One of my favorite artists is Jim Brickman and he has some fabulous Christmas albums, one of which is in my car. Near the end of this album is a version of “O Holy Night.” It is a duet performed in French. It is now my favorite version of this Christmas classic.
As I listened, I couldn’t understand any of it except the word, Noel. But I know the words to this song in English, so I know the message of this song.
I realized in that moment, that God’s message is the same, regardless of the language. Yes, I’ve heard these words before, but I really understand it now.
Genesis 11:1-9 gives the account of why there are language barriers in the first place. A group of people desiring to reach God by building a tower was not a good idea. God caused the group to speak in different languages to confuse those doing the construction. From that point on, God’s message would need to be translated into different languages in order to be understood.
Can you imagine how the folks on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) felt when they heard God’s message in their own language for the very first time? What a thrill it must have been!
Even for me, an English speaking woman in the United States to be able to pick up a version of the Bible that I can read and understand should be exciting to me each time I read it. Yes, God’s Word is exciting to me, but it has never been so because it is in English!
The original Scriptures were not written in a language that I read. In fact, the Bible was written in two languages that I can’t read. If not for some dedicated scholars of the past, I might not be able to hold a copy of God’s Word in my hand, much less have multiple copies sitting on my shelf.
We can look at Philip and Ethiopian in Acts 8 to see that even if there isn’t a language barrier, understanding may not come easily. Let’s look at the passage.
“The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:29-31 – NIV)
God’s message is the same, no matter what language it is heard, read, or studied.
So what can we take away from this?
First of all, I think we can be more appreciative of the fact that we have God’s Holy Scriptures in our own language to read. Don’t take these precious words for granted. Memorize as much of it as possible. Study and understand what God’s Word has to say. Feel privileged that you have a copy of the Bible. There are others in this world who do not.
Second, understand that God’s message never changes. It is the same today as it was in the beginning. It is the same regardless of the language in which it is presented. Appreciate the magnitude of that message and be certain to speak it clearly.
Third, who do you know that needs assistance with understanding God’s Word? What role do you think God is leading you to? How can you help others understand God’s message? Don’t underestimate how God can use you in these circumstances. He is an amazing God!
Oh, I know that Christmas is still over three months away and there are a few holidays to celebrate between now and then. What can I say? Christmas makes me happy. Christmas music fills my heart with warmth.
No matter what language we say it in, Merry Christmas [Melkin Yelidet Beaal (Ethiopian), Joyeux Noel (French), Fröhliche Weihnachten (German), Buone Feste Natalizie (Italian), Sung Tan Chuk Ha (Korean), Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia (Polish), Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom (Russian), Feliz Navidad (Spanish).[i]] means Merry Christmas.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,