Quotation Marks

Originally written as a series of tweets:

Quotation marks were invented around 1700. The Bible was written without them. All quote marks were added later.

Look at Genesis 12:1-3, God’s promise to Abram. Abram obeyed the command to leave his native land, setting out for distant Canaan.

But what did Abram hear and when did he hear it? We see quote marks and we assume a literal utterance. We assume a current conversation.

Remove the quotation marks and the matter is much less clear.

Genesis 12:1 begins, “Now the Lord had said to Abram....” The past perfect tense, “had,” indicates time had passed since God spoke.

Maybe a lot of time? God might have spoken to Abram slowly. Abram’s understanding might have come gradually.

The Bible says he was 75 when he said Yes and set out. What if he heard back when he was 25?

Maybe Abram spent 50 years trying to figure things out, trying to live his own way, trying to be successful in other people’s eyes.

Finally he became weary enough to give in. “OK OK, God. Let’s try this crazy thing that I have always felt like you’re asking me to do.”

Within your own life, do not demand that God must speak inside of quotation marks. This is a way to hide, a way to make yourself deaf.

Are you waiting for God to speak? Perhaps he has. Maybe he spoke with such devoted slowness that one sentence took years to fill your heart.

Maybe the longing that never quite leaves you is the whisper that has waited for you to listen.