is found. For instance, just skip down to verse 6 and you’ll read There came man sent from God, whose name was John. The word “God” in the Greek does not have the definite article in front of it. Does this mean we should understand “a man was sent from a god?” Certainly not! It means John the Baptist was sent from God! As a matter of fact, there are over 200 references to God in the NT that have the same grammatical structure as John 1:1, that is, where “God” does not have the definite article. For instance, Romans 16:27 which says to the only wise God and 1 Cor. 8:4 which says there is no God but one do not have the definite article before “God” in the Greek. 

The second thing to note, and the one that is most compelling since very few people are familiar enough with Greek to check out other references to God, that is, the second thing to note is the forest in which the tree grows. Whoa, John! What in the world do you mean? I’m saying that if anyone simply reads through the Gospel of John it is more than evident that Jesus is to be identified as God, as one with the Father, as being truly and fully divine.

That’s the forest. And someone pointing out that one tree doesn’t a particular type of leaf, so it must not be a tree, is making a serious error. Even the Pharisees knew what Jesus was asserting about Himself. In John 10:27-30 Jesus says, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. 

For all those who like picky little details, here’s one: in whose hand are these folk, these sheep? Jesus’ hand or the Father’s hand? Jesus’ words teach there is no difference, that is, if they’re in the Father’s hand they’re in Jesus’ hand, and if they’re in Jesus’ hand they’re in the Father’s hand. He confirms that when He says, the Father and I are one. 

What do the Pharisees do? They pick up stones to stone Jesus. When He asks them why they want to stone Him, they reply, . . . because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God. [John 10:33] They understood what Jesus meant. They could see the forest as well as the trees. 

Here’s our thought for this day: pay attention to all the small details, they’re important. But they will always align with the broad truths of Scripture, not overturn them. Those details are not meant to be dust, but properly understand, they are like diamonds, small jewel bits meant to reflect light in a most beautiful manner. They are meant to enhance the overall beauty, not call it into question.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we praise You as the Word of God. You are always with the Father and the Father is always with You. You are the One through whom the entire universe was made. Nothing came into being apart from You. We ask You to continue to reveal Yourself to us. Help us see the glory of who You are, the wonder of what You’ve done, and the hope You’ve set before us. We bless Your name Lord Jesus, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, reign as the one, true, and living God forever and ever. Amen.