The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like
firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my
son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books
there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
How do we become literate in the language of the spirit of God? What are the “right words” given by “one Shepherd”?
Jesus is that “one Shepherd,” but when He spoke, He was often misunderstood because He spoke in the figurative language of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus came to Jesus with a literal spirit and so was bewildered when Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Likewise, the Samaritan woman is blinded at first by her ethnic literalism: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9). But Jesus speaks of another kind of water that never fails and that wells “up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
Then Jesus speaks of a time when all barriers will be broken down and one language will be spoken: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24).
If we are trapped in a spiritual literalism, then we should pray that our Emmaus moment will come: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. . . . Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:27, 31–32).