Have you ever had one of those moments when you just knew that God was speaking to you and that you had better listen? Recently I woke up with a jolt at 3:15 AM, and knew that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” James 1:26. “Vain, Lord? Please show me. Lord, please speak to me.”, I responded.
That’s a very dangerous prayer–unless you mean it–, for that is a prayer that God loves and longs to answer, and truth is often painful. God did speak and it was painful as He put His all-knowing finger on my lips! But (and I hope that you can say you have experienced this) when the Lord puts His finger on sin and seeks to take some wicked thing from our hearts, it is because He loves us. He has something far better.
I think before I go any further with my story it behooves us to understand what the Lord means when He speaks of bridling the tongue, and what it is that constitutes having an unbridled or wicked tongue. We need also to look at the consequences of an “unbridled tongue”, as well as the rewards for allowing the Lord to purify our tongues.
Psalm 34:11-13 (which is closely mirrored by 1 Peter 3:10-12) is very full of instruction. I find verse 11 fascinating; “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” That reminds me of the first angel’s message of Revelation 14, where we are told to “Fear God, and give glory to Him…” Here in Psalm 34, the Lord is about to tell us what it means to fear God, and verse 12 follows to ask who it is that desires long life. Verse 13 answers with instruction as to how this is possible, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.”
What is guile? What constitutes an evil tongue? Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines guile as “Craft; cunning; artifice; duplicity; deceit; usually in a bad sense.” Evil is defined as “Having bad qualities of a natural kind; mischievous; having qualities which tend to injury, or to produce mischief.” According to this, anything that is not clearly straightforward is guile; anything that would produce injury or mischief is evil. Is it coming closer to home?
Zephaniah 3:13 speaks thus of those who will be numbered among the final generation: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful (tending to mislead) tongue be found in their mouth…” Revelation 14:5 states that “in their mouth was found no guile: FOR they are without fault before the throne of God.” That word FOR is very telling, as we will see later.
It is clear that the Lord places an extremely high value upon having “no guile”, and that He takes quite seriously the misuse of the talent of speech. Jesus stated in Matthew 12:36-37 “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. ” Every word? Give account?? So what does He mean by idle? What does it mean to bridle-or unbridle- the words, as James 3:2, 3 says? “…If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.”
Having grown up breaking and training horses on our family farm, the analogy of bridling is very familiar to me. I’ve had more than a few incidences with an “unbridled” horse, and it isn’t pretty. It is frustrating to have a horse or mule choose to “take the bit”, “harden the mouth”, and refuse to obey. It’s more than frustrating, it’s dangerous, and I know your imagination can fill in the blanks. And we can be just as dangerous to the cause of Christ if we choose to “take the bit” and say whatever comes to mind. One thing I learned though is that, if you can get into the head of a horse and connect with him, obedience can be gained without a bit. And that is just what Jesus came to accomplish in our hearts.
I found some interesting passages in the Spirit of Prophecy that will help to clarify what God means by “guile”, and “corrupt communication”, and “idle words”. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart before you read any further.
“We are counseled to let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth; but a corrupt communication is not simply something that is vile and vulgar. It is any communication that will eclipse from the mind the view of Christ, that will blot from the soul true sympathy and love. It is a communication in which the love of Christ is not expressed, but rather sentiments of an un-Christlike character.” Volume 6 Bible Commentary, page 1117
“Not one word is to be spoken unadvisedly. No evil speaking, no frivolous talk, no fretful repining or impure suggestion, will escape the lips of him who is following Christ. The apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” Ephesians 4:29. A corrupt communication does not mean only words that are vile. It means any expression contrary to holy principles and pure and undefiled religion. It includes impure hints and covert insinuations of evil. Unless instantly resisted, these lead to great sin.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 337
“A man’s character may be quite accurately estimated by the nature of his conversation. . . . Those who jest and joke and indulge in cheap conversation place themselves upon a level where Satan can gain access to them. . . . When you associate together, you may be a help and a blessing one to another if you surround yourselves with an influence that is divine. But there are those who have grave defects, which are gaining a deeper hold upon them and which if not overcome will drive the Spirit of God out of the heart. . . . Jesting and joking may please a class of cheap minds, and yet the influence of this kind of conduct is destructive to spirituality. I speak to you as a class and also as individuals: Guard your words. Let sobriety and sound common sense characterize your conversation. Do not trifle with the purity and nobility of your souls by condescending to indulgence in stale jokes, and in cultivating habits of trifling conversation.” Our High Calling, page 292
“In speaking foolish words, you have dishonored the name of Christ; for you have misrepresented Him in character. No word of guile was found in His lips, no word of prevarication or falsehood.” Our High Calling, page 292.
In Luke 6:45, Jesus said that, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” He also taught that it is what comes out of a man that defiles. Matthew 15:18. It is what the mind dwells on that the mouth expounds upon! “Let this mind be in you which, was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
Back now to our passage in Revelation 14:5, “And in their mouth was found no guile: FOR they are without fault before the throne of God.” FOR they are without fault! In order for our words to be pure, the fountain must be pure. What are we THINKING? Do you struggle with guile, repining, corrupt communications, jesting and joking, or evil speech? Then the thoughts, the heart, have become corrupted. The fountain must be once again purified.
I got up at 3:15 to pray that morning. I prayed for the Lord to cleanse me from what I do and don’t see in my heart. Lately I’ve looked at and talked more of my “unfavorable circumstances” than choosing to dwell upon the goodness of God and His blessings to me. Yeah, pray for me! But does this sound familiar? My speech is not always that which will point others to the lovely Jesus. Does THIS sound familiar? We need to pray. Join me on your knees. I want to be one of whom Jesus can truly say, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” As I learned to “get in the heads” of my horses in order to gain cooperation, only on a much higher plain, Jesus wants to “get in our heads” by dwelling in our hearts. Then we will no longer misrepresent Him, our Example; then there will be…no more guile!