Sunday, October 05, 2008

chutmey - ordinances

joH'a' chutmey 'oH teH, je QaQtaHghach altogether.

The LORD's ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. Psalm 19:9b

(click for podcast)

Klingons love nothing like a good fight - can you imagine being expected to "lay down the law" to one? To explain what God's laws, his "chutmey" are?

What does it mean to declare God's "ordinances," his chutmey areTRUE as we hear in Psalm 19?

First, because the Klingon vocabulary we know is meager - I've used a word here chut (law) to stand in for the Hebrew mishpat. That's weak, and might make us miss the point - it's far more than just "law" that the Psalmist is talking about here. One writer notes that the word here rendered chutmey (laws) in Klingon,

...refers also to the revealed truth of God, with the idea that that has been judged or determined by him to be right and to be best. It is the result of the divine adjudication as to what is true, and what is best for man. The word is often used in this sense. Compare Ex 21:1; Le 18:5; 26:43; compare Ps 9:7, Ps 9:16; 10:5. [Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible]

We're told here that these ordinances, these judgements of God are TRUE. The Hebrew word here for "true" is the same word, emeth, used in Psalm 117 when we're told "the truth (or faithfulness) of the LORD endures forever." What God says, what he decides ENDURES, it lasts. We may see people or institutions fail us, we might even see mountains crumble - but God's word, his promises are enduring.

But this isn't a purely intellectual truth, like the facts of mathematics or propositions of geometry. God's mind for us is RIGHTEOUSNESS. The word is tsadaq and encompasses the idea to be right (in a moral or forensic sense). In the KJV it is translated as cleanse, clear self, to be or do justice and more. I've rendered it here with the word QaQtaHghach, QaQ (be good), taH (ongoing) plus the nominalizing suffix ghach: QaQtaHghach it sort of means "being-good-ness." That's a thin bit of word for what God intends us to be, to be righteous when we live our lives by his judgements. Psalm 119 reminds us that living by this word can make a difference

How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word and following its rules.

I have tried my best to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 NLT

Part of the challenge of experimenting with the Klingon Language Version, "how might I explain this to a Klingon?" is really a way for me to translate these words into my own life. It may seem fanciful - and not altogether practical - but it has real consequences. I don't expect Klingons or aliens to show up any time soon, but when I wrestle with HOW to render something in Klingon, I gain personal insight into the application of the Scriptures in my life.

Some time ago I tried to translate the wa'maH chutmey - the ten commandments. I tried, not so much to literally translate, but to present the meanings of the commandments ( I didn't do it to teach catechetical instruction - but it was, for me a bit of catechism, because it made me break the commandments down into the simplest terms I could (remember the small lexicon we have to work with). While not many tlhInganpu' will read what I did I'VE read it - and that's made a difference to me to reflect on and pray over these chutmey, these laws of the LORD. And when we do that, God can touch us, lead us and instruct us by his word.

joH'a' chutmey 'oH teH, je QaQtaHghach altogether.

The LORD's ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. Psalm 19:9b