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Wordwise Insight, Issue #050
December 14, 2008

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): A meditation on Psalm 88 that gives encouragement to those suffering from emotional depression

MEDITATIONS ON OUR HYMNS: Stories of two Christmas carols, "Silent Night," and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

MORE ARTICLES: Links to articles on dealing with discouragement, and on the best Bible study tool I have found

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? See below for how to send it to us.


Are you finding Wordwise helpful? And do you have your own website? We would be delighted if you would provide a link on your site to ours. This will enable your friends to find us too! Check the page on the Wordwise website called "Link to Us," and follow the simple instructions. Click on Link to Us.


The Wordwise website has a page of Christmas goodies for you or someone you'd like to pass them on to. A veritable Christmas stocking full!

☼ Stories of a number of popular Christmas carols

☼ A challenging Christmas quiz based on both the Bible and our carols

☼ Articles on the real date of Christmas, and the origin of the Christmas star

☼ A two-part Christmas Bible study

☼ A link to an excellent book about the birth of Christ

To access this treasure, click on Christmas Carol Story.

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LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION? On a Bible topic or passage of Scripture? Or one about a hymn or gospel song? Click on Questions from You.



A Meditation on Psalm 88

Depression cry? A sad psalm written by someone who is depressed? If I am feeling like that myself, why would I want to study it and read about it?

In response, there are a couple of reasons why. First, because you will find here someone with whom you can truly identify. Renowned Brethren Bible teacher J. N. Darby said that at one time Psalm 88 was the only Scripture that had any help for him, because he saw there that someone else had been as low as that before him.

The second reason we should consider this psalm is because, although this passage of the Bible is filled with dark shadows, it points the way to the light. It is a message from the Lord for all who have suffered such times.

This is the only psalm attributed to Heman, the Ezrahite (see the inspired heading). Elsewhere we learn that Heman was a singer from the Levitical family of Kohath (I Chron. 6:33; II Chron. 5:12). (First Chronicles 6:16-30 lists Samuel among the Kohathites too.)

Heman has given us, in his psalm, an unbroken wail of distress. It is the saddest and most mournful of all the psalms. Unlike a number of other laments, the gloom is not relieved by any clear expression of hope for the future. Nowhere does it move on to a "But God..." but continues its negative tone to the end. The last word in English translation is "darkness." The spirit of the psalm, if not the details, surely parallel the agony of the Son of God in the garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matt. 26:37; Mk. 14:33-34; Lk. 22:44).

A list of common words found in the psalm is revealing. There we see forms of the following words: cut off (vs. 5), troubles (vs. 3), afflicted (vs. 7, 9, 15), wrath (vs. 7, 16), dead (vs. 5, 10, 15), darkness (vs. 6, 12, 18), depths (vs. 6), grave (vs. 3, 5, 11), and pit (vs. 4, 6).

Yet this is not a cry of faithless rebellion. The psalmist begins by calling God the "Lord [Jehovah] God of my salvation" (vs. 1). And there is...

To see the full article, click on Depression Cry.



A Humble Birth

It was the humble birth of a son that led to the writing of one of our most beloved Christmas carols. There is some disagreement on the exact details, but it seems to have come about like this. The place where the events took place is a tiny village called Oberndorf in a region of the Austrian Alps known as the Tyrol. The year was 1818, and it was the day before Christmas. Plans were well underway for a musical program that would take place the next evening. Joseph Mohr, the pastor of the village church, and his organist Franz Gruber, were both musicians, and they hoped the service they had planned would be a blessing to all.

But as often happens in pastoral ministry, work on the program was interrupted. Word came that a poor wood-chopper's wife had just given birth to a child. They lived quite a distance from town, and Pastor Mohr went everywhere on foot. He immediately set his other tasks aside and made his way through the snow to their cottage, where he had prayer, asking God's blessing on their newborn son. Having been invited to a Christmas Eve party at the home of a wealthy parishioner, Mohr then set off from the couple's cottage up a nearby mountain to the palatial home.

It was late when he finally trudged through the snow back to Oberndorf. The night was clear and cold, and the stars sparkled brilliantly overhead. He thought about the humble birth of the wood-cutter's son, and of course it reminded him of the coming of Christ. He was overwhelmed by the scene before him and quickened his pace homeward. There he turned a sudden inspiration into the words of a song, finishing it at four in the morning. On Christmas Day he took the lines of verse to his friend Franz Gruber, who supplied...

To see the full article, click on Silent Night.


God Is Not Dead

Over a century ago philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote the famous words "God is dead." But he did not mean what many suppose. He was not saying that somehow God had ceased to exist. Rather, he meant that God has ceased to matter to us. That the vast majority in society have little thought of God. He is dead to them. Sadly, that is even possible for Christians.

One day Martin Luther's wife Katherine came down to breakfast dressed head to foot in black. Startled by her mourning attire, Luther asked her who had died. "Do you not know?" she said, "God in heaven is dead." "How can you talk such nonsense, Katie! Luther responded. "God is immortal. He can never die." But then Katherine pointed out that, by her husband's persistent discouragement in recent days, he was certainly acting as though God had died. She helped him see the need to once more apply the truths he knew so well.

No, God is not dead. But the point is well taken. It is possible even for born again Christians to act like what we might call "practical atheists." Perhaps it is because of personal failures or domestic problems. Perhaps it is because current events in the world are so discouraging. Sometimes life's problems do loom large in our limited view and we bitterly turn our backs on God as a reaction to that.

Here we are at another Christmas season. In some ways it seems a hollow mockery to celebrate "peace on earth, good will toward men" when the world is in such turmoil. It is easy to be overwhelmed with pessimism. Wars and rumours of wars abound. Violence and unrest stalk the streets of our big cities. Famine and disease blight various third world countries. What has become of the Prince of Peace? At times we may be tempted...

To see the full article, click on I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.


Here are two more articles that may be of interest. "Dealing with Discouragement" will give you practical help related to the article on depression. And "The Best Bible Study Tool" is one that I have used for over 40 years. I highly recommend it.

Dealing with Discouragement

Best Bible Study Tool

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