The Longest Word
The first waking thoughts of the day can often be confused, random and sometimes just weird. Today’s fits neatly into ‘random’, as this morning I awoke with a simple question: What is the Bible’s longest word? Usually these fleeting thoughts are quickly forgotten as my brain starts to connect with more pressing matters of daily reality. But today that thought has stuck with me and developed into an interesting and ongoing distraction.
So What Is The Longest Word?
Questions, questions, questions! How should I measure? Should I just count letters? Does the language matter? Should I consider English or original Hebrew or Greek? Do names and places count? What about hyphenated words? Why I am still thinking about this when there are things to be done today? Focus. Time to move on… or maybe not… maybe there’s another way of considering the question.
John’s gospel starts with a whole chapter about the Word. This Word he says existed in the beginning. Echoing the opening verses of Genesis, this Word was in existence even before the creation of the world. More than that, this Word is the very nature of God himself. He is part of the Godhead, without beginning or creator.
In his prologue John sets out to clearly state the eternal and divine nature of Jesus Christ. Here was a man who walked the earth in in the first century AD, yet John describes as having existed since before the creation of the world.
The same writer describes the Word again in the book of Revelation connecting the beginning of time to the end. The Word he describes is someone who was before, will remain after and has spanned the whole of known time. At the end of his vision of the future it is the Word who is seated on the throne as his creation gathers for an eternity of worship.
It is a strange concept to consider, when human life seems so governed by time. The nature of God’s creation brings order to my days, seasons and life. So there is a wonderful conceptual barrier to understand how anything can live beyond the constraints of time that we recognise. Yet this is what John calls his readers to grapple with.
In And Out Of Time
How should life be affected by the reality of an eternal God? One the one hand it is amazing to recognise that our saviour has been present and active for the whole of history, that his command and rule over this world is unhindered by the rise and fall of empires over the ages. It brings confidence in his faithfulness and purposes for our future. Yet, on the other hand, why is so hard sometimes to trust God for today and tomorrow? To what extent do I allow his eternal nature to govern my day to day life?
Much of Jesus’ teaching focussed on allowing the eternal nature of God into our daily routines. He talked about trusting God for provision, letting God’s unchanging character be reflected in the ways that we deal with another. He called his disciples to orient their life’s focus around matters of eternal rather than temporal value – seeking his kingdom first. In actual fact he brought far more eternal significance into our daily lives than we ever might imagine possible! And yet in the face of eternal possibilities we can so easy become overly focussed on temporal concern.
This challenge of eternal versus present is one that must continually be grappled with. Life must be lived in the present with an eternal perspective, whilst at the same time lived in eternity bringing that reality into today. Thank God we have an example; the life of the Word himself. But the challenge remains and as John Piper prayed, “Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.” (Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ).
Back to the Question
So, back for a moment to the longest word in the Bible. I’m not inclined to count letters, so maybe John presents a compelling case; that the longest word is in fact a person. Jesus Christ, the Word.