Words are the basic building blocks of human language. We create words to describe our world and our experiences. Language is never static, but living, flowing like a river, and always expanding to describe our changing world.
Imagine our forefather Adam after he had been given the task to choose names for all the animals. I picture him like a small child, exploring his world, pointing at animals and making sounds that had never been made before… “Dog…horse…monkey….” Each new day he would be adding hundreds of words to his vocabulary.
Back in 1895, when German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Routgen discovered an invisible ray that could penetrate solid matter, he created a brand-new word: X-ray. X is Algebraic symbol for an unknown quantity.
At the turn of the 20th Century a strange, noisy vehicle began to replace the horse and buggy. At first they called these contraptions “horseless carriages,” because they were mobile, yet unattached to a horse. They could operate by themselves. Hence auto mobiles.
In the past three decades there have been so many new discoveries that the pace of creating new words has accelerated. Try these for example: The Cloud, Virtual Reality, Social Media and Artificial Intelligence. Who knows what new word will may be added to the dictionary tomorrow?
As rapidly as our vocabulary is being enlarged today, there was a time very long ago when several new words were birthed within a few hours—in response to one historical incident. Most of the words carry negative connotations and describe unpleasant emotions.
It all started in a garden many, many millennia ago. As I share the story, I will describe two days: yesterday and today.
Yesterday the couple was happily married and enjoying every experience the garden offered. Innocence and complete trust were the norm in their relationship. Yesterday they anticipated the Landlord’s daily visit in the cool of the evening. Yesterday they listened for His familiar voice while waiting at the rendezvous place. Yesterday the three of them were chatting like close friends, giving an account of their day’s activities and nibbling on their favorite fruit from the orchard.
That was yesterday.
Today everything has changed. It’s a brand-new world. Emotions never felt before are now part of their vocabulary.
Words like shame. Having eaten forbidden fruit the Landlord had warned against eating, “The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were both naked so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7). Coverings, yes, but they couldn’t cover the shame that pressed at them from all sides. We still struggle with shame today.
And then there was fear. Yesterday they feared nothing, certainly not the daily visit of the Landlord. But today when “The man and his wife heard the sound of (the Landlord) … they hid themselves …” “But the Lord God (the Landlord) called to the man, ‘Where are you? He answered, ‘I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid’” (Genesis 3:8, 9). Like our ancestors, we live with fear. Left alone we either deny the Landlord’s existence or imagine Him to be unfairly harsh.
By the way, God’s question, “Where are you?” was not asked in ignorance. Nor were they the words of a police officer seeking to arrest a criminal. God knew where they were and why. These were the words of a loving father calling out to a lost child.
Another new word describes an emotional response that didn’t exist yesterday.
When the Landlord asked who had enticed them to eat the forbidden fruit Adam responded, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). The woman followed her husband’s example and pointed her finger at the serpent. Yesterday they both proudly accepted responsibility, but today they are playing the blame game.
Yesterday the concept of death was foggy at best. The Landlord had warned that they would die if they ate of the forbidden fruit. But what was death? All they had ever known was life, wonderful life. Today they could still walk about the garden and breathe in air, but they were as good as dead in another sphere. The unique life they had enjoyed with the Landlord yesterday had changed. Fellowship had been broken. Every descendant would be born spiritually dead. None would know the fellowship the couple had shared yesterday.
In consequence, the Landlord slaughtered animals to create clothing for them. Sacrifice, bloody sacrifice now became part of their lives. Death became the dreaded enemy every person would now fear but also succumb to. Grief, another new word, is now part of human existence.
Yesterday the man and wife enjoyed intimacy with each other and with the Landlord. There were no hidden secrets in the closet to hinder their relationship. But today, they struggle to trust one another. New words such as loneliness, alienation and separation now describe their emotions. Today, the Landlord has forever evicted them from the garden.
These new vocabulary words described negative emotions, but a new word packed with positive emotions was also birthed that fateful day.
It was hope.
Hope has sustained people through severe trials. This hope is not wishful thinking such as “I hope it doesn’t rain on our picnic.” Biblical hope is confidence in someone or something. One dictionary defines hope as persisting in believing something against all odds or as unwavering conviction. The Bible connects hope with faith to describe Abraham’s response to God’s seemingly impossible promise to give Sarah and him a baby in their golden years: “In hope he (Abraham) believed against all hope… fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:18, 21, esv).
Faith is a choice to believe something even when it seems impossible. Hope is the emotion that feeds off the choice of believing something because we trust the One who has made the promise. I believe all the stories in the Bible can be tied together by the word hope. God not only evicted Adam and Eve from the garden, but He also promised that someday paradise would be restored when the “seed of the woman would smite (crush) the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15).
The gospels open with the birth of that promised seed and close with the promise that Jesus will return again. There will be a renewed earth where God once again walks among His people like He did in the garden.
Christ-followers are to find courage in the midst of trials by claiming this “blessed hope” (Titus 2:11-14). Even Nature hopes for (anticipates) liberation from the curse. The Bible concludes with a promise, “Behold, I am coming soon.”
Today we live in the in-between time. Yesterday is forever gone. Today we live in a broken world. Since the eviction notice was served mankind no longer lives in yesterday’s paradise. Life is riddled with pain and suffering and loss. Guilt, shame, fear and alienation drive a wedge between God and us and between each other.
But we cling to tomorrow’s promise. Even in times like these we can live as people of hope. Let us begin each new day by anticipating this may be the day and respond, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
Whether through the passageway of death or the glorious return of Christ, we choose hope. We choose to believe because we know it will worth it all when see Him and hear His voice, as our first parents heard Him in a long-ago garden when the world was new.