For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
For three centuries, Alexander Cruden’s Bible concordance has benefitted students of the Bible by helping them research and discover the placement of every word in the King James Bible. Unlike Bill Mounce’s ESV Concordance which has understandably removed monotonous words like “and,” “but,” “he,” “she,” and the like, Cruden’s commentary counted them all–over 777,000 of them. And he did this in a time before computers. This feat is simply amazing!
However, what makes the life and work of Alexander Cruden even more jaw-dropping is the kind of person that he was and the manner of life that he lived. To put it bluntly he was a “crooked stick.” John Piper, in an inspiring vingette on his life, records:
Cruden was institutionalized for madness four times in his life. His behavior was often bizarre. [Piper goes on to quote from Tim Larson’s article on Cruden in Books and Culture] “On another occasion, Cruden had apparently gone to break up a brawl but ended up spending the best part of an hour admonishing disorderly soldiers not to swear while periodically whacking them on the head with a shovel. He also would propose to women with whom he had established no romantic bond (one such intended he had not even met). Being unable to take no for an answer, he would then turn himself into a persistent nuisance, if not a stalker.”
In sum, the life of Alexander Cruden exemplifies the truth that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and the foolish to confound the wise (cf. 1 Cor. 1:27ff). Likewise, his life engenders hope that in every Spirit-indwelt follower of Jesus Christ, God has from the foundation of the world prepared a path of good works mapped out His children (Eph. 2:10). Piper’s story of the “Good, Insane Corcordance Maker” reminds us of that.
Surely if we encountered someone like Cruden today we would be tempted to dismiss their efforts or discourage them in such Hurculean tasks, but why? Perhaps, Cruden’s life can remind each of who think we are “straight,” how crooked and fragile each of our lives are and that only by the grace of God can anyone of do anything that has lasting significance (cf. Psalm 90:15). As Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Cruden’s testimony is a timeless example of the goodness of God in the life of those who dedicate themselves to Christ’s service.
This week may we have eyes to see and encourage the good works of those “crooked sticks” that might help us all walk straighter. And may we, who are all truly mishapen by the effects of the Fall, petition God to use us in our weaknesses and idiosyncracies so that lasting fruit may be born (cf. John 15:7-8).
Sola Deo Gloria, dss