I have a lot of keys. I have a key to my car and a key to my wife’s car. I have the spare key to my son’s car. I have a key to my house, to my office door, to the Engineering Projects Building at Calvin (which is keyed differently than the Science Building where my office is located), an electronic key fob for entry to the DornerWorks building where I am a partner and also a physical key in case the electronic system fails. I have a key to my desk, a key to my laptop security cable, a key to the file cabinet, a key to my home safe where we keep important papers, and a couple keys that I no longer recognize (but I don’t dare discard them, in case they unlock something important). I have several electronic identity cards (some of which are paired with an additional passkey in the form of a PIN that I must remember), a couple credit cards that are a sort of financial key, and a surprisingly large number of computer passwords that I juggle in my head to keep straight.
This morning as I was leaving the house for work, throwing on my coat, grabbing my lunch bag, and heading into the garage, I noticed my shoe was untied. I put my foot up on a bench we have near the door step, just in front of our two vehicles. As I leaned down (which incidentally positioned my head just in front of the hood of my car), unbeknownst to me, the keys in my pocket must have squeezed together just right so that the panic button on my car key fob was depressed. The horn wailed out – right into my ear! I quickly fumbled for my keys while the horn screeched a couple more times. The acoustics of the room with the garage door still down are quite impressive, practically knocking me over with blasts of sonic energy.
The searchable online Bible site, biblegateway.org, reports only ten instances of the word “key” in the NIV version. The first two are literal uses of the word. In Judges 3, when Ehud killed the obese king Eglon with a two-edged sword and fled, locking the doors behind him, the servants waited “to the point of embarrassment, then had to find a key to enter the room”. In 1 Chronicles 9, the Levite gatekeepers in charge of the rooms and treasuries in the house of God are given charge of the key.
The other eight instances of the word are figurative. Isaiah twice prophesies about a key: speaking of the key to the house of David and later exclaiming the fear of the Lord as the key to salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. Two more keys appear in the gospels. In Matthew, Jesus promises to give Peter the keys of the kingdom, telling him “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In Luke, Jesus berates the experts in the law because they “have taken away the key to knowledge.” The final four references to keys come in the book of Revelations. Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades and the key of David. A star fallen from heaven to earth is given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. Near the end of the book, an angel with a key to the Abyss seizes the dragon and locks him in the Abyss.
Keys are a technological instrument of power and identity. A physical key allows entry into a locked room to access the treasure inside. A key card signifies the identity of the holder. A digital key decodes apparent gibberish into a meaningful message. Our computer passwords are keys that allow us to pass by the guards at the gates of our online accounts and keep out all others. Keys are so important that we are thrown in a panic when we lose them, even for a moment. More figuratively, a key concept is an idea that unlocks the entire topic, the one insight that decodes all the rest.
We must note carefully what the Pharisees lost as the key of knowledge (preferring status in the eyes of men rather than pursuing justice and mercy). What keys are you guarding in your heart? Are you holding on to that central key of the “fear of the Lord” so that you might find salvation, wisdom, and knowledge?