Solomon warned a number of times of the danger posed by badly chosen words.
In my blog post, ‘Watch Your Mouth’, we looked at the power of words. Today, I want to look at some examples in the Bible, of people who have used their words well, and others, who really should have kept their mouths shut. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue“. Let’s take what God is saying here literally, and not just assign it some metaphorical meaning. We’ll look first at the use of words with negative effect. Solomon warned a number of times in the book of Proverbs, of the danger posed by badly chosen words:
- “Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth.” Proverbs 6:2
- “The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips.” Proverbs 12:13
- “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:7
It seemed as though these were just empty words.
The first person we’ll look at, who should have kept his mouth shut, is Jacob. After Jacob & his family had left Laban, his father in-law, Laban came after them wanting to know who had taken his ‘gods’ (idols). Neither Jacob nor Laban were aware that Jacob’s wife Rachel had taken the idols and was hiding them. In Genesis 31:32, Jacob made this rash statement to Laban, “Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live“. As the idols were not found, it seemed as though these were just empty words. But then, later in Genesis 35:16-19, this happened: “There was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour…..and it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem“. Now you could argue, that was just a coincidence – but was it? Jacob said that whoever had the idols would die and later, Rachel died – way before her time. If everyone’s words were recorded the way Jacob’s were, the ‘coincidences’ would begin to mount up.
Numerous times the Israelites talked about dying in the wilderness.
- “Hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? “, Exodus 14:1
- “It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness“, Exodus 14:2
- “Ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger“, Exodus 16:3
- “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness!” Numbers 14:2
Finally, God came into agreement with them and declared, “In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die“. Sure enough, every single one of them (with the exception of Joshua & Caleb) died in the wilderness.
They had allowed fear to take the place of faith.
Let’s move now to the positive side of things and look at some people who used their words more wisely. The first person on our list is Abraham. In Genesis 22, we read the account of how Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac at a specific place. (I don’t want to get into why God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, as that is a different discussion.) Anyway, as Abraham was approaching the place, he spoke words of faith two times. In verse 5 he said, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you“. Abraham declared that both himself AND Isaac would come back. Then in verse 8 he said to Isaac, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering“. Just as Abraham had declared, God did provide a lamb (or a ram to be specific) and both of them did return – Abraham’s words came to pass. Next is the account of David and Goliath. The whole Israelite army had forgotten that they had a covenant with God. They had allowed fear to take the place of faith. But David was so full of faith, that fear could not get into him. Before killing Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, David spoke out a number of times what he was going to do – he used his words as weapons:
- “Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine“, verse 32
- “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them“, verse 36
- “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine“, verse 37
- “This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee“, verse 46
- “All this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hands“, verse 47
What David said came to pass: God did keep him safe, David did kill Goliath and he did take his head.
They spoke words of faith, confident that God would deliver them.
Next, we’ll take a look at Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. What happened to them is often portrayed as them being extremely loyal to God, even willing to become martyrs for him. The usual way this story is told involves them not being sure whether or not God is going to save them. But if we read the account closely, we will see that it is in fact, a story of faith. King Nebuchadnezzar had said that if they did not bow down and worship his golden idol, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. The response they gave the king in Daniel 3:17 was, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king“. They spoke words of faith, confident that God would deliver them. But what did they mean by that phrase “If it be so“? If what be so? They were responding to the king’s threat to throw them in the furnace, “If it be so (that you throw us in), God will deliver us”.
If God didn’t save them, they weren’t going to be doing anything.
But then comes the part, which is usually presented as showing that they weren’t sure whether God would actually save them or not. Verse 18 says, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“. Let’s rephrase that verse the way its normally preached, “Even if God doesn’t save us, we’re still not going to bow down to your idol“. Which sounds like, “Wow! – They were so committed to God, they were prepared to die” – and many powerful sermons have been preached on this. However, when you look past the ‘wow’ factor, you see that it doesn’t even make sense: “If God doesn’t save us, we’re still not going to bow down“. Let’s face it – if God didn’t save them, they weren’t going to be doing anything – they’d be dead! So let’s read verse 18 again, in a way that does make sense, “But if not (if you don’t throw us in the furnace),……we will [still] not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“. They never wavered in their faith. It was not “God could save us, but He might not“, it was, “God will save us“.
If you read these translations with an open mind, they make no sense.
Let me add something here: The version of the Bible that I am quoting from is the King James Version, but I realise that you may be using a different translation. The reason I mention this, is because many of the more modern translations have imposed their view of what happened onto this verse and in so doing, have incorrectly translated it.
- “But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods….“, Contemporary English Version
- “But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god….“, Good News Translation
- “But if he doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods“, The Living Bible
- “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods…” New International Version
- “But even if God doesn’t save us and we burn to death in that furnace, even after that, we’re still not going to bow down” (This is my own paraphrase, but you get the point)
These are just a sample of the many badly translated versions of this verse – not that I have anything against these versions of the Bible, generally speaking though. As discussed above, if you read these translations with an open mind, they make no sense. Before I move on, just to add weight to the fact that the King James Version is the most accurate translation for this verse; the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates it very similarly: “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not be the ones serving as deity thy g-ds…..“
Don’t view what Jesus did, as being impossible to emulate.
Our final example is Jesus, but don’t view this as, “Oh, but Jesus is God“. Yes, Jesus is God, but when He came to Earth He emptied Himself of His divine privileges and operated as a man. Philippians 2:7 in the New Living Translation says, “He gave up his divine privileges“. If Jesus was operating as God, why would He need to fast & pray, for example? So don’t view what Jesus did as being impossible to emulate. Anyway, in Mark 11 Jesus came across a fig tree that had no fruit on it. He spoke to that tree and said (verse 14), “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever“. Nine words – no more, that was all that was needed. The next day, as they were passing by the fig tree, Jesus’ disciples noticed that it had been dried up from the roots. Jesus’ words had been enough to destroy that fig tree. Another example of Jesus putting His words to work for Him is when He spoke of His death & resurrection: Mark 8:31, “….and be killed, and after three days rise again“. Jesus spoke words of faith that He would rise again after three days.
Cut out those sort of phrases and you will avoid the traps set by the devil.
I will conclude by giving you some examples of phrases that can be traps, some of them deadly, if spoken over and over again:
- I’m just dying to go
- That scares me to death
- Over my dead body
- I’m afraid so
- That always happens to me
- I can never understand the Bible
- I just can’t believe that
- You’ll be the death of me
Words have the power to bring comfort and healing or hurt and destruction. Choose them carefully.
— Pastor John Hagee (@PastorJohnHagee) July 17, 2017
There is power in your words, there is power is what you say, so cut out those sort of phrases and you will avoid the traps set by the devil. When you see something good, that you want for yourself in the Word of God, begin to speak it in faith and fully expect it to come to pass.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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