Power of the Tongue
The biggest troublemaker and the biggest blessing are one in the same. Our tongue is purposed to offer blessing and encouragement to a broken and hate-filled world. Yet, I find myself speaking discouragement and complaints. Just recently I had a confrontation with a co-worker. It did not start off screaming but somehow, we found ourselves so heated and passionate that we were speaking to each other with offense and without understanding. Neither one of us could really believe what had occurred between us. It was uncomfortable and painful for both of us. We were both justified in our minds and our hearts were left hurting.
When fire is used correctly, it is a tremendous blessing. The right temperature of heat can turn an uncooked slice of steak into a delicious meal, seasoned correctly and it will melt in your mouth. When used correctly, fire can heat a home on a cold winter night or provide a campfire for roasting marshmallows when enjoying God’s nature. Fire can also be used as a guide, to see in dark places, such as the use of a torch on a dark night.
Years ago, I served burned victims at a local hospital, in the rehabilitation unit. I had the opportunity to see the destructiveness of fire. Not only was the odor, of burnt flesh, bothersome to my stomach, in addition serving patients on the burn unit, completely changed my view of fire and its productive nature. I got to see the fierceness of fire and the debilitated remains after such a productive outrage. I worked with people who were burned in house fires, or perhaps while working on their job, a lightning strike or a fire started accidentally from equipment they were using. I worked with young and old people who were caught in between a drug exchange or a love triangle that produced such hatred and anger that they set others on fire in attempt to take their lives. I worked with others who were so desperate and discouraged that they tried to take their own lives, only to find themselves in a hospital bed with a completely different appearance. Fire can be so productive that when one experiences a third- or fourth-degree burn, their skin is melted to a point of no return. It is destroyed. Skin is an organ just like our kidneys, when destroyed, a transplant is needed. A skin graft would be required to cover vital organs and underlying structures, such as tendons, muscles, and bone. I have worked with some patients who were burned >90% of their body and experienced more than 40 surgeries in one year just to gain function in their shoulders and hands, to allow them to reach their mouth and eat independently. Fire is often the method of choice for destroying evidence because there is a point of no return, when a paper is burned in a fire, you cannot retrieve it. People who experience burns to their faces are often left unrecognizable depending on the severity of the burns. Often when they look in the mirror and see their bodies, they become depressed and pull away from family and loved ones. The recovery for burned victims is extensive and not everyone survives. They may survive physically, but their soul and spirit are broken and destroyed.
Fire normally translates the Hebrew word esh in the Old Testament and the Greek work pur (the root from which such English terms as “pyromaniac” and “pure” are derived) in the New Testament. Throughout the Old and New Testament, fire functions as a significant theological symbol. It is frequently associated with important concepts such as God’s presence, divine judgment, and purification. In the Old Testament, fire served as the primary means by which God manifested His presence and exercised judgment. Because of the sacrificial system, fire was important in early Israelite worship, when animal sacrifices were offered up to God as a “pleasing aroma.” (Exodus 29:18,25,41) I would like to discuss the beautiful nature of fire symbolized in the scriptures indicating God’s presence and His protective nature. However also display times when God used fire to destroy and to associate the destructive nature of fire, when we use it adversely.
The first time God appeared to a human in Scripture, we learn in Genesis 15:17, that He assumed the form of “a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp”; in the same day He made a covenant with Abram. He also appeared to Moses as a fiery bush when He first revealed His covenant name, in Exodus 3:2, and He spoke from the midst of a fire on top of Mount Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, as referenced in Exodus 19:8. God also led the Israelites through the desert by means of a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, as we learn in Deuteronomy 1:32,33.
An angelic army of flaming horses and chariots surrounded the Prophet Elisha when the king of Aram tried to attack him (2 Kings 6:17). And in Zechariah chapter two, we learn what he foresaw of the future of Jerusalem, that God, Himself, would be “a wall of fire” around her as protection.
In Genesis 19:24, we see the first example that “the Lord rained” fire out of heaven to judge and destroy wickedness in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut 29:23). And the same supernatural fire fell from heaven and consumed the soldiers whom Ahaziah had sent to seize Elijah the prophet (2 Kings 1:2).
We can learn so much from the purpose of fire in the Old and New Testament but let us remember this power of fire is just as relevant today. The Holy Spirit is still that same fire burning inside of us. We can use that Holy Ghost fire to light a soul to repentance or spark a flame that had gone out years ago. We can encourage someone to return to the Lord or we can utter words of destruction and death to kill a life who receives the judgment of our words. How power is our tongue. “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones,” Proverbs 16:24. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but the grievous words stir up anger,” Proverbs 15:1. How absolutely beautiful and productive our words can be. Yet how horrifically destructive can words such as “I hate you” kill one’s spirit and soul, that even after forgiveness has occurred, one is still affected by the feelings of rejection.
May we allow God to transform our lips and the words we utter. Our tongues cannot be tamed in our own strength, but the fiery Holy Spirit can transform our entire lives to change our tongue and the words we utter. “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding,” Prov 17:28. May we slow down enough to allow God to transform us. May we spend time in His presence to grant Him the access to transform our lives. May He heighten our awareness of the words we speak, to ensure we are walking in His Light and transforming grace.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”
“A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
The Holy Bible, King James Version; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible