A Tip About Tense
By Fin Sheridan
“I have not paid the bills”
“I am paying the bills”
“I will pay the bills”
“She was angry”
“She is angry”
“She will be angry”
Tense matters doesn’t it? Particularly if she is angry or the bills haven’t been paid or, in the very worst case scenario, she is angry because the bills haven’t been paid. Whether something is in the past, currently happening, or might happen in the future can have an instant impact.
One of the most helpful things we can do as we read the Bible is take notice of the tense. Whether the glorious “And you were dead… but God made you alive..” of Ephesians 2 or the “I have been crucified with Christ..” of Galatians 2, what we used to be and what we now are is profoundly important. The Christian’s identity is shaped by tense. We were this way but now we are something else entirely – the very essence of a new creation working its way out.
“The Christian’s identity is shaped by tense.”
Psalm 22, as we’ve talked about before, is a prophetic Psalm, all about Jesus, the crucifixion and ultimately his resurrection. Sat in the middle of the Psalm (before we get to the resurrection celebration of v31), is the following little segment of worship:
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Notice the tenses. “You have rescued me” speak of the past – God has already done it. “I will tell… I will praise” tell of the future – praise and testimony that are to come. Then finally, “praise him… glorify him… stand in awe of him!” which are things that the psalmist is encouraging people to do right now.
These verses give us a framework for our own worship. Sometimes, we praise God because of what he has done for us. Other days, we are believing in faith for what is to come and our worship requires resolution (yet will I praise him…). We must never forget, however, that praise should always be present – for regardless of our past or future, he has done all things well. Today is the day to declare, again in the words of Psalm 22, that “he has done it!”