For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 (NASB)
The word translated “again” in this verse is the Greek word palin, meaning repetition of action, once more, back anew. Strong’s¹ concordance lists it as probably coming from a word that means to wrestle or struggle “through the idea of oscillatory repetition.”
Oscillatory motion repeats the same movement over and over, like an oscillating fan. The Oxford Dictionary² defines oscillate (among others) as:
- To swing backwards and forwards; to move to and fro between two points
- To alternate between two states, opinions, principles, purposes, etc.; to vary or fluctuate alternately between two limits.
That definitely sounds like slavery to me. Being stuck in that back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes between two states – standing and falling. Sometimes between two limits – righteousness by works and righteousness by faith and the new life in the Spirit. Sometimes between two opinions – faith and fear, doubt and confidence. From that strangling fear to give my trust – to joyful confidence in God my Rock. From fear of what people may think – to the desire to only please God. From futility to expectation. From fear that my life has been for nothing – to trust in the Faithful One who works all things together for my good. Back and forth. Back and forth.
There are a lot of verses in the Bible about oscillating or wavering.
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21 (NIV)
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (two-spirited, vacillating). James 4:8 (NASB)
Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23 (NLT)
Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Jude 1:22 (NLT)
I love that last one. God is merciful to those who waver! We can ask Him, as David did, to help us in our oscillating.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (hurtful, idolatrous, painful, sorrowful) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
The Hebrew word for “anxious thoughts” in this verse denotes a kind of oscillating. The word is saraph, and that comes from caiph, the word that means ambivalence, division, divided opinion or divided in mind. Wavering, oscillating comes from anxiety and fear. But the root of both of those words is caaph, which means to cut off, lop off boughs. So, you could say that the root meaning is that my wrong (idolatrous?) thinking is dividing me, cutting me off from God. I still think my problems are a little too big for God. I am still not completely trusting him. But there is grace hidden here. For, what does lopping off boughs remind you of?
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleanses) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4 (NIV)
I can’t remain in the Vine and bear fruit if I am jumping back and forth between faith and doubt, fear and trust. But amazing grace! The Father lops off those oscillating, unfruitful boughs, the doubt and fear that cuts me off from relationship with Him. The Father cleanses me if I surrender to him. But that takes courage. It takes stepping out of the boat, staying on the path with Jesus, abiding in the Vine. And I will by His grace! Because He is with me and I have not received a spirit of over-and-over-and-over again fear, but I have been adopted by my Abba Father and He is pruning me, caring for me.
Lord, help me to stop oscillating for I know that you can be trusted. Help me to abide and rest in You. Help me to turn off the fan.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
¹Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
²Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2000-
Image by Fred Barr https://www.flickr.com/photos/145458916@N04/46457248094/in/dateposted/