TODAY’S READING: Psalm 120, 140–141
God has primarily committed the communication of His truth to preaching. Not preaching in the sense of someone standing in church behind a pulpit, but in the sense of all God’s people in all places through all mediums among all nations clearly verbalizing and explaining all the gospel. An essential reason for this commitment to the “foolishness message preached” is to make sure the locus of attention and glory is on God, not on projects, personalities, people, or programs. Because of this reality there is a furious war over words, and tongues are lifted in acrimonious strife, accusation, confusion, distraction, and distortion globally. In every nation and in every false religion there is a cacophony of distorted truth, lies, veiling, mocking, twisting, suppression, and oppression of words of life and beauty.
The psalms in today’s reading relate to the season in which Saul maligned David, supposed friends betrayed him, and real friends had to say things that hurt. In that distress David cried out to the Lord and said, “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue” (Psalm 120:2). He became even more specific saying, “Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar” (v. 5)! Meshech is thought to be central Turkey and the tents of Kedar refer to Arabia. Perhaps David fled to those places. Perhaps on the run from Israeli lies he hid out among the Hittites (who came from Turkey) and the sons of Kedar (from Arabia), and their evil speech gave him no rest. It’s not clear if David needed sanctuary from the tongues of others or his own. My guess, it was probably both, for we damage as much with our tongues as we help, we hurt as much as we heal. We, too, need to deliverance from our own lying lips and our own deceitful tongue. This is why David prayed, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (141:3). It’s been said that Christians are both the best and the worst representatives of Christ. Our mouths bring Him much glory, and just as often they bring much shame. As faithful channels of our hearts, they reveal what is ugly within us to the world.
Public tongues in our home cultures are increasingly combative, perverse, self-centered, deceitful, and poisonous. The rhetoric in the nations of the earth is increasingly partisan, tribal, defensive, and fearful. We do spiritual battle for the King among all the nations of the world, equipped with our main weapon of preaching (verbal explanation of the gospel in various forms), yet every vile word known to man fill the airwaves. The noise of the battle of words is so great it’s nearly impossible to get a fair hearing, even if we’ve overcome the internal vice of a bifurcated heart which funnels mixed messages from our mouth. I think perhaps this is why David prayed: “[Cover] my head in the day of battle… Let the evil of their lips cover them” (140:7, 9). Spiritual warfare is perhaps not so much about casting demons from those writhing at our feet (though that happens and is indeed part of the battle), but it is more about what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians in his coming to Corinth to verbally correct errors in the church and to do spiritual war. He says that in this fight “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5 NASB).
The battle for the heart, soul, and heads of the Fulani in Cameroon is not the battle of clashing swords or flung spears. It is the battle of words, truths, ideas, and concepts of sin and salvation. This is why we need the practical skill of speaking the heart language and the spiritual skill of covering our head with every thought captive. We need God to protect our minds if He will be able to trust our tongues. There is a vicious war for the glory of God being waged, and it is a war of words. Christians and missionaries have a stewardship duty to sharpen their weapons, to practice with them, and to use them wisely. We will be held accountable for every idle word. As our words are so precious, as we have a finite number of them to spend, let us commit them all to the King and His gospel. Because the air is so polluted, let our words be few and focused, pure and piercing, prophetic and loving, anointed and fearless. Let us lift those voices in the cities and cry them out in wilderness. Let’s shout out warning and prepare the way of the Lord among every people group on earth.