"Grey" Is Not a "Color"

James Sanders
Greencastle, Indiana

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Prov. 22:28). The inheritances of both tribes and families in Israel were distinguished by landmarks or boundary-stones. By their positions, every Jew easily could differentiate his inheritance from that of another. Landmarkers were important; they made the boundaries clear and sure. But the removal of a landmark always resulted in uncertainty and doubt. Whenever a landmarker had been altered, there was reason for confusion and question. Landmarkers were necessary because they provided a safe and assured guideline. They were as a beacon in the night and were not to be removed.

In the precarious times of today, landmarkers of another sort are being moved about. Many seek to change or remove entirely the landmarker of the Scriptures. The result has been nothing short of disastrous. Certainty has been suddenly changed into uncertainty-daylight into darkness. Anymore, people are not really sure of anything. "Everything is an indeterminate grey," we are told. "Nothing is black or white; Christianity has failed to meet the needs of modern man; we need a new code of morals situation ethic," and so the argument runs. But such vagueness is not a portion of the inheritance of God. With Him there "is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas 1. 17). Paul spoke of us receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved (Cf. Heb 12.28).

The learned William Barclay spoke of these times of uncertainty, when he wrote: "G.K. Chesterton put this in another way. He said there was a time when men saw things in terms of black and white, but that now they tended to see everything in terms of an indeterminate grey. Now there is a world of difference between this and the biblical point of view. E.F.F. Bishop has pointed out that in the Semitic languages there is no word for compromise because the idea does not exist, and that in the thought of the Semitic people grey is not a color" (Fishers Of Men, pp. 92, 93).

The Hebrew language is a branch of the Semitic Tongue. Thus, the Hebrew of the Old Testament has no word for compromise or for grey. Such ideas were foreign to the mind of the Jew. Even though the Jew was frequently guilty of spiritual disloyalty (or compromise), he never thought of appeasement (compromise) in the same sense as we do today. With him, it was one way or the other - no middle ground. The mind of the Jew is well reflected in the words of Joshua: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve..." (Josh 24.14) or the cry of Elijah: "How long halt ye between opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (I Kgs 18.21). It had to be Jehovah, with no other gods before Him or along with Him.

The nearest word to grey in the Jew's vocabulary was the Hebrew seev (or sebah, when used as a noun). Brown, Driver and Briggs define the word as primarily meaning: "old age, aged men, become hoary, be old, grow old, grey hair" (Hebrew and English Lexicon of the OT, p. 966). Grey is a compromise between black and white. The Jew had no word for compromise and therefore had no color such as grey.

With God as with the Jew of the OT, there is no compromise - no indeterminate grey. The Divine Landmarks are crystal-clear: adultery is condemned, murder is wrong, idolatry is sinful and hell is real! The Lord has no "Situation Ethics." Jeremiah of long ago well said, "Stand in the way; and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer 6.16). Compromise is not a word with the Lord nor is grey a color.

May 6, 1971