I have always been suspicious of the King’s English; King James that is. The churches of my formation years convinced me that Jesus did not speak in Aramaic or Hebrew, nor did he use the stray Greek word from time to time. Nope, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee as he taught the masses, Jesus waxed as eloquently as the sonnets of Shakespeare.
My pastors taught me that “the Authorized 1611 King James Version of the Bible is the only Bible, and all other versions are perversions of God’s Word.” There was even a sign attached to the pulpit to this effect, warning all would-be preachers to read from the correct translation or hell would open up and swallow them whole. Or was it, “hell shall openeth up and swalloweth thee whole?”
All this pontificating aside, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was being hoodwinked. If Jesus was a Jew living in the first century and King James and his Anglo dialect didn’t show up for the party until a dozen or so centuries later, well, I just couldn’t imagine Jesus enunciating like Hamlet. It didn’t make sense.
And besides that, if God really wanted to communicate with humanity, why would he use a single language bound by the culture, form, and times of post-medieval England? But I “doth protest too much, me thinks.”
Still, old King James can steer you wrong sometimes. Now before the hate-mail puts “razors to my wounded heart,” let me explain. Language changes over time, even the King’s English, and words exchange meanings.
For example, one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament comes from Isaiah. King James reads: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Modern translations read, “But those who trust in the Lord shall renew their strength,” and this is the better wording.
Trusting and waiting can be two very different things. Waiting is not enough, as if taking a break alone will return the depleted strength to your muscles or emotional strength to your heart. The challenge is not to take a rest. The challenge is to put our confidence in the right place, in God. This is what leads us to a sense of peace and perseverance.
Waiting is not enough for the thousands of people whose livelihoods have been put in jeopardy by the spewing oil in the Gulf. Waiting is not enough for the marriage in trouble, the parents with a sick child, the couple facing foreclosure, or the man just handed a pink slip. What is needed is trust in God while we wait.
Isaiah’s example is the eagle. Eagles are able to cover incredible distances, rising thousand of feet into the sky, reaching speeds of sixty miles per hour. But these beautiful birds may flap their wings only once or twice over the course of hours in doing so. They let the thermal updrafts carry them along. Conserving energy, eagles have one of the longest, healthiest life spans of any bird in the sky, some living up to fifty years.
Compare that to the smallest bird species: The hummingbird. They too can reach speeds of sixty miles per hour. They too can cover great distances, some migrating five hundred miles across the Gulf of Mexico. But soaring effortlessly across the sky, flapping his wings once or twice a day, is not in the hummingbird’s genetics.
The little birds beat their wings eighty times a second and their hearts beat more than 1200 times a minute. And for all their amazing speed and effort, this does not lead to a life of longevity. The majority of hummingbirds die within a year, their strength exhausted and their little hearts having given out.
So which species will you be? A busy hummingbird, buzzing, constantly on the move, torn apart by anxiety; or will you be more like the eagle who rests, letting the wind of God’s strength carry you along? That truly is the question.