Yet the Words Come

Arenda and the kids flew yonder westward today, leaving me to idle in the tranquil environs of the manor. It’s lonely, sure, but when God closes a door he opens a window, right? So although I very much prefer the company of my wife and children, Max McLean does okay in the interim.

He does the reading for some audio versions of the Bible, and he does an outstanding job. I would like to urge you, gently, that whenever you have the chance, to listen to Scripture being read rather than reading it yourself. In the first place, you encounter it as the original readers would have. Even if they could read, to possess a written copy of the Scriptures was well beyond the purse of the average believer (we went to a synagogue last year, and I remember the tour guide saying that a new hand-written Torah scroll cost upwards of $50,000. Could be wrong on the figure, but it was hefty). Up until modern times this was largely the case regardless of where you lived, so for most of redemptive history God’s people experienced his Word through their ears, not their eyes.

In the second place, you encounter a passage apart from the arbitrary clutter of verses, headings, and paragraph breaks that are there in the printed versions. Those features are helpful, but they can also be distracting, and they can keep you from grasping the unity and flow of a larger passage, chapter, or book. Finally, when the words are spoken to you, you aren’t in control of receiving the message. When you read it yourself, you can find yourself distracted by other thoughts, or find yourself making some toast and playing Duplo with the kids. You’re distracted, and then the experience is over. You can also be distracted, of course, when Scripture is being read aloud, but even when your mind wanders yet the words come. This is how things really are, anyways, as God speaks over our lives regardless if we pay attention. So the medium becomes the message.

Listen to Max McLean read Lamentations 3 from the King James Version (click the little sound button just to the top right of the passage). He reads the ESV and NIV, too, and just as well, but “render unto them a recompense” applies a degree of poetic torque that just isn’t there in “pay them back what they deserve.” Also, the NIV and ESV versions have a cheesy synthesizer in the background that makes the whole thing feel like a Thomas Kinkade painting. But regardless, do listen to that passage. It’ll take six minutes of your time, yet it will likely be the most moving and crust-piercing thing that you do all day.


4 thoughts on “Yet the Words Come

  1. Thanks for that, Jeremy. Definitely the “most moving and crust-piercing” thing I did all day. I admit, even before I started listening to the King James version I considered switching to the NIV. I’ve always thought of the King James as old fashioned language, hard to follow along with. But it was very moving to listen to, especially in the context of God’s people throughout history having listened to this as well.

  2. Hi! What moving imagery there is in that chapter of Lamentations! The pictures just come alive when read aloud; ‘hedged me about with hewn stone’ in particular jumped out (such a sense of the smallness of man next to God) – and the alliteration stands out so much more when read aloud, too! Glad Mr. McLean is helping you through your days!

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