Recently I observed adult men and women hunched over a baby's bassinet trying to get a smile out of an infant by making strange noises and performing strange gestures. As soon as the child smiled or giggled, the adults were filled with joy and excitement. You would think they had accomplished some great feat.
I was one of those people who told myself that I would never resort to speaking like a child to talk to a child. Adults need to speak to children with good English so that children can develop good habits. This is what I thought before I had a daughter, but now I find myself engaged in baby talk all the time.
I still struggle with making strange noises and performing strange gestures, but I have come to understand that if I want to have any meaningful interaction with my infant daughter, I have to come down to her level and speak her strange language. This is the only way she recognizes that I am addressing her and not someone else.
The Bible is God's baby talk. Some theologians like to use the more dignified term “divine accommodation.” Scripture uses certain language and imagery to give us an idea about who God is so that God can relate to us.
In one place, Scripture tells us that God is not like a man. In another place, Scripture portrays God as having hands, eyes, and a nose that gets hot when he is angry. Scripture describes God as changing his mind in one place, and as unchanging in another; as knowing everything, yet being surprised and investigating.
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust… All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. (Isaiah 40:13–15, 17–20)
God wants to have a relationship with us. This is why he speaks our language. If God didn't speak at our level, we would know that he existed but we wouldn’t know anything about his saving love. God speaks in a way that elicits a response.
God seeks our faith, obedience, joy, comfort, love, and, at times, even our fear. The Bible is all baby talk to one degree or another. But here in Isaiah 40, God specifically reminds us that his talk is baby talk. We must become like children who realize that God is capable of talking in other ways. As we listen to all that God has to say in Scripture, we can continually rejoice that God has spoken to us in these last days by his only begotten son Jesus, the incarnate Word (Heb. 1:1).