words

Leviticus 1, Proverbs 17, Psalm 89

Here are your readings for today: Leviticus 1, Proverbs 17, and Psalm 89.

This devotional is about Proverbs 17:9: “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

If someone sins against you or hurts you, even unintentionally, it is wise to speak to that person and resolve the issue directly, in person. Jesus commanded us to seek reconciliation with anyone who might have an issue with us (Matt 5:23) and with anyone who has sinned against us (Matt 18:15). So remaining silent about problems in our relationships is not a biblical way of dealing with those problems. Sometimes we tell ourselves that something shouldn’t bother us or that “it’s no big deal.” Sometimes we may forget but more often the problem simmers and produces resentment and distrust. There is no virtue in hiding problems; in fact, they usually resurface later and with greater intensity when we can’t take it any more.

So what do we make of Proverbs 17:9a, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense”? On the face, it appears that Solomon is telling us not to deal with issues directly. But Proverbs are designed so that the first line is clarified by the second line. Sometimes that clarification comes by contrast, other times clarification consists of just a restatement of the first line. Given that, Proverbs 17:9b says, “....but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” This phrase suggests that “covering over an offense” in the first line refers to telling others--friends, family, or other third parties--not the person who sinned.

In other words, I interpret this Proverb to be teaching that, once a matter has been dealt with, you drop it and never talk about it with anyone else. That is, if someone sins against me or hurts me in a way that causes me resentment, I deal with that biblically by speaking directly to that person to try to resolve it. Once it is resolved--or even if it isn’t but I’ve tried my best--then the best course of action is not to tell anyone else about the incident. Verse 9b says, “whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” to remind us of the destructive power of gossip. It is so much easier to complain about someone else than it is to speak directly to that person and resolve problems biblically, but it is only “easier” until the damage is done.

How much better would your relationships be if you dealt with problems directly and biblically?

Exodus 39, Proverbs 15, Psalm 87

Today’s readings are Exodus 39, Proverbs 15, and Psalm 87.

This devotional is about Proverbs 15:4.

The words that come out of our mouths are clear, direct expressions of what is in our heart. Jesus said so (Matt 12:34) and my experience shows that it is true. What you say reflects what you think about, how you look at the world, where your trust is, what you value, and what you desire.

But words have more power than merely revealing what is inside of us. In fact, the right words can change a person’s heart. Proverbs 15:4a says, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life.” The “tongue” in this verse, of course, is a literary way of describing someone’s words. Those words are described as “soothing.” Who needs to be soothed? An angry person, a heartbroken person, and anyone else who is troubled. Soothing words to a troubled heart are described here in Proverbs 15:4 as “a tree of life.” This is another figure of speech that harkens back to Genesis 2-3, where the Bible tells us there was a “tree of life” in the Gard of Eden that would give eternal life to anyone who ate its fruit. When Solomon said here in Proverbs 15:4, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life” he is telling us that words can be life-giving to someone who is troubled. The right words have the power to turn the thinking (repentance), feeling, or decision making of someone who is angry or someone who is hurting or anyone else who is troubled.

In contest, the other half of Proverbs 15b says, “but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” The word “perverse” describes words that are twisted morally. Solomon is describing speech that is sinful--critical, angry, unthankful, inappropriate, or twisted in some other way. This kind of talk “crushes the spirit,” indicating its affect on someone’s internal meaning-maker--the way they think and feel about the world. When are troubled and receive criticism or bad advice, it hurts us both in the sense that it causes us pain and points us in a bad direction.

This Proverb gives us an opportunity to think about the power of words to change a person’s life. First of all, your own words to yourself about God or yourself can either bring life or crush your spirit. This is one of many reasons why we need to read God’s word daily and apply it ourselves.

A second application of this Proverb has to do with how we speak to others who are troubled. The right words can be life-giving to troubled heart that trusts God but is hurting. Job found that with his friends and you’ve probably experienced it yourself. When you see others hurting, do you think about what you might say that can bring life into their troubled situation or at least point them to God, the source of life?

Finally, where do we go when we are hurting? Do we go to God’s word? Do we seek prayer, advice, or comfort from people who love God? Do we turn within where our self-talk can be self-defeating? Do we turn to unwise people who will encourage us to seek revenge or who will say things that make us even more discouraged?

Words reflect who we are on the inside but they also have the power to change us on the inside, too. Respect the power of words and learn to use them in a way that gives life to yourself and others.

Exodus 16, Job 34, Psalm 64

Today’s readings are Exodus 16, Job 34, and Psalm 64.

This devotional is about Psalm 64.

David had a lot of enemies. Saul was his enemy, the Philistines and other pagan nations were his enemies, even some his own sons became his enemies. In all these cases, these enemies battled him physically and their goal was to kill him.

Here in Psalm 64, David speaks of his enemy (v. 1) but the weapon that he feared was not a literal weapon but the warfare of words. Look at how frequently words come up in this psalm:

  • v. 2: “conspiracy” and “plots” are formed in conversation using words.
  • v. 3a: “They sharpen their tongues like swords”
  • v. 3b: they “aim cruel words like deadly arrows.”
  • v. 5: “They encourage each other in evil plans... they talk.... they say....”
  • v. 6: “they plot injustice and say....”

Words are not as dangerous as swords or guns or other instruments of war. But they are dangerous in their own way. People use words to overthrow rulers, to damage reputations, to wound emotions, to separate friends, to end careers, to create problems in families, and more.

David was confident that God would win anyway, despite the words of evildoers. In verse 7, he envisioned God riding in like the cavalry to save the day. In verse 8, he was more specific about how God would save him, “He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin.” We can use words to cause a lot of damage to others but, if you do that enough, eventually people will figure you out. They won’t trust what you say and won’t even want to listen to what you say. In the end, “all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.”

A better way for us to use words is described in verse 9: people “will proclaim the works of God.”

Are you careful about the words you use when talking with others or to others? The Bible commands us to watch what we say because we love God; this passage also tells us that our words will eventually catch up with us and be our undoing. If you have a problem with destructive, uncontrolled speech, ask God for help and memorize some verses from his Word about the power of speech.

If you’ve been the victim of someone else’s destructive speech, let verse 10 give you comfort and hope: “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him!” God knows if you’ve been unjustly and unkindly wounded by the words of others. Trust him to come to your aid and vindicate you.

3 John

Today’s reading is 3 John.

Can you imagine excluding one of the twelve apostles who walked with our Lord from coming to our church to speak? OK, Judas, yes. Without repentance we wouldn’t welcome him but that wouldn’t have been an issue since he killed himself.

I’m talking about John--the disciple that Jesus loved, one of Jesus’s three closest associates, and one of the three people who saw his transfiguration. That guy, John, wanted to come to some church, somewhere but he was refused entrance according to verse 9. Why? Because of some guy named Diotrephes. We don’t know anything about him other than what John wrote of him here in 3 John. He must have been an elder or have some kind of outsized influence in this church; otherwise, he would not have been able to prevent John from coming there.

But what an influence he must have had! To successfully prevent one of the Lord’s Twelve from getting an audience in his church suggests an outrageous amount of power. And, apparently that’s what he wanted because John described him as a man who “loves to be first” (v. 9b).

John wasn’t alone; verse 10 tells us that Diotrephes “refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” So any believer that tried to come to his church was prevented from entering and, if you were in the church and tried to bring someone in, you’d be subject to discipline by Diotrephes. Outrageous!

How did he amass this kind of power? We don’t know exactly, but there is a clue in verse 10a when John says that Diotrephes was “spreading malicious nonsense about us.” He used the power of words to gain control and influence, then used that influence to call attention to himself instead of to glorify God. This is one of the destructive aspects of gossip. Gossip is often true but embarrassing information about others. Sometimes, though, it is completely false and has been planted by someone with evil intentions. This appears to be one of the ways that Diotrephes was able to keep his church under his evil influence.

Although Diotrephes was affective, he should not be imitated for verse 11 says, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

Do you think about the words that you use and the destructive power that they potentially can have? Are you careful about the words used by others, not believing “malicious nonsense” (v. 10b) but going to the source to verify, clarify, or refute these nonsensical things? Do you “love to be first,” basking in the recognition of others? Let God’s word today help you examine your motives and your practices and teach you to “imitate... what is good” (v. 11a).

Proverbs 10:17-32

Today’s reading is Proverbs 10:17-32.

One of the recurring theme’s in today’s reading is how a person speaks. Consider:

  • a fool conceals hatred with lies (v. 18a)
  • a fool spreads slander (v. 18b)
  • sin thrives in the presence of too many words (v. 19a)
  • a cautious (“prudent”) person knows when not to speak (v. 19b)
  • the words of a righteous person are very valuable (v. 20a)
  • the words of a righteous person strengthen many people (v. 21a)
  • the words of a righteous person are wise (v. 31a)
  • ungodly words will be silenced (v. 31b)
  • a righteous person knows how to use words to bring about a favorable result (v. 32a)
  • but the

Words can change the course of a person’s life. They can persuade someone not to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. They can provoke someone to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. The right words can encourage a hurting heart and the wrong words can discourage a hopeful soul. Words are how we came to know Jesus as our Lord but they can also entice someone away from God.

Verse 19 definitely cautions us not to talk too much but most of the instructions in this passage are not about talking too much. The lesson in this passage is that your walk with God will show itself in how you talk. If you speak truth in ways that build up and strengthen others, giving them insight into wisdom, then your words will have great value and God will use them in the lives of other people. That is a reflection of a growing walk with God. On the other hand, if your words cause others to be tempted, to be seduced into sin, are hurtful, and hateful, that shows that there are issues in your heart that need to be addressed.

Sinning in what we say is one of the easiest ways to sin that exists. James says we all stumble in many ways and only a perfect person never sins in what he says (James 3:2). But as your walk with God grows, your ability to speak in ways that glorify God should grow, too. If you feel convicted about the things you say, ask God to use his word to root out the sins that cause you to say sinful speech. Then replace those things with truth from your own reading of Scripture and the strengthening of small groups and the teaching of our church’s ministries. Someday may it be said of us that our words “ nourish many” (v. 21) are “the fruit of wisdom” (v. 31) and that they “know what finds favor.” Then God will be glorified by our words as they reflect his changes and growth in us.

James 3

James 3 Today let’s read James 3.

This chapter in scripture tackles one of the hardest sins to overcome which is the sinful use of words. James himself acknowledged how hard it is to control what we say in verse 2 where he wrote, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check” and in verse 8 where he wrote, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

This passage exists to explain James’ statement in verse 1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” That verse told us that teachers will be held to greater accountability by God for how we live our lives. It warns anyone thinking about teaching about the extra layer of accountability God will hold teachers to. Verse 2 gives one of the major ways in which God will evaluate our lives and our teaching. If we teach God’s truth but don’t have a tamed-tongue, we will answer to God for that.

The reason that words are brought up in this context is that what someone says reflects what is in his heart. Jesus said that in Luke 6:45. So if God changes hearts which then changes lives, how a person speaks to other people is one of the clearest evidences of that status of that person’s growth in the Christian life as we see here James 3:2. Verses 3-6 describe how very large things (horses in verse 3, ships in verse 4) can be controlled by something very small. Likewise, the tongue is very small but has power to do great damage (vv. 5-6). Despite humanity’s ability to tame all kinds of animals, no man or woman has the power to tame the tongue (vv. 7-8); only God can do that (v.v 13-18).

We’ve all been hurt by the words of others and each of us has hurt others with things that we’ve said. Let’s not dwell on that today; instead, let’s focus on this thought in verse 18: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” This verse is connected to the idea of the power of the tongue. When God’s truth makes us wise (vv. 13, 17), we seek to become peacemakers with our words. Who in your life do you need to speak to in order to make peace, as God wants? Or, are there some conflicts between others in your life that you can use God’s wisdom and good words to help solve? These are good ways to put today’s truth into practice in your life today.