Posts Tagged With: proper speech

Meditations for the Nine Days Part IV

The last two meditations are closely related. The spiritual gifts are “different kinds of tongues” and “interpretations of tongues.” The corresponding fruit of the Spirit are “gentleness” and “self-control.” As I prayed and meditated on these last two gifts and fruit, it dawned upon me to approach these spiritual gifts in a unique way.

While I fully believe that these gifts are supernatural, there is also a very natural way to look at them that every Believer should practice. In fact, Scripture warns again and again in various ways that the tongue holds the power of life and death. And, Messiah warns that man will give an account for idle word that he/she speaks. Thus, it is fitting that these supernatural gifts are paired with the fruit of gentleness and self-control. In today’s world, very few people manifest these fruits when they speak or type the written word.

Pr. 18:21 (NASB) Death and life are in the power (hand) of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Mat. 12:36-37 (NKJV) But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

So, rather than focusing on the spiritual gifts of tongues and interpretations, which would require a much lengthier treatment than a devotion, I’ve chosen to primarily address literal language, words, and the tongue. In modern culture, language has become weaponized. Words are being redefined by those immersed in ideologies such a Critical Theory. Standard definitions are being exchanged for confusing revisions. And, social media has become a battlefield of thrusting tongues set on destroying one’s opponent. Now more than ever, may the people of HaShem be known as those that have bridled their tongue.

James 3:6-10 (NASB) And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

Last year, I released a series called Taste Your Words on MyReviveTV.com. It is about issues of the tongue, proper speech, and lashon hara. You can watch for free by creating an account at MyReviveTV.com. (Creating the account is free too!)

 

Day 8 – Av 8

Spiritual Gift: Kinds of Tongues 

Fruit: Gentleness

On the fifteenth of Av (Tu B’Av), there is a transition from mourning to consolation and joy. In the Three Weeks, we recall our ancestor’s descent into sin, which resulted in the destruction of Adonai’s House. There are fifteen Psalms of Ascent, Shir Haamalot, that were sung by the Levites on the fifteen steps leading up to the Temple. These Psalms (120-134) are a memorial of the Temple rituals, and for us, they are an expression of hope that the Temple service will be restored to the people of Israel.

In many ways, the number fifteen represents the elevation or ascent from the physical to the spiritual. The poetic name of God, Yah, is also the number fifteen (yohd [10] + hey [5] = 15). As those created in His image, we are called to walk through this process by His grace. Through Yeshua, the Way is accessible to all who believe. Not coincidentally, the first Psalm of Ascent, the first step in approaching His Dwelling Place, deals with issues of the tongue.

Ps. 120:1-7 (NASB) A Song of Ascents. In my trouble I cried to the LORD, and He answered me. 2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue. 3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 Sharp arrows of the warrior, with the burning coals of the broom tree. 5 Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, for I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.

Our tongues reveal what is in our hearts. After taking an account of our words and deeds during the Three Weeks, hopefully, we too, are crying out for Adonai to deliver us from our own lying lips and deceitful tongues. The destruction of the first and second Temple was caused by idolatry, immorality, and baseless hatred among brothers. Our “temple” is destroyed for the same reasons. The tongue reveals one’s inner nature in each case.

In this meditation, consider the language or languages that you speak with understanding. Words are powerful. In Hebrew, davar means a word, thing, matter, or order. They bring things into existence to create order. But, these same Hebrew letters spell dever, a pestilence. Words that do not produce order or life, bring pestilence and death. Words build up or tear down. They inspire or they depress. How do you use the language that God gave to you?

Language sets man apart from the beasts of the field. It is the star feature that attests to the fact that mankind is made in the image of Adonai. Like the Creator, we speak. We communicate and create with words. We build with our hands and we build with our mouths – if we are wise.

Pr. 14:1 (NASB) The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

Due to today’s lightning speed forms of communication, one can speak a single language, and yet, use it in a variety or diverse “kinds” of ways. For example, one can pontificate on social media platforms, they can record audio and video of themselves and send it across the globe. They can write electronic letters, emails, and post opinions on news message boards. One can self publish books, blogs, and websites. (I’m not missing the irony of my own usage of these formats, lol.) There are multitudes of opportunities to spread the poison of the tongue, and the deceit of the heart.

The hands of one’s tongue can strangle another person through slander and gossip.[1] A subtle manipulation of words can cause fear, doubt, and suspicion about the actions, motives, or reputation of another person. (Remember, Korach? Or, the evil report of the ten spies?) When one listens to such tactics of the tongue, they also get caught in the carefully spun web of these merchants of death. These are examples of perverted “kinds of tongues.” They are powered by Gehenna, as James says, and are akin to the forked tongues of serpents.

Ps. 140:1-3 (NASB) For the choir director. A Psalm of David. Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men 2 who devise evil things in their hearts; they continually stir up wars. 3 They sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips. Selah.

Rom 3:13-18 (ESV) Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

An unruly tongue is anything but gentle, the eighth listed fruit of the Spirit. Gentleness can be translated as meekness or humility. The tongue is a boastful and proud member. It wears pride like a necklace, and rather than wearing the garment of salvation, it wraps itself in violence and parades throughout the earth.

Ps. 73:6-9 (NASB) Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. 8 They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth.

Most of us, if we are honest, would declare that we would never use our tongue in such a horrid manner. We serve the Most High after all. Perhaps, we even operate with the spiritual gift of tongues. Does this mean that every word that spews from our mouth is pure? Are we better than Isaiah?

Is. 6:5 (NASB) Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Do we bless Adonai with our tongues, and then turn around and use that same tongue to curse other humans made in His image? One can babble on and on about their love of God, but their mouth (and keyboards) will reveal what is really in their heart.

Luke 6:43-45 (NKJV) For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Messiah used the analogy of a tree producing fruit to figure the words of one’s mouth. In Hebrew, the word for fruit is p’ri. It is spelled pey (mouth), reish (man’s head), and yohd (hand). A man’s fruit is the things he says (his words), and the things he does with his hands (actions).

James ends his discourse on the iniquity of the tongue by contrasting wisdom from above with wisdom from below. Reread the passage, recalling that the first listed gift of the Spirit is words of wisdom:

James 3:13-18 (NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The Greek word for conduct above is anastrophē. It means behavior and conversation.[2] One’s speech should be offered in wisdom, which is humble, meek, and gentle. According to this passage, envy and selfishness war against godly wisdom. They deceive one to believe that they have wisdom, when in reality, they are bound by the confusion of Babylon. Babylon incites one to violence and war to take what others have. Any tactic is justified because their wisdom is fueled by the earthly, sensual (fleshly desires), and the demonic realm.

Pr. 21:6 (NASB) The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.

Pr. 13:1-3 (NKJV) A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. 2 A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, but the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence. 3 He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.

Babylon’s message appeals to the appetites and desires of the flesh, which feels natural, fair, and just. Consider the juxtaposition of the following commandments:

Lev. 19:16-18 (NASB) You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

The Hebrew word for slanderer above is rakiyl. It describes a merchant, but what he sells is deceit, slander, rumors, and gossip. Gossip and rumors can be about something that is true. But, that doesn’t give one the right to spread it around like an evil report. In verse 16, such a merchant is acting against the life of his neighbor. His/her words are meant to destroy the person or group of people that they speak of. And sadly, they often do.

Those that listen to a rakiyl’s message, not only begin to hate the person or group spoken about, but they then propagate and spread it like a disease. Notice the progression of the commandments above. One speaks or listens to lashon hara, a perversion of the “kinds of tongues.” The words produce anger and hate toward another person or group. The natural next step is vengeance and murder (just ask Cain). But the TRUTH, the Word of Adonai, says to not take vengeance against your neighbor, and don’t even bear a grudge!

This is the context of loving your neighbor as yourself. Without love, even the spiritual gift of tongues profits you nothing. Instead, one is just another confusing, noisy babbler of Babylon.

1 Cor. 13:1-3 (NASB) If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

 The gentleness of wisdom speaks justice (Ps. 37:30-33), but it God’s standard of justice, not man’s. It is based in the Torah, and is full of mercy. Often, when we are wronged, our flesh desires the strictest form of justice for the attacker or oppressor. Yet, when we find ourselves to be the transgressor, we cry to YHWH for mercy. The problem is that we fear that our enemies will not get what “they deserve.” But, that is contrary to what the Word declares, and a gross misunderstanding of God’s love. (1 John 4) Adonai will not let the guilty go unpunished. (Ex. 34)

Thankfully, for our sake’s, His judgment is firmly rooted in His chesed. He punishes, but He also forgives. Each and every soul on the planet should be grateful for this. Once one truly understands the love that God has for us, they can let go of bitterness, envy, hatred, grudges, and thoughts of vengeance. It is only by realizing the depth of our own depravity, that we can appreciate God’s chesed, and desire it for others, even our enemies.

Pr. 10:12 (NASB) Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.

1 Pet. 4:8 (NASB) Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

 Today, consider all the various (kinds) ways that you can use your tongue with the fruit of gentleness. Prayer should be one of our first thoughts. Prayer changes everything! If you find yourself suffering at the hands (tongues) of those that would sell your soul like a merchant of Babylon, look up. Cry out to Adonai, not social media. Whatever our need, Adonai is our help and our shield.

Ps. 19:14 (NASB) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

Questions

    1. Read Psalm 34:11-14. According to these verses, how does one procure length of days, so he can see good? Do you think this applies to this life or eternity or both?
    1. Name a variety of ways that you can use your tongue for righteousness.
    1. Why do you think that Psalm 120 is the first step of ascension to the Holy Temple, or on one’s pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem at the moedim?
    1. Read Psalm 141. What sort of delicacies does David fear to eat? Why do you think he chose this term to refer to such things? (Hint: Mt. 26:41, Rom. 7:14)
    1. In Psalm 141, David requests that the righteous strike and rebuke him. What does he compare this to? (vs. 5)
    1. Do you have David’s attitude when Adonai brings correction through one of His servants? Why or why not?

 

Day 9 – Av 9

Spiritual Gift: Interpretation of Tongues 

Fruit: Self Control

Do you believe that you have control over your tongue? What about your actions? What about your circumstances? While one cannot always control their circumstances, they can control how they speak of them, and how they react. It’s all in how one interprets the words of life. A shift in perspective can change everything, even how one hears and understands God’s Word, and the words or tongues of others.

In yesterday’s meditation, we looked at the Hebrew word for fruit, p’ri. Though Messiah freely offers one the Way of salvation through His shed blood, one must choose to walk in it. We have a choice as to what sort of fruit (words/deeds) we will produce. While it’s true that some trees have been planted in ground that has better soil and water conditions than others, we must remember that Adonai is the planter. (Ps. 80:8-19, Is. 5:1-7; 61:3, Jer. 2:21, Hos.10:1, Mat. 21:33-46, Jn. 15:1, etc.)

No matter where Adonai planted you, and no matter how harsh the conditions have been, He sovereignly chose your place for the good. Because, He is good. And, His ways and thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Is. 55) Often, it is through suffering that a tree or plant produces the most fruit.

Many years ago, we lived in Florida. One day, a colleague of my husband brought him a bunch of Florida avocados from the trees in his yard. My husband commented on how vibrant, large, and healthy they appeared to be. The man then proceeded to tell him how he took a baseball bat and beat his avocado trees! Shocked, my husband asked him why he would do such a thing. The man said, “When the tree thinks it’s being attacked or dying, it produces twice as much fruit.”

I’ll never forget hearing this story. Though at first glance it seemed horrific, it reminded me of many different passages in the Bible. The truth is that our flesh hates suffering. Period. But, we are called to know Messiah in the “fellowship” of His suffering. This means that we are to SHARE and participate in it.

Php. 3:10-11 (NASB) … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

To know the power of the resurrection, suffering and death are required. What must die is the flesh. It is to be crucified daily. Daily, flesh is laid on the holy altar, to burn up and ascend in smoke as a pleasing aroma to Adonai. To use another analogy, pressing circumstances and suffering produces oil for our lamps. Just as the flesh of an olive is pressed and squeezed under a great stone (Adonai is the Rock, and stone of stumbling) to produce pure oil for anointing and lighting, so we must submit to His conforming us into His image.

This isn’t a popular message. It doesn’t make the ears tickle or the flesh feel comfortable. But, it is a truth consistently taught in Scripture. The English word compassion means, “to co-suffer.” If we have compassion for another person, we not only have sympathy for their situation, but we choose to suffer along with them or relieve their pain in some way. When we ask God to have compassion for us, we want Him to meet us right in the midst of our pain, and relieve it.

In Hebrew, compassion is racham, which is also the womb (rechem). The womb is a dark, constricted place of growth. When birth pangs begin, both the mother and child suffer the contractions. This is compassion. Suffering is necessary for new life. I once heard Grant Luton say that, “All pain is birth pain.” That phrase has stuck with me and continues to remind me of what pain in this life is for. Again, it is all about perspective. I can control how I perceive my pain. I choose to trust that Adonai loves me and has my best interests at heart no matter how things feel or appear in the natural.

1 Pet. 2:19-25 (NASB) For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,  22  WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Suffering comes from two places: as a consequence for sin, or for the sake of righteousness. Either way, all lives will be touched by suffering. If one suffers due to transgression, it becomes a goad to turn one back to righteousness. If one suffers for the sake of righteousness, it leads to resurrection life.

These things might seem unrelated to the topic at hand. Let’s connect the dots. Today is Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting, lamentation, and prayer. The Book of Lamentations is chanted with a mournful melody in the synagogue on this day. (To hear a sample, click here.) The construction of the Book of Lamentations is aligned with the Hebrew alephbet. The holy tongue seems to weep along with Jeremiah for the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Adonai’s people.

Most of us misuse our tongues when we are suffering. It is extremely difficult to not scream out or curse when we are in pain. This includes our words and attitude toward Adonai. Job is an excellent example of one that exercised self-control, even when his friends and wife offered faulty interpretations of his suffering. The fruit of self-control is the first to be ripped from our vine when we are hurt by someone verbally, emotionally, financially, or even physically. It is the last fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, but it is the first to take a hit when we fall.

Rather than thinking literally about the interpretations of tongues as explaining a heavenly or foreign language, consider other ways that we communicate. Facial expressions, eye movements, body gestures and postures are all types of tongues or language. What are you saying without using words? How well can you interpret these cues in others?

Much has been written in recent times about the coldness of texts, emails, and social media comments. Without the cues of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, it is very easy to misinterpret someone’s intent. It happens every day in a variety of formats. Though we are speaking the same tongue, we often misunderstand the intended message. This causes one to make false assumptions; or even worse, to make an unrighteous judgment against another person.

Today, consider all the ways that we misread, misunderstand, and assume things that are not true about other people. Instead of actively listening (the sense for the month of Av), we often are preparing our come back. If we have difficultly interpreting the tongues of those that speak the same language we do, how can we expect to hear or understand the multitude of other languages in the world?

The key to any (good) relationship is effective communication. In order to communicate in a healthy way, each party must be respected and allowed time to share and speak. If one assumes that they know the heart of the other or believes they are the only party with the Holy Spirit or with wisdom, then the conversation is doomed from the start. These are issues of pride and fear, which are not conducive for learning or change for the better. While you can’t control another person, you can control your own speech and behavior.

1 Pet. 5:6-11 (NASB) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

When Israel sinned against Adonai, He allowed the nations of Assyria and Babylon to overtake them. Though these unrighteous nations believed their own might had won them the victory over Israel, Adonai firmly states that He used them to punish Israel. Anything beyond that, they would be judged for in the end. Beloved, sometimes Adonai allows our enemies to overtake us for the same reason. We can blame them or we can blame Adonai, but the true blame lies at our own feet.

The good news, is that when we suffer, even because our sins, there is HOPE. Despite the dire circumstances of Jerusalem, Jeremiah remembered Adonai’s chesed and was comforted. Read the following excerpt from the weeping prophet Jeremiah. May we find comfort in Adonai’s chesed too!

Lam. 3:1-22 (NASB) I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath. 2 He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. 3 Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day. 4 He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones. 5 He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. 6 In dark places He has made me dwell, like those who have long been dead. 7 He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. 8 Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. 9 He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked. 10 He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in secret places. 11 He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces; He has made me desolate. 12 He bent His bow and set me as a target for the arrow. 13 He made the arrows of His quiver to enter into my inward parts. 14 I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all the day. 15 He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood. 16 He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. 17 My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. 18 So I say, “My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the LORD.” 19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 20 Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses (chesed) indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.

Tzom Kal! May you have an easy fast!

Questions

    1. If you have not done so already, read the Book of Lamentations and journal your thoughts.
    1. Think about your relationships (in real life and online). Ask Adonai to reveal misunderstandings, miscommunications, and false assumptions. Then, ask Him if it is your pain that is creating harmful patterns, blockages, or breaches. If so, repent.
    1. Name a time that you misinterpreted another person’s tongue (communication). What did you do, if anything, to rectify it?
    1. In what areas do you struggle with self-control? Control issues are rooted in fear. Pray and ask Adonai to help you with these areas.

Read 1 Cor. 9:23-27, James 1:2-5, and 2 Peter 1:4-11

    1. If self-control is about disciplining the body, including the mind and emotions, where do you lack?
    1. Peter reminds us that if qualities such as self-control are increasing in us, we are neither useless or fruitless. If we fall, we get back up and try again. Paul’s race analogy in 1 Cor. 9 matches this sentiment. We continue to train, even when it hurts. Have you ever reached a place where you feel like giving up? What was Paul and James remedy for facing trials?

 

PDF of all Meditations:

Meditations for the Nine Days


 

[1] In Proverbs 18:21, the word “power” is b’yad in Hebrew. This means, “in the hand.” – Death and life are in the power (hand) of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. The tongue functions like a hand that can cut, thrust, slice, jab, strangle or reach out and help or even save.

[2] For example, see: Gal 1:13, Eph 4:22, 1Ti 4:12, Heb 13:7, Jas 3:13, 1Pe 1:15, 1Pe 1:18, 1Pe 2:12, 1Pe 3:1-2, 1Pe 3:16, 2Pe 2:7, 2Pe 3:11.

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