Silence of the Lambs
Sunday, October 21, 2012
By Pastor James May
James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
One of the smallest parts of the body can create some of the greatest problems we will ever have to deal with. While it has a great purpose; its value is often over-rated; and while it is useful in many ways for the good of all mankind; it is also very often used in a manner that abuses people and causes a lot of pain. That small member of the body is called the tongue.
This tongue, not necessarily the muscle that helps you pronounce words or taste your food, but the words that come forth because of the work that this muscle in your mouth does, can do more damage than any other part of your body.
The power of words spoken by using the tongue has both created and destroyed nations; has brought both blessings and judgment upon all of mankind; and carries the power of life and death. By the tongue men like Hitler have influenced and inflamed the depraved hearts of men and caused the whole world to be caught up in a reign of terror and death. By the tongue, men like Billy Graham have brought forth a message of peace and love; pointing thousands upon thousands to the Cross of Christ. The tongue is a tool that can be used for both good and evil; and sad to say, it is more often used for evil than good.
Among Christians we would think that the tongue is more often used for good but in my experience, this isn’t the case. The only difference that you might see in Christians is that the tongue is used more often to give God honor; but we must be always on guard, because that same tongue that gives honor to God can turn into a tongue that dishonors God in the blink of an eye. Oh that we could learn to control that little member of our body called the tongue, but it’s nearly impossible. How often does our tongue speak words that get us into trouble with both God and man?
James 1:26 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. Now that’s a powerful statement – BUT SO TRUE!
Quite often, the true condition of our heart, and the depth our relationship with Jesus, can be clearly seen in the words we speak and in the manner in which they are spoken. We can claim to love Jesus all we want, but if the words coming out of our mouth are spoken in a manner that offends everyone around us; then where is the love of God in that? We can claim to be as close to God as we want to; but if the words we speak are meant only to build us up in the eyes of others; or to make promises that we know in our hearts that we can’t keep; then those words prove to everyone around us that though our lips give God service; our heart is far from being close to the heart of God.
We can’t speak words to build up our own ego, or to make us appear to be something we are not; and we can’t speak lies and claim to be one with God. God is not a man that he should lie; and God knows that the biggest problem that all of us have is that we more highly of ourselves than we should.
I like the way that James 1:26 says that we should have a bridle on our tongue. A bridle is used to guide that horse in the direction that it should go; and a bridle is used to reign in that horse when it tries to break free and go where it wants to. Oh if only we could get a bridle on our own mouths. If only we could have enough control to stop those words that hurt and injure the hearts of men before they manage to break free from our mouths. If only we could reign in our thoughts before they become words that are spoken forth. But all too often we speak, and then we think; but by then it’s too late to think. The damage has been done. The tongue is Satan’s weapon of choice among both Saint and sinner alike for none of us has full control of our tongue.
James 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
None of us would want to handle a diamond back rattlesnake or a cotton mouthed moccasin, but we don’t think twice about watching the words we speak; and those words carry a venom that is far more poisonous and deadly than any snakebite. We can quench the Spirit in the services with unkind words spoken to other people; words of criticism, discouragement, doubt and fear; words that cause hurt to one another.
Somehow we take upon ourselves to believe that we have the right to tell everybody else just what we think. (We have the Spiritual Gift of Criticism and the Spiritual Gift of Setting the Record Straight) God has placed upon us the Ministry of Reproving, and has “anointed” us with a special ability to prove that others are wrong and that we are right, no matter what the subject matter is. We can’t just let it slide if someone says something or does something that we don’t agree with. We have to make our opinion and our great wisdom known. To do otherwise would be to fail in our service and obedience to that special calling.
“Why so-and-so said that it happened this way, but I know better and I just have to set the record straight. I wouldn’t want them going around spreading gossip without knowing the truth, so I better tell them really what happened.” The question is, “Where did we get our great knowledge from? Was it a revelation from God? Were we there when it happened? Do we really know the facts; or did we get our great wisdom from the gossip of other people to begin with? And even if we do know the truth, and someone else has the story wrong, what real difference would it make if we just kept our mouth shut? Is it going to make much of a difference either way? The problem is that our ego must be stroked and so we must speak out to fix things. It just makes us feel better to know that we have set the record straight! After all, my opinion is the only one that really matters!
I can’t help but believe that the Holy Spirit is grieved when we try to build up our ego through exaggerations; or when we feel like we have to get the upper hand in an argument; or when we feel compelled to tattletale on one another; or when we say things in a manner that sounds like we’re angry.
God is the author of peace and He does all things in order, yet how many times do the words we speak and the manner in which we speak them, bring confusion and division in the House of God.
Words spoken in anger; or words spoken out of turn can drive a wedge in the ministry of the church that will split the church just as surely as a wedge driven by a sledge hammer will split a log. We must careful of what we say, how we sound when we speak, and always be aware that even though people that have been around us for a long time might make allowances for us; what about that new person, that stranger, that new prospective member who is just visiting for the first time? What will they think?
There have been times when I walk through the church and hear people speaking, even sounding as though they were yelling at one another, and if I had been searching for a church, that would have been a clear indicator to me that this would not be the right choice. If the people going here can’t seem to be at peace with one another, I certainly wouldn’t want to get in the middle of their arguments. Let us always speak to one another in love, with compassion, with a peaceful voice and let our words be seasoned with God’s grace.
I’ve tried to mention to a few folks at times that we need to control our tongues a little more, but I always hear the excuse, “Well, that’s the way I am. I can’t do anything about it.” That’s just a cop-out. God can help us to change; to learn to speak rightly. I have a the word of the Lord for you! The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, and the word also says that, “Nothing is impossible to him that will believe”, and the Bible also teaches that when we are Born Again by the Spirit of God that we become a “New Creation in Christ”, and that all things pass away, and all things become new”.
Now, we have no excuse, because Jesus will help us to change. The key is that we must be willing to change and become more like Jesus. But the number one question is, “Have you truly been Born Again?” And if you have, and you still can’t change, are you even trying, or is your heart right with God? If you tell me that you can’t change, then maybe it’s because you need to be Born Again; again! Let me just say that the manner in which you speak, and the words you say, will reveal to the whole world, exactly the kind of person you really are! Your tongue will give away your true nature.
Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Luke 6:45 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.
Here is an excellent opportunity for each of us to examine the words that we speak and then look into the Word of God to see just what manner of person we really are. Are we speaking good things, or things that bring sorrow and pain to the heart of God and man? You be the judge – which one are you? What is the most abundant thing in your heart; the goodness and praise of God and the ability to see the best in others; or the critical spirit and vision that is quick to see the faults of every man?
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Remember, our goal is become more like Jesus. In Acts:8:32, When Philip met the Ethiopian Eunuch on the highway reading the scriptures, what the Ethiopian was reading was this: …He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth…”
No one knew the Truth like Jesus; He is the Truth, the Light and the Way! No one had more authority, more knowledge or more reason to set the record straight than Jesus; He is God in the flesh, made in the likeness of man, humbled from the very Throne of Heaven and now kneeling before the foot of his tormentors. No one had more right to speak his mind, to defend the right, to exalt himself above all men, than Jesus. But he chose to humble himself; take the blame for our wrong; and to allow himself to be hung on a cross and die as an innocent sacrifice for you and me. Yet the Bible says that he was like a lamb, silent before those who persecuted, those who lied, those who exaggerated, those who accused him falsely, those who beat him. He was a silent lamb, taking what was cast upon him, and not speaking a word!
We are compared to Jesus in so many ways. One of those ways is found in Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The very next verse is where the Ethiopian was reading when Philip found him. Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
David wrote in Psalms 44:22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. All through the New Testament, God’s people are referred to as sheep.
I believe what God is looking for is a little more silence among the lambs. God desires that we speak words of encouragement, words of strength, words of exhortation, words of love, compassion, mercy and grace; but certainly not words of anger, bitterness, judgment, condemnation, anger and malice. May God help us to be silent lambs unless the right words are being spoken by our tongue.
One of the most amazing stories in the Bible is found in the Book of Joshua chapter 6. It’s a story that probably every one of our children can tell us. It’s the story of how Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho. There’s something in this story that we should really take note of. We all know that Israel marched around the city one each day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. But what you might not remember is what is written in Joshua 6:10.
Joshua 6:10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
Why would God direct the people to keep silent while they marched? What would it have mattered if they continued to talk while they marched. I believe there is a lesson in their silence for all of us!
First of all, keeping silence meant that even though each of them had their own thoughts as they marched, they had to keep those thoughts to themselves. I can imagine that many of them may have thought, “What good is it doing to march around Jericho. This seems senseless. I’m tired, hungry and thirsty. Why can’t we stop to rest? Why do I have to be at the back of the line? Why can’t I be out front where there isn’t so much dust? Why do the priests have to go first? Why can’t I be one who blows the trumpet? These rocks hurt my feet. It’s too hot out here to be marching in the noon day sun.”
Do you get the point? God said, “Be quiet while you march. I want silence in the ranks.” Why? Because God knows that when we begin to talk, it will spread like wildfire and get out of hand quickly. One person gripes; and everybody joins in. One person complains and murmurs and soon the whole crowd is caught up in it. One person speaks a word of doubt and fear and then doubt and fear spread to everyone. One person can start a riot. One person, speaking the wrong words, could bring absolute defeat upon the whole nation. One person who decides to talk, meant that the Children of Israel would not see the walls of Jericho fall, and would never advance into Canaan and inherit the promise of God to Abraham.
In addition to controlling negative within the camp of Israel that would bring defeat, God also knew that their marching in silence would have a powerful impact upon the defenders of Jericho.
With every trip around the wall, those upon the wall would wonder, “When’s the attack going to come? What’s going on here? What kind of strategy is this? What is the God of Israel up to? What kind of defense can we plan when we don’t understand Israel’s plan of attack?
Israel’s silence added to the gravity and solemn occasion as God prepared Jericho for a miracle. God’s divine presence was at the front, represented in the Ark of the Covenant born upon the shoulders of the priests. When God would speak, and the city of Jericho would fall, it was only fitting that the people would be silent before him until God gave them the signal to shout for victory!
Our day is coming soon when we can shout before the Lord! God is trying to speak; but we often can’t hear him because we are speaking instead of listening. Until that day when we shout the victory, let us learn to control our tongue and speak only that which builds faith and glorifies God. God is calling his lambs to a solemn assembly, a time of prayer and preparation for a move of God that will stagger the imagination and bring a miracle of deliverance for His lambs, while bringing the judgment of God upon his enemies at the same time.
This is our time to march around Jericho; no, not the literal city; but to march around the strongholds of the devil, following the presence of God, and speaking words of faith and praise unto our God.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…
Unless the words we speak bring honor to God, or build the faith of God’s people, or speak forth the words of faith, and deliverance through the preaching of the gospel; unless our words are words of strength and encouragement; unless we speak that which brings ourselves and others into a closer walk with Jesus; then let there be silence among the lambs.
Finally, let me remind you of what Jesus had to say concerning the words we speak:
Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Those words of Jesus are sufficient for me to say that sometimes it would be far better to hear the Silence of the Lambs. Be careful what you speak; and repent of wrong words quickly; for every word will be tried and revealed in the courts of Heaven.
Let our prayer be as the prayer of David in Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my Strength, and my Redeemer.