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Not what we really mean

Ann Swanson

Often, we say things that really do not mean what they say. The summer we had an exchange student from France we found out just how many of these we said. It seemed like he was always confused and he showed it by his expression.

He found some turtle wax on the table and asked about it. Do we really wax turtles he wanted to know? I explained that was just the name of the product. No, we did not wax turtles with it. It was for the car.

A friend lent me a book that had a lot of idioms in it. The part that really intrigued me was the part about the idioms from the Bible. I had no idea there were so many that had their origin in the Bible.

The first one I read was “an apple of my eye”. It means that something is particularly loved. The book told me it came from Deuteronomy 32:10 – it talks about the Lord’s love for Israel. There is another reference in Zechariah 2:8 – “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”

Grandparents often think of the grandchildren as the apple of their eye. Being a grandparent is fun. You enjoy the children, then send them home. I never really thought about the idea that I could send them home. When I babysat I did just as I would have with my own children. I never promised to keep the kids clean, but they would have a good time at grandma’s house. One of the grandchildren wore out a pair of shoes while he was here – he followed the older one in his walker.

In Psalms we find a reference that says to hide the apple of your eye under the shadow of his wings. In addition, it is mentioned in Proverbs 7:2. “Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye.”

Until I read this book, I had no idea that expression came from the Bible.

That drew me in. I was hooked. I wanted to read about other expressions that had their basis in the Bible.

Certainly, you have heard someone say “It is the blind leading the blind”. Well, that comes from the Bible, too. It means that someone with little or no knowledge about a subject is attempting to teach others about it. That is one I have often used myself. Jesus told his disciples that the Pharisees were blind to God’s truths. Their teaching was unreliable. This phrase can be found in Matthew 15: 14 and Luke 6: 35. It tells us if the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into a ditch.

In Matthew 5:39 we find the phrase “turning the other cheek”. “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil but whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” We probably all understand this concept. If someone wrongs you, do not repay it with evil, but turn the other cheek, meaning to forgive them.

The idea of animals chewing their cud also comes from the Bible. There are too many references to this for me to mention. This particularly interested me since we used to run a dairy farm. We had animals that chewed their cud. Our cows would often lay out in the pasture just chewing their cuds. Remember, cows have four stomachs.

“Feet of clay” also comes from the Bible. It means that someone has a weakness when people revere them for other things. This expression comes from the book of Daniel. It refers to a dream that Nebuchadnezzar had about a statue. The feet of the statue were made of clay indicating that it was the weaker part. (Daniel2:42)

I think of feet of clay as meaning that someone is human. Yes, I have feet of clay. Not everything I do or say is perfect. Even in raising the children I exhibited feet of clay. Even though I was a teacher I did not have all of the answers. I reacted through my gut and often it was the right thing, but not always.

When someone is facing death, they are told to “put their house in order”. One reference to this is from II Kings 20:1 when Isaiah went to King Hezekiah and told him to prepare to die. As it turned out Hezekiah was granted a reprieve and did not die at that time.

It is certainly human to want your house in order before you die. I have written my children a letter expressing some of my wishes. As to what they do for a funeral, I leave that up to them. After all, the funeral is mostly for the survivors. Basically, my finances are already in order. My assets will only need to be distributed.

There is a children’s song “This Little Light of Mine”. We have used this in children’s sermons and sing it every once in a while. The children have learned the song because of the motions. The pointer finger is held up as the candle. The song says “I am going to let it shine.” It will shine all over the neighborhood. It will not hide under a bushel. The children especially like the part where they are told not to let anyone blow it out.

Once again, this expression comes from the Bible. We are the light of the world. We are not to hide our lights under a bushel, but to let them shine for all to see our faith. This comes from Matthew 5: 14-15. The bushel in the text is a bowl that would have held a bushel of grain.

Here is a challenge: When you are reading your Bible, try jotting down any expression that has become commonplace. Be sure to note where it is from so you can find it again. These are but a few of them. There are many more.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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