I’m noticing in my reading this week the dramatic effect that words can have, depending on their source. The contrast is clear in two instances recorded in II Samuel 20.
First, “There happened to be there a worthless man… And he blew the trumpet and said…” People followed him, as people will, and soon a whole city was at risk of destruction for harboring him.
In contrast, was a wise woman who said: “Come here, that I may speak to you…Listen…” and by her wise advice destruction was averted; the whole city was saved. This woman impresses me. She saw what was coming and used words of wisdom directed to the right people to bring a halt to the impending plan of destruction. You can read the details of the account for yourself, but the principle catches my attention—the impact of words, wise or worthless.
Moses’ story continues to intrigue me. He was a model of meekness--at least once the Lord got through with him (Num.12:3). When he hesitated to say ‘yes’ to God’s assignment for him, God questioned him: Moses, who made your mouth? “Is it not I, the Lord?...now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” And when Aaron had to be conscripted to help, God promised to be with both their mouths and teach them both what to do.
Moses’ words seemed to go unheeded and yet they were God’s assignment for him: “Let my people go” was his slogan, though ignored. God backed up his words with His own display of power and eventually broke through Pharaoh’s resistance and the deed was accomplished. The children of Israel were shooed on their way with plunder besides! But first there were the words, wise God-given words.
Those are the kind I need.
No use talking, arguing, trying to persuade or influence without my words being God-ordained. I like David’s last words; that ‘sweet psalmist of Israel’ , in II Sam.23, attributes to God his good words: "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” Isaiah did likewise: The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (Is.50:4) This is what I want to be true of me!
I have no great testimonial to the effectiveness of my words this week. Mostly I’m at a loss to know what to say. What do you say to your mom when her best beloved of over 50 years is fast losing his mind and is unreceptive to her best efforts to take care of him?…when your efforts to take care of her are perceived as threats to the only way of life she can conceive of… what do you say? Is “I love you, I really do” enough?
Wise words don’t just materialize out of nowhere. James describes the kind of heart that births them—one that is meek and ‘easy to be entreated’, gentle and merciful…(3:17), one that asks with confidence for the wisdom needed and harbors no doubt or unbelief that God will give what’s needed (1:5-8). That’s the kind of heart I want. I don’t wish to come to the end of my days defensive and unreasonable, stubborn and unmanageable to my own detriment. Am I cultivating traits I want to have when my defenses are down and my mind a haze? What will bubble up then--the wise or the worthless?
Lord, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps.90:12)