Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 1 Corinthians 14:13
It needs to be remembered the context of who Paul is writing to and under what circumstances. He is writing to the church of the Corinthians at a very early date in church history. In that congregation, there were Jews and Gentiles alike who had come to know Christ. It is certain that the majority of the Jews felt the prayers to God should be in their language.
Learning to speak Hebrew is not an overly difficult task. Even today, many Jewish people can read and speak the language, but they have no comprehension of the words. They often participate in the reading of Scripture at certain special times during the year, but they are only spoken words without meaning to their minds; the sounds are unintelligible.
Today, we have the same thing come up in churches from time to time. Lutheran churches may have a prayer written by Martin Luther read aloud. It will be in the original German and almost any competent English speaker can read the words in German because they are the same letters. Maybe the person even took a year of German in High School. If so, their pronunciation will be even better. But there is no understanding at all of what the words mean. This is what Paul is speaking about – real languages being spoken during the church service. The only problem is that they are unknown tongues to the people’s ears.
Understanding this context helps us to grasp what Paul is saying. “Therefore” rests upon his words concerning the understanding of the “voice” of a thing, or even a language which is heard. For the benefit of the person who is listening to a Hebrew prayer, passage, or other communication, the speaker should pray for the ability to interpret the words he is speaking. If not, then the people who are listening will never come to understand the meaning of what has been said. They will remain un-edified in their thinking and the words will have been wasted breath.
The gift of interpreting what is spoken will come as the speaker learns the language. This should be his prayer. In essence, “Lord, give me the understanding of these words so that I can properly interpret them for the benefit of the others who hear them.” In this, all will be edified through those spoken words.
Life application: Let it be the goal of all Christians to speak edifying words to those in the congregation. If we are given something to speak which is written in Spanish, German, or Japanese, we should pray that we can not only read it, but interpret it as well. Otherwise, the words have no substance behind them for those who hear.
How I cherish my moments with You, O God. I love to feel Your presence as I work, as I drive, and as I walk along the path to wherever I am going. What a difference when I do these things when You aren’t on my mind! The time is dull and meaningless. But when I have You in my thoughts, the sky is bluer, the leaves are greener, and the time passes with a simple ease that fills me with joy. Give me the mind and the presence to remember that You are always with me and that I can always have this state of peace. Amen.