November 25, 2009

After or before are the same to God

New Bible software has arrived and is loaded. I quickly discover that it is well worth the investment. It gives me quick access to many study tools and reference works that I may have had in the older version, but they were not as easy to find and use.

Today, using a feature that compares versions, I found something interesting. These are two versions of the same verse, Psalm 17:5. The first is from the New King James Bible, and the second from the New American Standard Bible.

    Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip.
    My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.
The first one sound like a prayer asking God to keep the psalmist on target in his walk with Him. The second one is an affirmation that God has already done it.

When I became a Christian, the King James Bible was all I had. I’ve memorized from it, and many songs sung in the church use its words. Passages like John 3:16 and Psalm 23 are familiar to non-Christians in the KJV. There are some Christians who insist that because this version is one of the first translations into English, it is the best. There are congregations who say they are KJV-only and some go so far as to say that other versions are in error.

Many English translations exist today. Some of them are “paraphrases” written in modern English using a translation. Most of them are true translations using the ancient manuscripts. However, there are two manuscript sources. The older ones are more recently discovered, so versions like the New International or the New American Standard are translated from those older and more numerous manuscripts. The KJV is from a different set, discovered earlier, but not as ancient as the others.

All this does not mean one set of manuscripts is better than the other, but differences do show up, mostly in style. The gist of a verse is generally the same. The one that I’m reading today could be considered an exception.  However, I’m thinking that it isn’t. Here is why . . .

When I pray, I am essentially saying to God that I believe He can and will do what I ask. If my prayer says, “Lord, save me” then I am asking Him to rescue me believing that He will. If I say, “Lord, you have saved me,” then the only difference is the time perspective. In either case, my prayer is an expression of what God has done or will do. The words show what side of the event I am looking at, before or after. Regardless of the viewpoint or perspective, the event is a reality to a person of faith.

This notion is not about a proper translation of the verse. That has already been done in each of the versions. It is more about getting a sense of what God is trying to tell me. If I pay attention to the differences in the two translations instead of getting in a sweat over which is the more accurate, then I see that the Bible often speaks in terms of eternity rather than time. In the mind of God, whether the psalmist is asking for help or has received help does not matter because He sees both events together. There is no linear time in eternity.

For me this is practical. When I pray, in the mind of God whatever I ask for is already done. I can pray asking, which expresses my faith that He will, or I can pray thanking Him that He has done it, even if I do not see the answer yet. This is also an expression of faith.

How cool is that!

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