Quote: Break Into Song

“The thing about John Sailhamer is, he helped me love Moses. I don’t know if I had given Moses much thought before that class, but after hearing John Sailhamer talk about him, he became a human being to me. Dr. Sailhamer said Moses, unlike most writers in Scripture, would stop the narrative to break into the kind of poetry he had quoted earlier, a kind of poetry called parallelism, which is when you say something and then repeat it using different phrasing. He said the way Moses wrote wasn’t unlike the way people who write musicals stop the story every once in a while to break into song. At first I thought Dr. Sailhamer was just making things up, but he showed us in the text several places where the writer clearly stopped writing narrative and began writing poetry. The reason Moses would do this, according to John Sailhamer, is because there are emotions and situations and tensions that a human being feels in his life but can’t explain. And poetry is a literary tool that has the power to give a person the feeling he isn’t alone in those emotions, that, though there are no words to describe them, somebody understands.

“I can’t tell you how beautiful I thought this was; I had always suspected language was quite limited in its ability to communicate the intricate mysteries of truth. By that I mean if you have to describe loneliness or how beautiful your sweetheart is or the way a rainstorm smells in the summer, you most likely have to use poetry because these things are not technical, they are more romantic, and yet they exist and we interact and exchange these commodities with one another in a kind of dance.

“This comforted me because I had grown up thinking of my faith in a rather systematic fashion, as I said, listed on grids and charts, which is frustrating because I never, ever thought you could diagram truth, map it out on a grid, or break down into a formula. I felt that truth was something living, complex, very large and dynamic and animated. Simple words, lists, or formulas could never describe truth or explain the complex nature of our reality.

“What John Sailhamer was saying was meaningful because it meant God wasn’t communicating to us through cold lists and dead formulas; it meant He wanted to say something to our hearts, like a real person. Remember when I was talking about a hidden language beneath the language we speak, and how this hidden language is about the heart? It seems the Bible is speaking this language, this inferred set of ideas, as much as it is speaking simple truths.”

— Donald Miller

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