Day 193

Your Words Are Powerful

Wisdom Proverbs 16:28-32, 17:1-4
New Testament Acts 28:23-31
Old Testament 2 Kings 22:3-19

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 16:28-32, 17:1-4

16
28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
   and a gossip separates close friends.

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

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

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 28:23-31

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!’

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 22:3-19

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.

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.’

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders… 13 ‘Go and enquire 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…

18 ‘Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire 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.”’

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 one 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!

Thought for the Day

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

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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

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