Joe Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls and Overcoming Bipolar Disorder: A Christian Perspective
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First Corinthians 10:11 clearly tells us that events that happened to people under the Old Covenant were historical lessons with a spiritual meaning for New Covenant people:
11Â These things happened to them as examplesÂ and were written down as warnings for us,Â on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
In other words, weâ€™re supposed to glean valuable insights from what happened to them. This is especially true of spiritual warfare. One particular often overlooked lesson is found in Psalm 64 where the enemy shoots arrows at Godâ€™s people, but God retaliates with His own arrow. Generally, many of the spiritual warfare lessons learned from the Old Testament were physical wars from which we could gain spiritual strategies. But note in this Psalm the warfare is about words as weapons:
Words as Weapons64Â Hear my voice, O God, in myÂ [a]meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
2Â Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
3Â Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bendÂ their bows to shootÂ their arrowsâ€”bitter words,
4Â That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.
5Â They encourage themselvesÂ inÂ an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, â€œWho will see them?â€
6Â They devise iniquities:
â€œWe have perfected a shrewd scheme.â€
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep.
7Â But God shall shoot at themÂ withÂ an arrow;
Suddenly they shall be wounded.
8Â So He will make them stumble over their own tongue;
All who see them shall flee away.
9Â All men shall fear,
And shallÂ declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider His doing.
10Â The righteous shall be glad in theÂ Lord, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.
The often quoted â€œLife and death are in the power of the tongueâ€ from Proverbs 18:21 is particularly noteworthy in this passage. Letâ€™s examine.
Verses 1-6 David prays for protection from the FEAR of the enemy including the secret plots of the wicked. This could be demons or people inspired by demons. He tacks on the rebellious, which work iniquity against the people of God. They â€œsharpen their TONGUE like a sword.â€ I recall many situations in which I felt anotherâ€™s words cutting me like a sword. Next David says they bend their bows to shoot their arrows â€“ BITTER WORDS. Have you encountered people who are bitter? Their words sting like a serpent! Hebrews 12:15 says through their bitterroot words and attitudes many are â€œdefiled.â€ One of the Greek translations for this word is contaminated. This has grave implications for those who are around these people. We need protection!
Many years ago, I was supervising a group of people. One of them spoke evil behind my back. I could actually â€œfeelâ€ these words. I said to God, â€œThis woman is hurting me!â€ His response was, â€œIâ€™m a shield against that!â€ I said, â€œHow so?â€ The next day He showed me the following verse:
In thesecretplace of Your presence You hide them from the plotsÂ andÂ conspiracies of man. You keep them secretly in a shelter (pavilion) from the strife of tongues (Psa. 31:20 Amp).
Benefits in the Secret Place are Conditional!Where is that secret place of protection? Itâ€™s abiding in prayer in the presence of God. Oswald Chambers puts it this way:
â€œJesus did not say, â€œDream about your Father who is in the secret place,â€ but He said, â€œâ€¦prayÂ to your Father who is in the secret placeâ€¦.â€ Prayer is an effort of the will. After we have entered our secret place and shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray. We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer.â€
When you pray, go into your (inner) room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. â€”Matthew 6:6
On the humorous side of this issue, when my elder son, now 35, was perhaps 10 years old, I opened the bathroom closet to throw away a dirty towel. There in the middle of that pile of stinky towels was my son.
I said, â€œSon, what in the world are you doing in there?â€
He said, without pause, â€œIâ€™m in the secret place!â€
Incidentally, he still abides in the secret place every morning, but I think heâ€™s not in there with the dirty towels!
Another benefit in the secret place is getting deeper understanding from God:
The secret [of the wise counsel] of theÂ LordÂ is for those who fear Him,And He will let them know His covenantÂ andÂ reveal to them [through His word] its [deep, inner] meaning (Psalm 25:14(AMP).
Many Christians repeat Isaiah 54:17, saying, â€œNo weapon that formed against you shall prosper.â€ Unfortunately they leave out one of the best parts:
No weapon formed against you shallÂ prosper,
And every tongueÂ whichÂ rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
ThisÂ isÂ the heritage of the servants of theÂ Lord,
And their righteousnessÂ isÂ from Me,â€
Says theÂ Lord.
The weapon referred to here is EVERY TONGUE that judges you. Our side is that we are given the privilege of condemning unjustifiable condemnation! In other words, God says we may condemn accusing words (not people) directed at us!
Note, too, and on the contrary, the wicked people strategize in secret, thinking no one will find them out. In the realm of the spirit, demons take these evil words and use them against the righteous unbeknownst to them.
Verses 7-10 the retaliation begins. God shoots His ARROW. Father God doesnâ€™t need arrows (plural) just AN arrow. This is one of Godâ€™s â€œsuddenlies.â€ When God shoots His Arrow, itâ€™s â€œKatie barred the doorâ€ for the wicked. They are â€œwounded.â€ Often in the Old Testament God would turn the enemies of Israel against themselves. He would send confusion in their midst so they actually fought against each other! In verse 8 David writes that God will make them stumble over their own tongue. Father God obviously sets traps for those who devise evil with their tongues.
Evil Tongues in Todayâ€™s Culture
With the advent of the internet, knowledge is transferred far and wide. What a blessing this can be! Yet so much social media is used to destroy others with mouths full of hate, spite and destruction. Nothing has changed since James, the Brother of Jesus, penned these words:
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you canâ€™t tame a tongueâ€”itâ€™s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! (James 3:5-10 The Message)
To change the atmosphere, the tongue must be tamed! But, according to James, it canâ€™t be done. I hasten to add — by mankind. God can change the way we speak, not only to others but also to ourselves. Much self-talk is full of condemnation and self-criticism.
Our warfare, in essence, is about words we hear, receive and give to others. Demons enter into the atmosphere as we speak cruel words of hate, belittlement, slander, and unrighteous judgment. On the contrary, God is pleased when we use words that are the opposite â€“ love, kindness, and praise. Paul expressed it in Colossians 4:5-6 (NAS):
5Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.Â 6Let your speech always be with grace,Â as thoughÂ seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.