“The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear….” That’s what Nahum 3:3 says. When reading that, I wondered, “Why did God have to describe the spear as “glittering?” Isn’t that superfluous? Isn’t that extra and unnecessary?”
Nahum 3:3 uses poetic language. And the Bible is filled with poetry and poetic images! In fact, the author Leland Ryken estimates that 1/3 of the Bible is poetry! God obviously cares about using beautiful, picturesque language.
So using a word like “glittering” was not superfluous for God. This is God’s Word, and every word is perfect and pure. Those “extra” words are an integral part of the message. Words carry meaning, and the words used paint a picture. The image of a glittering spear is more vivid than just “a spear”; it paints a picture of bright metal sparkling in the sun; it inspires awe and fear at a powerful army with sharp weapons.
Here’s why I think God used poetic language in the Bible, instead of just writing a theology textbook: God didn’t just want to communicate bare ideas; He wanted to communicate full, beautiful, and powerful meaning. We understand image-language better than abstract language, and we are impacted in a different way. God didn’t want to merely teach us stuff; He wanted to move our hearts with beauty. God used both precise language and poetic language in the Bible. Preciseness isn’t the only virtue in words; beauty is also important.
What’s the takeaway from this? Well, this is one reason why I write out complete manuscripts of my sermons: I want to plan the words used, and use the right words; I want to use colourful, impacting words; I want to move people with the beauty of Jesus and His love, not just the fact of Jesus’s love. So if you’re a preacher, take time over your words; you don’t have to write out full manuscripts, but it seems to me that if using picturesque language was important to God, it should be to preachers, too.
And even if you’re not a preacher, your takeaway from this should be to savour the imagery of Scripture; don’t just focus on learning lessons and facts from the Bible, but seek to let the Bible affect and change the way you feel about truth.