What’s in a word? A lot, it seems. We know the power of a word because, for decades, Kenny Boles has illuminated biblical words for us. Along with you, I will miss his wit and wisdom in this column. But Kenny’s words were always based on God’s Word, and thankfully, God’s Word contains an endless supply of encouragement and challenge for the future.
So perhaps it is fitting to start my words in this column with a word about “word,” a dabar (dah-VAR) in the Old Testament and a rema (RAY-muh) in the New. The biblical prophet Isaiah knew a fair amount about words, including worthless words from people (see Isaiah 8:19, 37:6) and harsh words from God (1:10-11, 9:8-12). But in Isaiah 40:8, Isaiah speaks to those on the brink of hopelessness: “the word (dabar) of our God will stand forever.”
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like much encouragement. But God has announced comfort (40:1-2) and that he is coming to save (40:3-5). The message is clear: “God has not abandoned you, and you can trust him.” That’s a good word. So when the apostle Peter writes to a group of believers on the brink of hopelessness, suffering persecution on the outside and harsh treatment from others on the inside (have you ever been there?), he quotes this verse from Isaiah 40:8.
Then, he follows it by saying, “this word (rema) is the good news proclaimed to you” (1 Peter 1:25). At first glance, this may not seem like much encouragement. But Peter says that the good news of Jesus is proof of God’s reliability. The message is clear, for them and for us: “God has not abandoned you, and you can trust him.” For all of us, that’s a good, and powerful, word indeed.