Honestly, it’s been a game changer. One word, rendered differently in the ESV than the other translations, has opened my understanding to a passage which for years I thought I had understood. One word has shifted my focus . . . one word has opened up my imagination . . . one word has swung the awe-o-meter hard right.
How many times have I said something like, “The angels rejoice over a sinner who is saved?” More than a few. And my biblical basis for such a statement was found in part of a passage I read this morning.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~ Jesus (Luke 15:8-10 ESV)
Now in all the other major translations that last sentence is translated along the lines of, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” That, at least for me for years, had me thinking that among the angels themselves there was great rejoicing over one soul saved. Might be true . . . don’t know that it wouldn’t be.
But what difference does it make when the original word is translated “before” rather than “in the presence?” A lot! Now the focus isn’t so much on what’s happening among the angels but on what’s happening before the angels. Or, more importantly, who is showing great joy before the angels.
Couple that with the rejoicing in heaven being “just so” or in “the same manner” as the woman in the parable calling her friends and asking them to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin. It’s the woman who has been searching . . . who has been patiently doing everything she can to return the coin to its right place . . . who overflows with joy when the coin is found and thus invites her friends to join her. Before her friends, the woman is rejoicing. Likewise, in heaven it is the Finder who rejoices BEFORE the angels. The angels are the “friends” in the story. But it is the Finder . . . aka the Father, who is over the top because a lost one has been found.
So it’s not just rejoicing AMONG the angels but it is the angels beholding the joy exuding from the One BEFORE them.
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God . . . (Revelation 7:11 ESV)
If the angels are BEFORE the throne in heaven, then the throne of God is BEFORE the angels. And if there is great rejoicing before the angels over someone born of the Spirit, then that great gladness is coming from the throne of Almighty God. The rejoicing before the angels is rejoicing from the throne.
What a difference a word can make . . . at least for me. My focus shifts from the angels in heaven to the One before the angels. Whatever amazement I have at the thought of angels experiencing joy is multiplied as I wonder at a God who so rejoices over a lost coin who is found . . . over a lost sheep who is returned to the fold . . . over a prodigal son who seeks again his father’s face and favor.
How my God delights in children being added to His forever family. And that my God would so rejoice . . . such that the angels are invited to sing with Him . . . evokes awe, wonder, and worship.
O what a Savior!
To Him be all glory . . . now and evermore . . . amen!