What is a poem? Oxford says it is “a literary composition that is given intensity by particular attention to diction (sometimes involving rhyme), rhythm, and imagery.”
Poetry condenses thoughts, distills an idea or impression into the least amount of words carefully arranged to provoke response. The poet chooses just the right words, repeats the sound of them or the idea of them, moving in a cadence that makes sense with the subject matter and style of each poem, and creates an image in the mind of those who hear, an image one determined by the poet, yet also subjective in relation to the hearer’s frame of mind, experience, and reference points.
With that in mind, Ephesians 2:10 jumps to life. It has to be a poet’s and a writer’s most favorite verse. It says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Why the appeal to poets? The word ‘workmanship’ is ‘poema’ which is the source of our word ‘poem.’ Those who are “saved by grace through faith” (verses 8 and 9) are poems created by the Master of words, God Himself!
Words. Communication sometimes happens without them, but even then, whatever is conveyed is interpreted by words. When the words are composed with particular attention they make an impression, good or bad, soft or harsh, dull or explosive. Words have power to create or destroy, heal or harm, build or tear down. God ‘spoke’ the world into existence. His words are powerful, creative, awesome.
His Word also became flesh. Jesus Christ appeared as man, the Living Word. He is “the brightness of His (God’s) glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). If anyone was ever a perfect poem, a perfect expression of God Himself, it is Jesus.
And Ephesians 2:10 says Jesus is a poet as well, making poems of His people. He takes the right words (the biblical word is rhema meaning “just the right word for the need of the moment”) and speaks them into our hearts. We do not live by bread alone, but by these rhema words that come from the mouth of God.
Not only that, He repeats them in a cadence (some of us need more repetition than others) so we become easy on the ears, have a rhythm that is pleasing. Our lives speak, sometimes with words, the sweet movement of the Holy Spirit.
As He works and reworks us through His Word, He produces imagery, actually one image, teaching us to keep our eyes and our ears on Him, the Master Craftsman. Then, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Most of the time I feel more like a jumble of words, a lot of noise, or even at times a silence in a dark cave, not a poem. Yet this verse in Ephesians carries the idea that His creative work, His ‘editing’ is ongoing, a work still in progress.
As a writer, I know that my first draft is rough and hard on the ears. As I revise and rework, it hopefully improves. With God as my editor, I trust Him to do the same with me, using the best form for the poem He has in mind. Whether He chooses a sonnet or haiku, quatrain or limerick is not as important and the resulting expression, an image or reflection of Himself in my life.
This little word ‘poema’ is my rhema from the Lord today.