The burden of the prophet’s condemnation

by Dr Edesio Sánchez, Translation Consultant for the UBS Americas Area

The astonished and exultant cry “God speaks my language!” is familiar from countless launches of a Scripture in a ‘new’ language. But for the man in the following story, the realisation went significantly further: not only did God speak his language, he wanted to say something to him straightaway.

In all my many years as a Translation Consultant, one of the most rewarding and touching experiences I have had occurred when I was holding a checking session with the translation team working on the Tzotzil: Chenaloa translation project in Chiapas, Mexico.

Experiences and testimonies of this kind have been witnessed by me and, I am sure, by many of my colleagues. In almost every instance, they happen when men and women are confronted by the Word of God in their own language, the language of their heart, the one they learned at their mother’s bosom.

The team were engaged on translating the whole Bible, and this particular stage involved checking some of the history books of the Old Testament. On Tuesday morning, just before our coffee break, a member of the team who had not translated nor revised 2 Samuel was reading aloud the story of David’s sins told in chapters 11 and 12.


I noticed that as he came to the end of chapter 11, he seemed to become really uncomfortable with what he was reading. But when he reached the end of the parable that Nathan tells in order to condemn David (2 Sam 12:1-7), and heard his own voice saying: ““You are the man!” he could not bear it any more and started to cry.

For several minutes he was unable to say a word. Finally, through tears and sobs, he managed to say, ““I am just like David! A sinner, unworthy of the job I’m doing as a translator and reviser!””

Then he added, ““For years I have read and heard this story many times… but this time, reading it and hearing it in my own language, the story has struck deep to my heart, and challenged me to acknowledge my sins and ask God for forgiveness.””

At that moment, we stopped being a checking translation team and became a “church” (Matthew 18.20); we prayed for this man, for his family, for his ministry and, above all, for his forgiveness and restoration.

(Source: United Bible Societies)

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