When I was in Africa for a women's teaching seminar, I had an interpreter named Mona. She assisted me with speaking to the audience. She was a school teacher in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. She was fluent in English and Swahili. My audience mostly spoke Swahili. I was not aware at the time that my words would not necessarily convey my true thoughts and intents to the people. I told a couple of humorous stories that related to my text and it went over like cold rain. They didn't get it! None of my stories made sense to them. They just sat and looked at me with blank expressions. You could have heard a pin drop! After the first meeting Mona explained my problem to me. Sometimes what I said to her in English didn't translate smoothly into Swahili. I had to choose my words carefully and even then I might not be able to make it all fit together. Without Mona's help I never would have been able to preach the Gospel successfully in Tanzania.
She said it's not 'word-for-word' but 'thought-for-thought'. That's how I look at God's Word when it is translated into English. It wasn't originally written to English speaking people. Most doctrinal error comes from casually reading God's Word without ever digging deep into the original text and it's intended thought. The Bible calls this 'rightly dividing' the Word of Truth. I believe that word- for- word is very important as best it can be and that is why we do more than just read. Of course don't misunderstand what I am saying. We can't carry around a concordance of Greek and Hebrew words with us but we should set aside time to search the scripture and study. When I do study I receive such inspiration from the Word of God. The thought of the text is clarified for me and impressed upon my soul. It's an 'aha' moment for me to see a profound truth in the Word of God and understand it with the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit.
My friend Patti McKown is a Berean in heart. She studies and meditates God's Word with zeal. I love to talk to her in person because I always see the wheels turning behind her eyes as we banter back and forth. "Iron sharpens iron" and "deep calleth to deep". She always comes up with a good question.Tonight we talked about James 5:14. She was reading last night and came across this passage in James, "If there be any sick among you, let him call on the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing them with oil and the prayer of faith shall save the sick...". What does the word saved mean? She had a very good point. This passage to her sounded as though that to forsake the coming together and praying for one another could be a matter of life and death for some in the body of Christ. Well, because of the previous story I told of my experience in Dar-es-Salaam I am always interested in the original meaning of the words that I am reading in the Bible. I looked up 'save' in my Greek concordance and it means, "avenge, heal, deliver, restore". Another place said, "gift, to give, reward." Then I looked up the word 'sick' and it means, "tied up, walled". So the way it would read would be,"...anointing them with oil and the prayer of faith shall 'avenge, heal, deliver, restore' the [one] 'tied up, walled'. In John MacArthur's Bible Commentary he says that they are, "... delivered from suffering because they have been weakened by their infirmity". When we get so down in spirit and body that we are literally bound in our weakness then the Lord swoops in to avenge, deliver and restore us to a place of health and strength.
Knowing this more clearly about suffering's manifested symptoms, and then seeing the mercy of God in this passage really comforts me. He is good to us. He loves His children and we pray and petition Him because He answers us. I'll close with what Patti said, "It's very important that we assemble with believers who are after the heart of God and believe in prayer." Amen.