Friday, June 10, 2016

‘Excessive’ and ‘Exceeding’ are not the Same

If one eats in excess, he may well eat to the point of making himself sick. He doesn’t eat exceedingly. He eats excessively. And isn’t that our problem with so many things? We just don’t know when to stop. And so it happens with drinking, and spending, and even exercising. If a little is OK, the a lot must be better. But it’s not.

“Exceedingly” is an adverb used in older translations of the Bible. We don’t see it often in our common communication. One instance that comes to mind is in evaluations. “She exceeded expectations.” It is not A work. It is A+ work. It is over and above. But it is not too much. It is surprisingly good.

This is why we often apply the word “exceedingly” to God. He consistently surprises with exceeding goodness; exceeding grace; exceeding forgiveness. And that is difficult. Because once we experience some kind of service that “exceeds expectations,”, well, then we come to expect that kind of service in the future, and so, the same service no longer exceeds. It simply meets. But with God, there is something that we suspect about ourselves, that we do not naturally deserve such goodness, or grace, or forgiveness; and, we do not find such goodness and grace and love so consistently and extravagantly expressed from other persons – that we are constantly surprised by the surpassing goodness of God.

Again, let’s be clear. Excessive and exceeding are not the same. We would never say, “God is so good, it just makes me sick.” Just as a grown person reflecting on his childhood would never say, “I grew up in a home where love was so abundant, it just about ruined me.” No, there are some things with a bottomless depth whose value only grows and grows. We must learn to distinguish from those other things which may be permissible in moderation, but which become a monstrosity in excess.

Psalm 119:4 says, “You (God) have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep them diligently.” I think the word “diligently” is too weak for the Hebrew term that it translates. Often, we would choose the word “exceedingly.” That is, “You have established and revealed to us these slab stones, so that we would be surprising, even shocking, in the way we build our lives firmly on these truths and principles, especially when they run counter to the values of the world around us.

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