Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Tush…!’ – January 31, 2018
No, I am not using the word ‘tush’ in its more recent use, as a reference to the human posterior. Rather I am speaking of a much earlier English usage of ‘tush’ developed from Middle English where it was an exclamation of disdain, dismissal or contempt.
Interestingly, in the 16th century William Tyndale translated Genesis 3:4 into English with these words: Then said the serpent unto the woman, tush, you shall not die. And Melvyn Bragg in his William Tyndale (SPCK: London, 2017, p.61) observes, ‘How wicked, how lovely, how remarkable is that ‘tush’.
He contrasts it with the plainer words of the King James (1611) Version: And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. ‘Nothing like as vivid or subtly complex in its mix of snake-charm flattery and a lie. ‘Tush’ is a sad loss,’ Bragg comments (M Bragg, p.61).
I draw attention to ‘tush’, because understood this way it delightfully and aptly captures the disdain and the dismissal of the voices today that oppose the God of the Bible.
Consider for a moment the intent of the ancient serpent. In Genesis 3:1 we read: …The serpent said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” ‘Did God really say, any tree?’ he asked.
His words went beyond what God had said. The command related to one tree only – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent’s strategy was to sow doubt. He deftly and subtly did this by misquoting God’s command, altering the focus of the command from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to any tree. The deception was carefully scripted, tempting Eve to think that God must be a spoil-sport, someone who couldn’t be really trusted as having her best interests at heart. She was now open to questioning the rightness of God’s command.
The forces of evil use the same ploy today to undermine our relationship with God and our trust in him. ‘Tush,’ he says. ‘A life of Christian morality. How dull and boring.’
Initially the woman correctly repeated God’s command as referring to just one particular tree. But then she incorrectly added to God’s command: “…Nor shall you touch it, or you shall die”. God had not said, “You mustn’t touch it…”
Clearly Eve is tempted to think that God’s command is restrictive – something she doesn’t like at all. She has become like the sulky teenager who doesn’t like being told by her parents that she has to be home by a certain time.
Wickedness was at work in that conversation. The prince of this world had laid the groundwork for Eve to doubt God’s command and no longer truly trust him. But we see the wickedness of the deception even more with the falsehood that so smoothly slipped from the tempter’s lips. “You won’t die,…” he said. ‘Tush. That’s just hell-fire and brimstone talk. Don’t believe it’.
In one sentence, the wily tempter had undermined God’s command and with it the truth of God’s goodness. He also questioned God’s justice – that God would condemn the woman to death if she disobeyed.
It was the opening ploy in a strategy to deface and destroy humanity as the image of God.
The forces of evil continue to adopt this and other strategies today. By altering God’s words, by taking them out of context (as happened with the temptations of Jesus), doubts are sowed in our minds about God’s goodness and justice – and indeed about his very existence.
When we pause and consider these matters, we begin to see how easily we too can be duped into a false understanding of God and the reality of the deeper truths of the universe.
If we choose to live without God, the day will come when he will inform us that he will respect our choice. He will let us go to live in an eternity without him – a world without goodness and truth, without justice and love, a world without hope, a world where there is only despair.
Let’s pray for the discernment, the wisdom and the strength ourselves to reject the dismissive ‘tush’ of the world around us. Let’s also pray that the Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy, will open the eyes of the blind and give us the words to draw our family and friends to the word of the truth, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com