Show, Don’t Tell
When I was writing the book, Eli vs God, my developmental editor John Fox, [whom I would highly recommend], would tell me where I was doing too much telling and not enough showing. The “Show don’t Tell” mantra for writers is certainly a skill that takes time to master. I still do too much telling, probably because I’m a pastor, but I hope I’m getting a little better at showing too. Of course a big part of this “showing” is using the five senses (seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling). The goal for the writer is to try to describe scenes in such a way that readers can taste that large double-double, dark roast coffee they just received through the drive through window at Timmies. They should feel how hot it is. How hot is it, you might ask? It was so hot that the heat permeated the double cup and ‘Johnny’ nearly fumbled it into his cup holder that was filled with previous coffee spills. Johnny took a quick double-sniff as he closed his window, scrunching up his bearded face that already had icicles starting to form in the few seconds he had his window open. I think you get the idea.
Of course the One who gives us “the idea,” as well as all of our creativity, is the Creator Himself. God is the greatest teller and shower.
I’m going through Exodus as part of my current Bible Reading plan and I’m at the chapters describing the tabernacle. My wife Debora and I and a bunch of other pastors went on a trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel in 2016, and one of the stops was Timna National Park, Israel, near Eilat, where there is a replica of the tabernacle.
I can’t remember if our guide mentioned this or one of my colleagues, but we had a discussion about the furniture of the tabernacle relating to the senses. The bronze altar of burnt offering was where the “lamb was led to the slaughter.” It was a place to sacrifice food and drink offerings. It would certainly depict the sense of “taste.” At the bronze basin, the priests would wash themselves removing ceremonial uncleanness. It would depict the sense of “touch.” The golden lampstand which reflected the glory of the LORD reflected in the consecrated lives of His people depicts the sense of “sight.” Anyone who is used to smelling incense knows that the incense altar and it’s fragrant smoke, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people, would depict the sense of “smell.”
As to the sense of “hearing,” that one isn’t so obvious. Could it be the ‘showbread,’ the bread of the Presence? It refers to the presence of God Himself, and the bread a perpetual offering from the people to the LORD. We certainly know that Jesus is Immanuel, God Himself with us. We also know that Jesus is the bread of life and the LOGOS made flesh. I’m sure there are a lot of scholarly works out there that discuss these things in great detail, but for now, let’s all agree that we are to listen to God’s Son, to “hear” Him, which means to trust and obey Him.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
The New International Version, Psalm 34:8
12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
the LORD has made them both.
The New International Version, Proverbs 20:12.
For all who have come to understand, who have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and placed your trust in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and the Bread of Life, I leave you with this blessing from God’s Word –from the Logos made flesh:
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
The New International Version, Matthew 13:16.