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THE SHORTEST VERSE[S] IN THE BIBLE
by Philip Owen

            What child in Sunday School has not been happy to discover “the shortest verse in the Bible” and to trot it out (or have been tempted to do so) when called on at short notice to recite a verse from the Bible from memory?  Yet there is another verse in the AV translation that is equally short—both contain two English words—and actually a bit shorter in the Greek (fourteen letters v. sixteen letters) were we sufficiently simple to seek a tie-breaker for shortest verse.  But the purpose of this Note is not to descend to the level of argument regarding which verse might be the shortest of all, it is simply to take advantage of the circumstances of this editing device to make several casual observations.  For on the one hand, we must observe the arbitrary nature of the existence of these two verses and their comparison.  But on the other hand, we may be encouraged to consider that nothing that God does directly Himself or permits to happen is entirely arbitrary or purposeless.  And even the seemingly random facts of our lives should be profitable for our edification.  So let’s juxtapose these two briefest of verses.

 

            “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  We are immediately reminded of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Christ that He would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (53:3).  For even though He was very God, He did not shield Himself from the presence of human suffering and sorrow or try to avoid it when it impacted Him personally.  The fact that Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus is one of the most simple yet profound revelations in all the Word of God.  It reveals at once both His humanity and His deity.  That He could weep, that He did weep reveals how completely He became “very man,” how thoroughly He entered into our humanity, how completely He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).  Surely, in that moment at the tomb, He experienced the human loss of His beloved friend Lazarus and empathized with the great sorrow that Mary and Martha were enduring.  And yet in that weeping, there is an even greater manifestation of His deity.  For He knew that in a moment He would command Lazarus to come forth to return to life; he knew that all the histrionic displays of Eastern grief going on about Him were unnecessary in light of what was about to occur.  Nevertheless, He wept.  Must it not have been finally more on account of the ravages of sin that were being manifested everywhere He turned?  Was it not because of sin itself?  Because of the suffering and sorrow resultant from sin?  Because of the unbelief (the ultimate consequence of sin) that was being manifested?  Because in this microcosmic moment was being played out the entire tragic tale of man’s sinful rebellion and its destructive, devastating, damning consequences?  Surely, it was more as both the perfectly holy, righteous yet merciful and compassionate God than as a man that Christ expressed His grief.

 

            “Rejoice evermore” (I Thessalonians 5:16).  What a contrast with the preceding verse.  The former was the recounting of an historical event in the earthly life of our Lord.  This is a command to believers.  The former is sorrow personified, the latter is joy personalized.  Though our natural circumstances may sometimes (if not often) evoke sadness, sorrow, even despair, and though we may have seeming cause to weep, we are commanded to “Rejoice evermore”—to “always rejoice.”  This command is not issued as a de facto denial of natural circumstances—sin and the curse are real and bring profound and often unpleasant consequences.  But it is a reminder of who we are in Christ and of what the fruit of redemption in Christ produces.  It is a reminder that we have a grace that is greater than all our sin, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:  That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:20b, 21).  It is a reminder that God is sovereign, omnipotent, holy, righteous, gracious, and merciful.  It is a reminder that He does all things well.  It is a reminder that He will be glorified in His creation, that “Surely the wrath of man shall praise . . . [Him]” and that “the remainder of wrath . . . [He will] restrain” (Psa. 76:10).  In short, though we may sorrow and weep, faith teaches us that there is ultimate cause to praise the Lord, for “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psa. 30:5).  The coming joy is both more substantial and enduring than the present sorrow.  Remember these two verses.  Christ took our sin upon Himself, bore our sorrow and suffering that He might bestow on us the joy of His salvation.  We can and must “rejoice evermore” in Him because “Jesus wept” for us.                                                         

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