Which word connects these five sentences?
- The world of baseball went wild in the spring of 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
- It was at the height of the hurricane when three men and a woman, crewing the Coast Guard Sikorsky Jayhawk helicopter, took off hoping to home in on the radio distress beacon that had been deployed by the stricken cargo ship.
- There were no signs of trouble the day that newlyweds, Mary and Allen moved into their new home.
- Almost everyone knows that in sports, the home team enjoys an advantage but nobody knows exactly why.
- China prices its car exports far lower than they do at home.
In each sentence, the word “home” has a slightly different meaning but with a little thought one can see how these five different applications might be connected. But there is little point in the exercise.
However, when one word possesses several meanings in Scripture, each nuance of the word adds valuable insight to understanding the complete message of the word. For example, take the Hebrew word whose three-letter root is P-K-D. Here are five places where it appears. The King James Bible translates each differently.
And the Lord remembered Sarah as He had said…
And thou shall appoint Aaron and his sons…
Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers…
…for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath commanded me to build him a house…
In each verse, the underlined word is a different translation of the same Hebrew word—P-K-D.
פ ק ד
D ← K ← P
Let us seek the consolidated meaning of this word. It is somehow an amalgam of remembering, appointing, counting, commanding, and visiting; the latter being a somewhat archaic usage meaning something similar to ‘remembering’.
When you remember someone, it is usually someone specific you recall. When you appoint someone, again, you seldom do so randomly. You are matching a specific person to a specific office or appointment. When President Lincoln commanded General Ulysses S. Grant to take over the Union Army in 1864, that was because he specifically chose General Grant over General Henry Wagner Halleck and all other candidates. We don’t count things we regard as insignificant. We count all our children before embarking on a long drive. We count our money. Attaching numbers to something implies that we care about that thing. “Visiting iniquity” is again dealing with specific actions of specific individuals.
Sure, enough, ancient Jewish wisdom confirms that the word P-K-D always means something that is happening to someone very particular for very particular reasons. It is the very opposite of the dismissive ‘what-ever’ usually tossed out in a bored monotone. P-K-D is a passionate action word focusing all our attention on a certain person and upon what is now to transpire in that person’s life.
It fascinates me that in the Lord’s language there are words other than P-K-D that we can use for remember, appoint, count, command, and visit. When this word is used it focuses our gaze upon a specific person like a laser beam.
These days, people in your family, business, or social circles have been reduced to green bubbles popping up in your phone messaging app. They have become the ubiquitous ‘friends’ in another app or impersonal email correspondents. We all used to see far more of each other in face-to-face, real-life encounters than we do today. One danger of today’s trends is that we lose sight of one another’s uniqueness. If every exciting, distinct person we know becomes nothing more than a text message, a Facebook friend, or an undifferentiated email recipient, then the vast kaleidoscope of human individuality in our lives vanishes into a bland blur looking like a column of identical soldiers marching across a stage.
This is very bad news for our social, romantic and business lives but there is an antidote. The Bible with its huge cast of colorful characters helps accustom us to view each person in our orbit as a unique creation of a loving God. Considering the enormous scope of conduct throughout Scripture helps us see the special capabilities of each person we know and that are found in nobody else. By overcoming modern technology’s tendency to commoditize our human relationships we are able to return to an authentic form of communication for greater cooperation, collaboration, and ultimately greater creativity.