Day 193

Your Words Are Powerful

Wisdom Proverbs 16:28-17:4
New Testament Acts 28:17-31
Old Testament 2 Kings 21:1-22:20

Introduction

‘The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.’ These words were in a speech given by Sir Winston Churchill to the House of Commons in 1940. Facing defeat, he inspired the nation to fight from the corner, urging them to brace themselves to do their duty and carry themselves in such a way that even a thousand years on people would still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ The speech was powerful, the nation responded and ultimately a lasting peace was achieved.

It is one of the speeches that shaped the modern world, displaying the power of words. Speeches have affected the outcome of war, women suffrage, human rights and many other issues.

The apostle James writes that although ‘the tongue is a small part of the body… it makes great boasts’ (James 3:5). This small instrument has enormous power. It can cause great damage but it can also bring extraordinary blessings. Your tongue is a powerful instrument.

Wisdom

Proverbs 16:28-17:4

28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
   and a gossip separates close friends.

29 A violent person entices their neighbour
   and leads them down a path that is not good.

30 Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity;
   whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.

31 Gray hair is a crown of splendour;
   it is attained in the way of righteousness.

32 Better a patient person than a warrior,
   one with self-control than one who takes a city.

33 The lot is cast into the lap,
   but its every decision is from the Lord.

17 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
   than a house full of feasting, with strife.

2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son
   and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
   but the Lord tests the heart.

4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
   a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

Commentary

Power to bring peace

The words you speak can be either life-giving or destructive.

Words can cause a great deal of trouble. ‘The perverse stir up dissension, and gossips separate close friends’ (16:28). Gossip has the power to break up friendships.

It is vital to get control over your tongue: ‘Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power’ (v.32, MSG).

You have a responsibility, not only for the words that you speak, but also for whose words and the kinds of words you listen to. ‘Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip’’ (17:4, MSG). Remember that whoever gossips to you will probably gossip about you. Just as receiving stolen goods is as serious a crime in the eyes of the law as theft; so listening to gossip is as damaging as gossiping.

How you speak and how you listen will affect the whole atmosphere in your home: ‘Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife’ (v.1).

Your words are powerful. Determine today to speak positive, encouraging words of life and blessing everywhere you go.

Prayer

Lord, help me to avoid the temptations of gossip and malicious talk. ‘Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.’ (Northumbria Community’s Morning Prayer)

New Testament

Acts 28:17-31

Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

  26 “‘Go to this people and say,
  “You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
   you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
  27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
   they hardly hear with their ears,
   and they have closed their eyes.
  Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
   hear with their ears,
   understand with their hearts
  and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29]

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

Commentary

Power to convince and convert

The greatest blessing you can bring to another person is to introduce them to Jesus. God has entrusted you with the most powerful words anyone can utter. The message of Jesus has the power to transform people’s lives.

There is enormous power in listening to the words of God. Paul refers to one of the most quoted passages in the entire Old Testament, Isaiah 6:9–10: ‘Go to this people and tell them this: “You’re going to listen with your ears, but you won’t hear a word... They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen”’ (Acts 28:26–27, MSG).

The gospel message often splits an audience in two. As Paul preached, ‘Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it’ (v.24, MSG). As Isaiah had prophesied, some people’s hearts become calloused and hardened to the message, while others ‘see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn’, and so God brings healing (v.27).

Paul’s form of imprisonment seems now to be more like house arrest. Though he is still bound with a chain (v.20), he is able to call together the leaders of the Jews (v.17) and gather large numbers to the place where he is staying (v.23). He sets us a good example by opening his home so that as many people as possible can hear the gospel (vv.30–31).

Around the world today there is great opposition against Christians and the Christian faith. Paul was under house arrest because of his beliefs. They said, ‘The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it’ (v.22, MSG).

As many Christians face today, the charges against Paul were fabricated and didn’t stick, but he was still imprisoned for a long time.

Against this background, we see the extraordinary power of Paul’s words. ‘Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had written about him’ (v.23, MSG). In fact, ‘for two years… he urgently presented all matters of the kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ’ (vv.30–31, MSG).

Paul’s words were powerful because they were focused on Jesus. As we read the Gospels, we see that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus was the kingdom of God. As we read the rest of the New Testament, we see that the central theme of the apostles’ teaching was the Lord Jesus Christ. In preaching Jesus, they were preaching the kingdom of God. The two become almost synonymous, as we see here.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that we have the most powerful words in the world – the message of Jesus. Help me to find the right words to explain, declare and convince others, so that ‘they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn’, and be healed (v.27).

Old Testament

2 Kings 21:1-22:20

Manasseh King of Judah

21 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

7 He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” 9 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.

10 The Lord said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”

16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

17 As for the other events of Manasseh’s reign, and all he did, including the sin he committed, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.

Amon King of Judah

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.

23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.

25 As for the other events of Amon’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 26 He was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. And Josiah his son succeeded him as king.

The Book of the Law Found

22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.

15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste —and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.

Commentary

Power to change a nation

History shows that words have the power to change a nation. King Manasseh (696–641 BC) was an evil king. ‘He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption... Manasseh led \[the people\] off the beaten path into practices of evil... new records in evil... he was an indiscriminate murderer. He drenched Jerusalem with the innocent blood of his victims’ (21:1–16, MSG). His son Amon (641–639 BC) continued in the same vein (vv.20–22).

The book of Chronicles suggests that even for Manasseh there was hope at the end of his life. It is never too late and no sin is too great to receive forgiveness from God (see 2 Chronicles 33).

After this string of evil kings came Josiah (639–609 BC). He was a young man who led his people in great spiritual renewal, restoring worship and leading the people back into a right relationship with God. He was only eight years old when he became king (2 Kings 22:1). He ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside from the right or to the left’ (v.2).

Words had a powerful effect on Josiah and on the nation:

1. Power of the written word

While they were working on the temple, Shaphan, the high priest found the ‘Book of the Law’ (v.8). It appears likely that it was the book of Deuteronomy.

Shaphan read it for himself (v.8). Then he read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes (in repentance). He realised that they had not obeyed the words of this book (vv.11–13). This led to a change of heart, which led to a changed nation.

This reminds us of the importance of the written word of God. Those of you who have taken up the challenge of reading the whole Bible in a year are engaged in doing something that is not only interesting and informative, but is also life-changing.

2. Power of the spoken word

Not only did God speak to Josiah and the people through his written word, he also spoke through prophecy. Interestingly, it was through a prophetess – Huldah, the wife of Shallum (v.14). This shows that the place of women in ministry has its roots in the Old Testament and in the history of the people of God.

Huldah had a powerful ministry. Indeed, it seemed to have overshadowed her husband’s rather more practical role of being ‘in charge of the palace wardrobe’ (v.14, MSG).

Her spoken words do not contradict the written words of Scripture; rather, they complement and indeed reinforce them: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:I have heard you, declares the Lord”’ (vv.18–19).

She told them that because of the way they responded to the written word of God – they humbled themselves and repented – God had heard their words and responded to them. Their response to the word of God changed the course of history.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for our nation – that we may once again rediscover the power of the word of God and listen to your prophets, who speak in accordance with your word. May there be repentance and a change of heart in our leaders and in our nation.

Pippa adds

In Proverbs 16:31a it says,

‘Grey hair is a crown of splendour.’

In our society grey hair isn't valued very much, but I think Nicky looks pretty cool with his. I try to hide mine!

reader

App

Download The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Subscribe now to receive The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel Commentary is available as a book.

References

Alan Whiticker, Speeches that Shaped the Modern World (New Holland Publishers, 2005)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more