A Million Words

Do you know where were you on June 10, 2009, at 10:22 a.m.?
Something momentous happened at that moment.
It was a big day in the world of liguistics.
(Linguistics: the science of language.)

Give up?
The English language passed the million word threshold.
As of January 1, 2020, the official count was 1,057,379 words.

3D animation

That’s a lot of words.

Unfortunately, the most current Oxford English Dictionary only contains 171,476 of them. And the average English speaking person only uses about one eighth of those. Just think of all the things we could say and write and sing about if we made use of all those lovely words.

In contrast, the Biblical Hebrew language had 8,000 words stemming from 2,100 root words. That’s 992,000 less words to work with than contemporary English.

Paradoxically, the richness of Hebrew comes from its poverty. Because this ancient language has so few words, each one is like an overstuffed suitcase, bulging with extra meanings that it must carry in order for the language to fully describe reality. (Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life) 

Unpacking those suitcases full of extra meaning
is what makes studying the Bible so interesting.
Thank you for studying with me.


Use Your Words

I’ve got six little people in my life. Soon to be eight. Under the age of five. The littlest one is learning how to say words like “momma” and “daddy” while the biggest one is talking in complete paragraphs about dinosaurs and quantum physics. It’s the kids in the middle group that are in various stages of parlance. Because their thoughts are developing so quickly, it’s frustrating for them when their ability to communicate hasn’t quite caught up.

Hence, the whining.


“Use your words,” their mommas say.

I’m a contemplative type. I’m happy as a clam to sit in my office, in the quiet early morning hours. I bask in the silence and solitude. Most of my thoughts and prayers are internal, rarely uttered aloud. I’m not after some sort of mystical experience, but instead have learned to enjoy sitting in the presence of God. As Jan Johnson says, “I just look at God and God looks at me.”

Maybe that approach is good some of the time, but there is a need for balance. If PB and I just sat and looked at each other all the time, it might get kind of boring. Or it could turn into a giggle-fest. When I read Hosea 14 last week, verse 2 pressed hard on me.

“Take words with you and return to the Lord.”

I shouldn’t underestimate the value of putting my thoughts and prayers into actual words. God spoke creation into being with words, Jesus was called “the Word made flesh”, the Spirit carried along the writers of the Word of God. He’s a conversational God, waiting for my response.

It’s good to come to Him in quietness and trust,

but I am also invited to “use my words.”


My Favorite Word


The Bible is chock full of terrific words. Wonderful words like love, joy, and peace abound in the scriptures. Abound is a pretty good word too.

There are long words in the Bible, like Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1). (What were his parents thinking?)

There are short words in the Bible, like Ur (Genesis 15:7). “Where do you live?” “Ur.” (Confused look.)

There are impressive sounding words in the Bible, like sanctification, justification and propitiation.

There are precious words like Savior, heaven, grace and redeemed. I could go on and on.

I have a hands-down favorite word in the Good Book. It’s easy to overlook this humble three letter word. Here it is. Are you ready?


Don’t be fooled by this well-worn word, this scant syllable, this inconsequential conjunction. It packs a wallop when it’s perfectly placed. “But” is the pivot point in so many sentences, and so many lives. I have circled every “but” in my Bible.

“But you were washed…” 1 Corinthians 6:11

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

“But because of His great love for us…” Ephesians 2:4

“But God’s word is not chained…” 2 Timothy 2:9

My second favorite word in the Bible is equally short and powerful.


Team these two up and you’ve got a potent combination.

“Once you were alienated from God, BUT NOW he has reconciled you…” Colossians 1:21-22

“Once you were not a people, BUT NOW you are the people of God.”           1 Peter 2:10

“I was blind, BUT NOW I see.” John 9:25

“For this son of mine was dead, BUT NOW he is alive;

he was lost, BUT NOW he has been found.” Luke 15:24

I am thankful for these two little words.

They can redeem a past full of faults and failures.

They can redefine a future full of hopes and dreams.

But now.