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God, the Beat Poet

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that God is a poet. There are prominent streams in the church that have, for the better part of 200 years, portrayed God as a floating brain of unending intelligence. Make no mistake, God is really smart, but he’s more than just smart, or better put, he’s a particular kind of smart—he’s artistic, he’s poetic.

The very first revelation that the bible presents about God is that he is a creator. He speaks the worlds by his words. His limitless imagination is the source for all the color and diversity that exists in our still unfolding universe. Not only does Genesis make the point that God is a creator, but it does so in a particular fashion. Those opening verses in Genesis read like a poem, or the lyrics to a song, with the repeating refrain being “and there was evening and there was morning … ”

Those repeated lines provide the rhythm, the sense of meter.

The Holy Spirit could have written the Genesis account in a different manner. It could have been a text book. It could have had a bibliography page. But it didn’t.

Which is to say that, in his heart, God is a poet. He doesn’t just want to do things or say things, without considering the ways in which he might say them. Disseminating information is not the only consideration. It might not even be the primary consideration. How things are done, and how things are said, are just as important as what is actually done, and what is actually said.

Again, he’s an artist.

This approach, this nuanced way of working, this sense of style and design that God loves isn’t limited to creation in an original, book of Genesis, sort of way. It seems as though he’s always at work, and that his work often takes on this poetic sensibility.

A quick example from the book of Judges:

In Judges 11, God calls Jephthah to lead and deliver his people. In the midst of his calling, the Bible notes a couple of small details about Jephthah, one being that he was the son of a prostitute. No big deal, except that one of the recurring theme’s in the book of Judges is that Israel is continually ‘prostituting’ themselves out to other Gods.

I love this. It’s not just that God wants to deliver his people. It’s not just that God wants to partner with someone to see it through. It’s that, in all of Israel, out of every capable male available, he specifically chooses the son of a prostitute to be the deliverer of a nation that has lived out, in shameful colors, this sort of transactional lust instead of love, life apart from God.

Obviously, He didn’t have to work out his plan this way. He was under no contractual obligation with anyone. He didn’t owe Jephthah any favors. It’s just that he’s a master poet, always writing the story on multiple levels, saying one thing, but meaning 10 things.

Look for the poetry and you will find God. When you bump into irony, you can be sure that God himself is not far away. Life is nowhere near as one dimensional as we might have assumed.

Review your life. Find the meter. What are the patterns? Where is the theme? Where is the poetry? It’s there, because God just can’t help it. He’s not writing a thick, dull text book. He’s writing a grand narrative. A poetic story with billions and billions of backstories and tie-ins. You and I are included. Now look again.  

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adamrussell1@mac.com'
Adam Russell is a worship leader turned pastor. He also leads a worship band known simply as "The Embers." He and his wife, Heather, along with their three children, live and minister in central Kentucky.