“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21)
How often in the course of a day do we think of our tongues, or reflect on their “activity” at any given moment or in any particular circumstance? The truth is that we tend to be familiar with this little organ set in our lower jaw, so ready and available to co-labor with teeth, lips, throat, and airway to make an utterance — which will either build up or tear down; produce life or spew out death; be used to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ and all that pertains to Him, or to promote the cause of the world, the flesh and the devil. This sometimes visible, sometimes invisible little member of our bodies can bring about huge effects and “boast of great things” and is called “a fire, a world of wickedness set among our members, … contaminating … the whole body and setting on fire … the cycle of man’s nature, being itself ignited by hell” (James 2:2-6). Yet, it also can be used to edify and to make both an eternal and temporal difference in the lives of those who hear and receive its communication. What is it then that determines whether life or death will be imparted by its activity?
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34)If we give Him our hearts (Proverbs 23:26) He Himself will provide all that is needed to garrison them against all that is evil. Click To Tweet
These words of the Lord Jesus Christ make it so clear that it is vital for us to guard our hearts with all vigilance and above all that we guard, for out of them flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) Indeed, if we give Him our hearts (Proverbs 23:26) He Himself will provide all that is needed to garrison them against all that is evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3, JBP). The psalmist wrote in 119:11, “I have hid Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” The Word of God tells us that whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23), and elsewhere in Romans that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (10:17). The Apostle Paul also instructs us in Colossians 3:16, to “hide the Word of God richly, in your hearts.” Here then is the key to having our tongues employed to produce life and not death: hearing the Word of God, taking it into our hearts and letting it dwell there abundantly, and eventually out of that plethora of LIFE in our hearts our mouths our tongues will speak it and affect people in a godly, helpful way.
Thoughts of peace, innumerable, weighty, and precious …
The content and quality of the words which we are urged to hide in our hearts will always be according to God’s heart towards us. They will be “thoughts … for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give [us] hope in [our] final outcome” (Jerermiah 29:11). His thoughts to us are also “weighty and precious” … and “more in number than the sand” (Psalm 139:17,18). Let’s think of several of them: “Thou art all fair, My love, there is no spot in thee” (Song of Solomon 4:7); “I will never, no never, no never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5); “I have loved you with an everlasting Love, and with lovingkindness have I drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3); “I will provide all your need according to My riches in glory, in Christ Jesus the Lord” (Philippians 4:19); “My Grace is sufficient for you, and My strength will be made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and so many countless more! So we take these thoughts into our hearts by faith, we receive grace to meditate upon them and to choose to believe them above the projections of the devil and the reflections of the old sin nature. We hide them, store them in our hearts. The more we do this, the more easily we recognize our Shepherd’s Voice uttering His thoughts to us; and thus the quicker we are to cast down vain imaginations and every high or evil thing that exalts itself above Who God is and how He thinks. Ultimately, we are preventing our tongues from speaking the wrong things and thus preventing much “death communication” from coming forth through our lips!
Right and Godly speech rejoices the heart of the Lord – and the lives of others.
When my tongue utters right things because of right words stored up in my heart, there is inevitable benefit for many – except the devil! First, the Lord is pleased: “My son, if your heart be wise, my heart will be glad, even mine; Yes, my heart will rejoice when your lips speak right things!” (Proverbs 23:15,16). Next, His people are blessed: “a word spoken at the right moment – how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23). By faith He has given us the tongue of a disciple that we might be able to speak a word in season to someone who is weary (Isaiah 50:4a). The unsaved as well benefit from godly speech: “He sends His Word and heals them and delivers them from their destruction” (Psalm 107:20). Also we evangelize and proclaim the Gospel that people might believe in Him of whom they had never heard (Romans 10:14). Ambassadors and able ministers of the Finished Work, the Word of God is able to come from our hearts, off our tongues, and through our lips — “quick, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul from the spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). Furthermore, it never returns to the Lord void but rather prospers in the thing for which it is sent (Isaiah 55:11). Oh, what benefit to others, and what joy given to the Lord when His Word passes from our hearts, over our tongues, and out through our lips! We, too, our benefited personally: “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from troubles.”
The Living Word speaking the written Word defeats the devil.
There is one who is not benefited by the Word of God being confessed in the power of the Holy Spirit: the prince of the power of the air.
Three times in Matthew 4 Jesus declared to the tempter, “It is written.” This took place in the beginning of His ministry on the earth as the God-Man. Then we see in the book of Revelation that when He returns with His Bride to establish the Millennial Reign, He comes to fight His final war with His enemies with a Sword in His mouth, Which is the Word of God (Heb.4:12; Ephesians 6:17): “From His mouth goes forth a sharp sword with which He can smite the nations … And the rest (besides the beast and the false prophet) were killed with the Sword that issues from His mouth. …” (Revelation 19:15,21). It’s no wonder, then, that the Bible in diverse places implores us to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs — loaded with the Word of God or at least with its principles — because their content goes forth and heals and delivers (Psalm 107:20) and is sharper, more powerful, more effective than any other two-edged sword, or weapon that we could use against the enemy. When Jude says in verse 20 to “Build yourselves up on your most holy faith,” remember that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
The Psalms are filled with references to thanking the Lord for His Word, to singing His praise, to worshiping Him with understanding according to His Word. So of course, we, too, would be exhorted to let the Word of God dwell richly in us and to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:18), so that our mouths would declare His Words which make an eternal difference in peoples’ lives and in the atmosphere!
“The human tongue can be tamed by no man.” (James 3:8a)
Even the most naturally disciplined thinker, seemingly self-controlled and “in charge” of his actions, will ultimately fail in taming his own tongue; yet many are convinced that they can do just that without the Lord: “These who say, With our tongues we prevail; our lips are our own [to command at our will]. Who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:4) We even read in the gospels that many times people who were touched and healed by the Lord Himself could not keep silence after the Lord had commanded that they not say a word regarding their healing. How then can we control this little but extremely active, compulsive member of our body?! David knew: “[YOU, Lord,] Set a guard … before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. Incline my heart not to submit to any evil thing” (Psalm 141:3,4a). And Ezra implied in Psalm 119:133 that he needed that LORD to order his thoughts, his words, his decisions and steps in the Word of God in order that iniquity not have dominion over him. Undoubtedly multitudes of God-fearing and Word-revering people in all of the preceding ages prayed similarly to the Lord; and we, too, are wise to pray:
Lord, these are perilous days, and You have warned us in Amos 5:13 that “the prudent will keep silent for it is an evil time.” Please, by Your grace, let nothing pass from our hearts, over our tongues, through our lips that would grieve Your Spirit or misrepresent You to Your people or to those who don’t yet know – yet desperately need to know – You. Give us grace to speak when, what, and how we are bidden by You to speak, and to keep silent when You bid us to be silent. Thank You and Amen.