The Master Of Understatement

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matt. 4:2, NKJV).

Sometimes I think God is the Master of understatement. After fasting for forty days, Jesus was just “hungry”? He must have been severely weakened by His prolonged lack of nourishment! The lack of embellishment in the text grabs my attention. What about some descriptive phrases like “seriously debilitated,” or “faint with hunger and exhaustion”?

I notice this often as I am both reading the Scriptures, and writing about them. Frequently, they seem to state things in the most basic way possible, with few extra adjectives or vivid words. Like, when God created this breathtaking universe, He simply “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25). And when Jesus endured the most heinous, agonizing death of any human, ever, the Bible just quietly states, “They crucified Him” (Luke 23:33) In describing God’s unspeakable depths of glorious agape, His Word simply affirms, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

As someone who endeavors to be a wordsmith, I have wondered about this tendency. My heart says to Him, Daddy, out of all of us, You are able to create the most evocative descriptions. (The Bible contains the most beautiful poetry ever written!) So why do You seem to understate so much in Your Word?

Here is something I’ve come to understand about that. His truth needs no adornment. Standing alone, it is utterly powerful for piercing us to the heart.

Have you noticed how we humans sometimes use hyperboles in an attempt to add importance to what we are saying? “The place we stayed was HUGE!!!” “The crowd was ENORMOUS!!!” “The best hamburgers in the WORLD!!!” “Oh my goodness, it was to DIE for!!!” We can tend to overstate things to compensate for our hidden fear of not being heard or valued.

God doesn’t do that. He doesn’t need to. He doesn’t need to use “hundred-dollar” words because of how much power is behind the briefest statement that He makes. His infinite nature is packed into every word that comes from His mouth. This is why just one verse from the Bible is so indescribably impactful to us. He breathed it. His breath of life is in it. He is the Word, the Living Word. The One who inhabits eternity is within each and every written record of His speaking. His words are spirit, and they are life. This is also why we can read the same verse over and over, and each time find new depths in it.

Furthermore, His Spirit that He has caused to dwell inside of us breathes into our spirits as we read and meditate on the Word. He is the Ruach, the breath of God. As the breath of God made Adam into a living being, His Spirit breathes life to us in our Bible reading. He communicates our Father’s truth to our heart of hearts through the logos, the written Word of God. Through Holy Spirit, we connect into the eternal, transformational nature of each verse, of each phrase, of each word.

So God does not need to embellish, expound upon, or otherwise adorn His writings. Just one word from His mouth is enough to make us come alive.

“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’” (Matt. 4:4, NKJV).


What Scripture has Holy Spirit been breathing into your heart this week in a new way? Is it one you had known before, that has taken on new depths for you now?


25 thoughts on “The Master Of Understatement

  1. GOD uses ‘least likely’ people to fulfill His HIGHER purposes and maybe simple words to confound the wisdom that is HUMAN Wisdom so folks will seek after God whose Spirit IS the Spirit of Wisdom. In Him is only pure TRUTH. Thank you for thought challenging post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. God reminded twice in the last few days or so that “He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].” The work He has begun in me is His work, not mine. When I fail, all is not lost. I can never mess up so many times that His grace can no longer reach me. He’s still working on me. This is such a comfort and a reason for praise!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I TOTALLY enjoyed this! 😂
    All joking aside, recall Jesus at the well in Samaria where He met the woman who had an immoral lifestyle. He said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (John 4:32). If Father intended for Jesus to be sustained without food for 40 days, a physical impossibility in the natural, certainly He could have done so.
    Alternatively, “fasting” in many Mid Eastern traditions means going without food during the DAYTIME. Muslims do this for the month of Ramadin, but reports are that food consumption is up to two to three times normal because of the feasting after sundown! I seriously doubt Jesus would have been like that, but Father may have provided sustenance miraculously as He did for Elijah.
    In any case, this was a GREAT BLOG!!!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Also your comment gets my attention in an extra way because I just wrote an article about that very verse in John 4 a few days ago. It won’t be published on my blog for another two or three weeks, but the timing is striking!)

      Liked by 1 person

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