Then25.  Then

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways”

– Psalm 51:13a

 It happens often in scripture.    Those seemingly incidental words like ‘so,’ ‘for,’ ‘therefore’ carry a lot of weight.  They often serve as a bridge, or hinge, between what immediately preceded and what immediately follows.  These hinge words usually shape, color, and give direction to what comes next.   If we don’t pay careful attention to these modest words, we lose meaning, intent and message.

“Then.”   This is key to our understanding verse 13.   It’s not simply that, in the voice of the psalmist, “I will teach transgressors your ways.”  But rather, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways.”   That hinge word of ‘then’ sends a clear signal that whatever is taking place in verse 13 depends on what came before.

So it is only because of verse 12 that we move to verse 13.   It is only after calling upon the Lord  to “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit” — it is only after this that the psalmist can say “Then I will teach transgressors your ways.”   Then.  Because of.  As a direct consequence.  As a result.

I imagine that you have had “then” moments in your life.  Lots of them.  Something occurred in your life experience and “then” something happened.  Then you did something.  Or then something happened to you.   It may have been good, it may have been bad.

“Then” connects us to Jesus.   “I went to Sunday School as a youth and first heard about Jesus and then . . .“  “I picked up my Bible and for the first time in a while read through the gospel of Luke and Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son and then . . .”    “This Lenten season I stopped and considered how Jesus walked to the cross for me and then . . .”

Then . . .  what?  What has happened on your side of the hinge?   What will happen on your side of the hinge?  Will you teach others?  Serve others?  Pray more?  Give thanks?   Cry?  Shout for joy?   Ask for forgiveness?  Forgive others?   Be quiet?  Get busy?   What?


Dear God,

You created this world, then . .  .   You rescued your people from bondage, then . . .   The Word became flesh,  then . . .   Jesus preached and healed, then . . .  Jesus gave his life in love, then . . .