A Bit of Honey Anyone?
For some of us growing up maybe with the color of our skin somewhat different than those around us or our eyes had a shape that slanted more than most, we were taught a silly little ditty – sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
But those of us on the receiving end of those words knew better, that the little incantation against the pain was really meaningless. Words could and did sting and worse than those sticks and stones, the sting from words did not fade away into a yellowish bruise but sometimes could last days and weeks at a time.
That words, and more broadly language, are powerful, if not defining, should not be underestimated – particularly for those who profess Christ as Lord. As noted by missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, to learn about a culture, first learn its language.
For believers the beginning of the book of Genesis should be sufficient to dispel any notion that words are not indeed formative. As God created, He did not simply will into being Heaven and earth, he did not merely wave His mighty hand to separate the land from the water or create the Sun and the Moon. The text informs us God spoke. “Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light.” (Gen 1:3), “And God said, Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters… And it was so.” (Gen 1:6) and so on for each of the six days of creation. A key verse reads “And God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… So God created humankind in his image.” (Gen1:26-27). This verse informs us that we likewise have the power of formation through our use of language (more on those thoughts for another day).
God informs Jeremiah, in 15:19, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.” (ESV). Reading this verse in the context of the Genesis story tells us that God was not merely advising Jeremiah that he would be God’s prophet, but that the words he could use would have a power beyond his understanding.
I’m not suggesting we engage in “Godspeak” as such language seems, to me, to be some of the worst kinds of worthless words. But we can check our words; actually we are in need to check our words. James 3:5-6, “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (The Message)
We must be in prayer, and we must be in process of formation of an attitude, a way of living, which allows us to speak with grace, not anger, for our words will create, if not life then huge walls.
Is anyone hungry? In a remarkable vision, the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel was told to eat a very particular item. In the 3rd chapter of his text, we read: ” 1The LORD said, “Ezekiel, son of man, after you eat this scroll, go speak to the people of Israel.” 2-3 He handed me the scroll and said, “Eat this and fill up on it.” So I ate the scroll,and it tasted sweet as honey.” (CEV)
Maybe we are in need to not only hear the Word, but taking it in to form us and emerge from us as words from His mouth. To do all of this also presumes we be in community, does it not? Words without community likewise seem to be worthless.
What do you think?
Be blessed and be a blessing.