August 4, 2019
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying—A picture is worth a thousand words. In a lot of ways, that’s the Prov.’s perfectly. It’s loaded with vivid pictures that help drive home the point and really stick with you, because these images, they lodge in our minds. Here’s a few of my favorites….
- Gracious words are like honey for the soul; envy is such a destructive emotion it’ll make your bones to rot; strong drink is like a poisonous serpent that bites/stings; a beautiful woman with NO discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s filthy nose; the sluggard is so lazy he buries his hand in the dessert bowl and won’t even bother to bring it back to his mouth; a foolish person who keeps repeating his mistakes is like a dog that keeps coming back to lick its vomit. These are some memorable images aren’t they?
As we look at Words that Help from the Prov.’s, there’s one that really stands out in 15:4—A gentle/healing tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. It’s that first part that’s interesting to me. Where have you heard of a Tree of Life before? Several comm.’s say t this Tree of Life image goes back to the Garden of Eden, Gen. 2:9, before our fall into sin.
- In Gen. 2:9, there are two trees that are planted by God in the center of the garden, both of which are central to the life of blessing/shalom that God designed for His world. While A&E were forbidden to eat from the other tree (knowledge of good/evil), there was no prohibition against eating from this Tree of Life. In fact, eating from its fruit, one comm. said, would result in continued life.
- Why choose this image for the tongue? Why compare to this tree in the Garden BEFORE the Fall? I can’t help but wonder if this image was chosen to point us back to the purpose of words/speech before sin ravaged our world? Think of it — God created a man/woman and place them in the Garden where He could commune with them in intimate fellowship. A central component of that relationship before our fall into sin was the loving/life-giving use of words!
- IOW, there was a time when our native language was only helping words and never hurting words. Our tongues were used for good and not for evil. They were fountains of life and trees of life, designed to nourish/bless; to encourage and promote peace. And after Gen. 3, almost as if we have forgotten our native tongue… Prov. Takes us into the classroom to relearn how to speak a language we once fluently enjoyed…. Last week we talked about words that hurt; this week, we’ll see what Prov. Has to say about words that help. This week, we’ve got 5 sub-categories on words that help.
1. Nourishing Words, 10:11a, The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, 10:21a, The lips of the righteous feed many. 15:4a, A gentle tongue is a tree of life.
- The word ‘nourish’ has the idea of a shepherd who feeds and cares for his sheep. In Psalm 23, God is pictured as a shepherd who leads us to green pastures/quiet waters and restores our souls. All that the Shepherd does is for the good of the sheep, not himself.
- If you notice, all the Proverbs that speak of nourishing words are aimed at refreshing/feeding/caring for OTHERS—not ourselves. Nourishing words help because they seek the good/benefit of others. Think about how contrary that is to the way the world would have us use our mouths? Look throughout the NT, and you see this constant refrain of God calling His church to speak words of life/nourishment to one another. Welcome/Pray/Encourage/Bless one another. IOW, be life-giving fountains to one another with your words for the building up of the other person.
- One of my favorite books growing up was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Almost wanna cry every time I see that last picture where the old man comes back to his favorite tree—now chopped down to an old stump—and he’s sitting on it having a rest. The Tree gives everything its got to this boy (literally) because it loves the boy and wants what’s best for him. It became a literal Tree of Life. Our words can do the same thing in the lives of those around us. Words that help are nourishing words.
2. Honest Words, 14:5, a faithful witness does not lie, 14:25, A truthful witness saves lives, 24:26, Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.
- I was talking to a friend of mine who’s planting a church with his best friend. He told me the whole reason he launched into this church-planting adventure with this particular guy is because of his faithful/true character. He’s a faithful/reliable witness, his word is gold. When he speaks, he shoots straight.
- In fact, the word honest in the Hebrew is a geometric term meaning “straight ahead.” An honest/reliable witness takes the straightest path to the Truth. They don’t deal in distorted answers and shady angles—geometrically speaking, they speak in straight lines.
- Go look at the number of lies, half-truths, and distorted answers you find after Gen. 3!
- 14:5 and 14:25 both envision a witness in a court of law. Waltke—When tested, a reliable witness is [not] moved by entreaties, bribes, or promises, nor by threats to swerve from the truth. What a blessing to have someone like that in your life! Verse 25 even says lives are saved when the truth is spoken.
- 24:26 is a powerful image, says that an honest answer kisses the lips. This is a picture of devotion/loyalty between two people; if you don’t have honesty, you won’t have devotion or loyalty. If you don’t have devotion or loyalty, there won’t be no kissing either! Honest words help to build up devotion/loyalty in relationships.
- The Bible teaches that our God is a God of Truth; His Word is Truth. Therefore, if we belong to Him, if His blood has cleansed us of our sin, then our words and character ought to be like His—faithful, reliable, and honest. 1 John 2:6—whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. Ought to be people who speak in straight lines like Jesus.
3. Carefully Chosen, 15:23, To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! 25:11, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. 25:15, With patience a ruler may be persuaded. Sometimes its not WHAT we said, but HOW we said it and WHEN we said it that gets us in trouble, right?
- I think of Esther, the Jewish woman who wound up in the favor of the Persian King. When she found out Haman was plotting to exterminate her people, she waited 3 days, called for a fast, and prepared a feast on the third day so she could speak to the King. After everyone had eaten, she asked the King and Haman to come to another fast on the next day. Esther 5:9 tells us Haman left out of there fat and happy that he was going back tomorrow for another feast with the King and Queen. But the next day, when everything was just right, Esther revealed Haman’s evil plan to exterminate the Jews. And he wound up on the gallows he’d made for Esther’s Jewish uncle Mordecai. Carefully chosen words are helpful words.
- 15:23 calls it a word ‘in season.’ I like to hunt. In about a month, hunting season will be coming in down around my parents house. If I go out and kill the state record buck right now, I would be killing it OUT OF SEASON. I’d get my name on the judge’s docket. But if I get him IN SEASON, then my name goes in the record books! Timing is everything!
- This is so true when it comes to our choosing our words. 25:11-12 says that speaking up at the right time is like a beautiful decorative ornament! *It’s like a beautiful family heirloom—ADDS beauty/value to the room. Even words of correction can ADD to a situation if we choose our words carefully.
- Akin gives a really helpful little formula for choosing our words carefully so that they help. When it is the RIGHT WORD—FROM the right person—IN the right way—AT the right time—TO the right person… Wisdom teaches us that there is a right WAY and a right TIME to speak up.
4. Rebuke/Restore, 25:12, Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. 28:23, Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.
- This one’s tricky cause I’m sure nobody woke up this morning and thought, “Man, I really hope somebody rebukes me today!” We don’t really like to be called out, but the Scripture teaches that there’s great benefit in a loving/gracious/biblical rebuke.
- 25:12 suggests there’s even an ART to biblical rebuke. The person who finely crafts his words is like a jeweler who finely crafts a golden ornament.
- 28:23 talks about the long-term value of a gracious rebuke. Apollos in the book of Acts is a great example! There you have a brother who is a gifted communicator of Truth; but apparently he was a little off on some of his theology perhaps. So Aquila/Priscilla throw eggs/rotten cabbages at him while he’s preaching to shut him up, right? Did they take cheap shots at him on FaceBook? No—Acts 18 says they pulled him aside privately and explained the way of God more accurately. And v. 27 says he was a great help to the believers afterward. The gospel went forward in power because they were the right people, with the right word, right way, right time.
- Biblically speaking, what is the purpose of a lovingly/graciously rebuke? Doesn’t Jesus say in Matt. 18 that it’s to GAIN your brother? To restore them?
- Think of how the Gospel came to you, when you heard how your sin had offended a holy God and how you were condemned to face His just wrath in Hell? Did the gospel rebuke you? Did you like it at first? Absolutely not! But the gospel has to offend us if we want Jesus to defend us! We recoil at being told we’re wrong; but what’s the end result of a man who responds to the loving rebuke of the Gospel of Christ? Is he not restored to a right relationship with His Heavenly Father? Hasn’t the gospel helped him by rebuking him and pointing him to Christ? Remember—a biblical rebuke is helpful because it aims to restore.
5. Words that encourage, 12:25, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. The Hebrew lit. means to bow down like a prisoner before your captor. If you’ve wrestled with anxiety in your life, you know how that’s how it feels! It can be crippling, can’t it? Spurgeon—“I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.” As prolific of a preacher and pastor as he was, he struggled mightily with depression throughout this ministry. Paul says in 2 Cor. 1 that God comforts us so that we can comfort others who are hurting/afflicted.
- **A little boy and his dad who were walking along the beach together when they stumbled upon hundreds of starfish that had been washed up on the shore. They were dying, being out of the water, so the father and the little boy started picking them up and throwing them back in the water. After a bit, the little boy stopped and looked around at the hundreds of starfish still on the sand, and he said, “Daddy’s there’s just too many for us. It doesn’t matter that we’re throwing a few back here/there.” The daddy looked back at his son and said, “It matters to the ones we picked up.”
- You see folks every day who are washed up on the beach and drying out. You’re married to them; you live with them, work with them, work out with them, and order your sandwich/coke from them at lunch. Your words can be like precious gifts that make their hearts glad
**A number of years ago, the students in our college ministry began giving what they call ‘Word Gifts.’ At the year-end picnic, we have our seniors come up to be recognized and have one of their friends give them a word gift. I want to anonymously share 2 of those with you…
You have been one of the biggest blessings of my time at App, and I can honestly say that I am a better friend, sister, and daughter because of you…. From the beginning of our friendship, you have affirmed qualities that I either didn’t see in myself or thought that no one noticed. You have made me feel seen and loved… You affirmed the growth in me that most people wouldn’t think was a big deal, because you understood me in a way that few people do.
You are a safe space for people and you make them feel heard. After the most difficult conversation of my life to date, I drove literally sobbing to your house. In one of my most vulnerable moments, I knew I could trust you with my tears. That afternoon, a burden that I had carried for a long time reached a breaking point, and that day you shouldered it with me. You affirmed that what I was going through was hard, and that you were proud of me. You listened to me while I cried and shared a real mess of a situation. And you spoke the truth in love and prayed over me and the entire situation. That day especially has made me a better sister, a better friend, and a better daughter. You and your friendship have been a literal gift from the Lord, and I am immensely grateful for you. So from the very bottom of my heart, thank you. I love you.
*Dear friend*, you have had a profound impact on my college experience and who I am today. You’ve modeled for me and so many others what it looks like to love others, to welcome, to be vulnerable, to have empathy for everyone- even those you’ve never met. I think that your ability to empathize with others is a unique, God-given ability: you listen closely, you acknowledge the hardship, you affirm the feelings, you speak the truth in love and you encourage… Well now I want to encourage you, and thank you for being there for me… You are clearly God’s handiwork, and I can’t wait to see the good works he has destined for you to do.
Prov. 18:21—Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Our native language back in the Garden used to be words of life; but death came in and stained our speech. We’ve learned this sinful slang that is NOT how God made us to speak..
- So let’s say you’ve been cold, hard, demanding with your words; maybe you’ve been cutting, sarcastic, or reckless in your speech. Listen, it is NOT hypocritical for to repent and to start speaking words of life/love to people around you. The Bible calls that obedience.
In the seat back in front of you, there should be a couple cards that say ‘Word Gift.’ Here’s challenge for this week—If you have a relationship with Christ, the Living Word who heals, then you have the power to speak words of life that help. Ask God who needs a word gift and give it this week. See what God does…
PRAY to end sermon — Invite elders/deacons down front to serve the Supper…