Have you ever thought to praise God for his power in creating the world’s languages?
There are currently around 6,900 languages in the world today. Some languages have evolved and borrowed from other languages so that if you were to listen closely you could pickup a word here or there. Other languages are so different from English that at best you could ignorantly nod your head and pray that the people talking in front of you are not making fun of you. And no matter how similar the language, it is almost impossible to acquire a new language without an obvious accent. Have you ever tried to get a computer to translate something for you? Google can do some amazing things, and you can definitely get the gist of something by using a computer translator. But languages are so complex that even computers cannot completely understand them. And there are so many languages in the world that you cannot find a translator program for most of them.
And yet, all of the languages of the world bear the signature of a single creator. Every single one of these languages has verbs and nouns, and distinguishes between vowels and consonants. None of the thousands of human languages has less than three vowels. Every one of the world’s languages has syllables that end in vowels (called open syllables). Practically speaking, all of these languages are used in the same way: to allow humans to communicate with one another, describe the world around them, pass on knowledge to the next generation, and can be used to either bless or curse God. The 6,900 complex languages of our planet bow to rules created by a sovereign God, some of which apply to all of them.
And with all of their complexity and similarity, do you realize that the God of the Bible created all of the languages of the world in a second? In the beginning, Genesis 11:1 says, “the whole earth had one language and the same words.” What happened? Well, you know the story. The people were supposed to spread out, but instead they gathered together. They were supposed to glorify the name of God, but they sought to make a name for themselves. They built a city and a tower that reached up into the heavens. The Lord came down and looked at their little tower. In his frustration with their arrogant sin he frustrated their languages so that they could no longer work together. Now they would have to spread out, like he had told them to do in the first place. And that was it. Out of that one moment of judgment the languages of the world have emerged.
And the complexities of 6,900 languages do not even come close to the complexities of the God that made them. He did not spend years developing the grammars that take us years to write. He did not pull out his hair making languages like we pull out our hair learning languages. The Lord made languages and he understands all of them perfectly. God does not have a pocket-dictionary to try to understand the prayers of a little boy in China who thanks him for the food that he is about to eat. Nor does he need an iPad to pull up Google Translate when we pray over our children before bed. He made and thus understands all languages perfectly.
And that complex language-inventing God deserves praise for the unequaled intelligence seen in his creation of language. He deserves to be worshiped for his greatness and complexity and the ease with which he created the languages of the world. So, let us be in awe of the Lord as we look up at the stars or pick up a dictionary or hear someone in an airport speaking a foreign language. The Lord is complex, brilliant, and so worthy of all of our praise.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Author: David M. Hare
Dave is currently still engaged in language learning and analysis of the Kwakúm language. His focus is grammar and discourse analysis. The Kwakúm language committee is planning to begin translating the Bible in the summer of 2019. At that point Dave will focus on translation.
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Dave and Stacey Hare met at The Master’s College (now The Master’s University) in Santa Clarita, CA. They then went on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where they each received their MDivs. Also in Louisville, they adopted four kids from Ethiopia. Their first term on the field they spent learning French and Kwakum. For their first home assignment they each received a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, Bible Translation from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (now Dallas International University). They currently live in Cameroon, Africa where they serve as Linguists/Bible Translators among the Kwakum (aka Bakoum) people.