Two men were seated close to each other at a singing audition, where a lady who was being auditioned wasn’t doing too well. One man turned to the other and sarcastically said the words ‘Sounds terrible doesn’t it?” The other scowled in annoyance and replied, “That’s my wife!” Terribly embarrassed, the first man, trying to save face, responded sheepishly, “I was not referring to the singer, but to the song.” Back came the angry reply, “I wrote it”!
How often we speak out of turn and say words we regret later. Even more disturbing is the fact that our words often hurt and dishonor God, besides wounding others.
Facing threats and traps from evil men, David’s prayer found in Psalm 141:3 is one that we should daily make our own. He says, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141: 3). For a man who was often on the run and slandered by his enemies words, it is quite remarkable that David could pray in this manner. As the NIV Study Bible says, It was ‘a plea that God would keep him from speaking, desiring or doing what is evil’ (Footnote on Psalm 141:3-4).
In this Devotional, I would like to relate to 3 areas in which we should ask God to ‘set a guard over our words.’ They are,
A lying mouth dishonors God, and yet, how often people lie or tell a half-truth to get out of a difficult situation, or to discredit another. We often make excuses for such lies. The Word of God however says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: … a lying tongue…a false witness who pours out lies..”(Proverbs 6:16-19). I guess that’s why the Lord Jesus (when talking about swearing) said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). (Also read Revelation 21:8)
I’m sure most of us have been at the receiving end of gossip. We may have heard about such gossip ‘through the grapevine’ as Marvin Gaye famously sang. We therefore know how sharp a dagger gossip is and how deeply it wounds us. Yet, we too may yield to gossip to share ‘a juicy story’, or to betray someone. The scripture says, “A gossip betrays a confidence,” and “separates close friends” (Proverbs 11:13, 16:28). When tempted to gossip, ask God to help you to ‘shut the door to your lips.’
How many times we end up grumbling and accusing God through our words when trials come our way. The history of Israel on their way to the Promised Land, was much the same. It’s amazing that Israel could see all the awesome miracles God performed in Egypt and still keep grumbling! It seemed like grumbling was their national pastime! (Refer Numbers 11:1 and Exodus 16:11-12). They grumbled about bread, meat, water and so many other things. God provided bread from heaven, meat from the skies and water fountains from rocks (Nehemiah 9:15), but they still grumbled! Their clothes didn’t wear out, their feet didn’t swell (Nehemiah 9:21), yet they grumbled!
Through grumbling and unbelief, Israel lost out on the best God had for them. May that not be said of you and me! When tempted to grumble, let’s ask the Lord to ‘set a guard ( like a sentry) over our words’.
I am always encouraged by the testimony of hymn writer Fanny Crosby. She never allowed her blindness, (due to a medical misadventure), to create a spirit of discontent in her. I once read that she apparently had said, ’to complain…, I cannot and I won’t’. The words of her songs, seen through the eyes of faith and not through natural sight, spoke about ‘visions of rapture’, ‘echoes of mercy’ and ‘whispers of love’ (refer the hymn ‘Blessed Assurance”).
Besides the three areas mentioned above, there are many other ways we can use words to dishonor God and wound others (harshness, cursing, mockery etc). Maybe we could consider them in another post. But for today, if we are tempted to lie, gossip or grumble, may our prayer be, “Set a guard over my mouth , O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
‘We must keep our lips as it were with a bridle, and exercise an hourly strictness over our words’ (J. C. Ryle – Expository Thoughts on Matthew)