It is possible to read though any of these chapters from Proverbs looking for a theme or subject and then to develop that subject into a study – all within that particular chapter. Because these are usually only an accumulation of statements we can’t necessarily create an orderly outline, but together they do provide some useful instruction. Last week we gleaned from this chapter several related points about good foundations and solid roots. We could probably pursue the same subjects in other chapters, but we probably won’t. And we could follow tonight’s theme over and over again in other chapters, but again, we probably won’t. Most of these proverbs speak for themselves, so once we have our hearts attuned to the right spiritual frequency, we can hear what is being said without any necessary amplification from my lips.
And it is lips that I’d like you to hear tonight. There are seven verses in this chapter which speak of words and tongues. All but one of them compare the lips of the wicked to those of the righteous. Together, they reveal that we can judge the heart of the speaker by analyzing his words. And thus we have a standard by which to judge our own communication and to set as our own goal.
Our first two verses tell us that our words can either ENTRAP or DELIVER us.
Verse 13 – “The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.” Verse 6 – “The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.”
A few weeks ago one of my internet preacher acquaintances humbly declared to me that he has not read a secular book since early in his ministry. I confess to being one of those backslidden preachers who reads an eclectic variety of things. My most recent book was by John Grisham about catching a corrupt judge. After the investigators gathered enough evidence, they applied to a federal judge for permission to record the telephone conversations of the bad guys. What the investigators heard was enough to round up a gang of evil-doers and to bring them to justice.
A lot of Americans, especially Christians and evil-doers, hate that law enforcement can listen to our private conversations. But those people, especially the Christians, need to remember three things: First, they should never, in the first place, be saying things which are not true or which are criminal. Second, with or without FBI surveillance their EVERY word is ALWAYS being heard – by the omniscient God, who we assume is their Saviour, if they are truly Christians as they profess to be. And third, God will hold us all responsible for all the words we speak. There is a sense in which they will be produced at our trial before the Bema – Christ’s judgment seat.
And “the wicked (will be) snared by the transgression of his lips.” There is no more condemning testimony at trial than the accused’s own words. And it was the Lord Jesus who told us, “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” That conversation in the car as you go home from church will come up before the judgment seat. That pillow talk just before you fall off to sleep has been heard and recorded by the all-knowing God. And that off-colored joke has been heard by God as well. Every idle word has been heard.
“The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble…. and the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.” Not only is good conversation sweet in the ears of the Lord, it is often a personal blessing in our day-to-day lives. And “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,” supplying comfort or encouragement to a neighbor in need. It may be quoted back to us some day when we stand in need of it.
Verse 14 adds, “a man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth:” We use the word “satisfy” a number of different ways. Sometimes it means “to be pleased with” something. “Is that your final answer?” “Yes, I am satisfied with my answer.” But Webster’s first definition is different – “to gratify wants, wishes or desire to the full extent.” That comes closer to the meaning of the Hebrew word. It is most often translated “to satisfy” as in this verse, but the next two renditions are “to fill,” and “to make full.” It is even translated “to satiate.” Solomon was saying, “A man shall be (made full) with good by the fruit of his mouth:” Is your vocabulary health or harmful?
Verse 18 reminds us that our words can ENHANCE HEALTH or deliver FATAL wounds.
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” Canadian William Osler was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Medical School. He was traveling through southern Wyoming when the stage coach driver stopped to permit his passengers to drink from a pool of water by the side of the road. When Dr. Osler saw what was happening he tried to intervene and to pour a white powder into water. He was immediately arrested, charged with trying to poison the people on the stage, and then he was dropped into the jail in Douglas, Wyoming. The son of an old family acquaintance from Montreal happened to live nearby. When he heard that Dr. Osler was in the county jail, he came to his rescue. Together they convinced the county judge that the pool was filled with stagnant, poisonous water and the powder would purify it enough to make it drinkable. What those passengers ingested could either make them sick or make them well. And similarly, words can be poisons or medicines – or they can be benign and useless. We have a choice in what we put into the drinking water of our neighbors. “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.”
Also, we have a choice in speaking idle, useless, temporary words, or sentences which last into eternity. And the tongue which speaks those words will often have the same nature as the words themselves. Verse 19 – “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” Do you remember those old television shows we watched when we were kids. The young man had a choice to be make, so he went to his grandfather to ask for advice. How many times did we hear something like, “Well, as my old grandpappy used to say…..” I suppose that no Christian wants to live forever in this world as it exists today. We are all like the ripples in the lake after the stone is tossed in – we create a stir for a little while and then there is nothing left. But if we should become as wise as our “old grandpappy” speaking words of wisdom based on the Word of the Lord, our ripples may reverberate around that lake for a long time. And the Lord who hears all things will reward that Christian for his godly advice.
Verse 14 – “A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth:” Not only will the wicked man be made eternally bloated with the wicked words he has spoken. The righteous man will be full – he will be satisfied and satiated with his words as well.
Verse 17 – “He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.”
Given enough time, even in this world of confusion and deceit, our vocabulary will eventually expose the true nature of our heart. The speech of the righteous will be primarily righteous in nature. But the words of the wicked reveal a heart of deceit – or worse. For example, what do words of blasphemy suggest about the heart of the speaker? Sadly, I have heard such words flowing from the lips of members of this church. Perhaps they were spoken in haste – or designed to impress another worldly person. But they are unworthy of a Christian; they are worthy of divine censorship. “The LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
Of course, this is no excuse, but “the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” We shouldn’t have to stop and analyze the words which are about to utter – “Is this Christian language.” Rather, the righteousness of Christ in our hearts should simply pour out every time we speak.
Why is this subject so important? Isn’t it obvious?
Verse 22 – “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” Wicked lips and evil words are abhorred by the holy God – our God and our Saviour. They that humbly speak the truth are Jehovah’s delight. Shouldn’t it be our goal in life as Christians to please the Lord with every part of our lives? If that is the case then we must be as careful with our words as we are with our deeds.