Daily Archives: March 8, 2010

Tongue Swords

Psalm 64:1-10 (ESV)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;

preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

[2] Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,

from the throng of evildoers,

[3] who whet their tongues like swords,

who aim bitter words like arrows,

[4] shooting from ambush at the blameless,

shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

[5] They hold fast to their evil purpose;

they talk of laying snares secretly,

thinking, who can see them?

[6] They search out injustice,

saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”

For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep!

[7] But God shoots his arrow at them;

they are wounded suddenly.

[8] They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;

all who see them will wag their heads.

[9] Then all mankind fears;

they tell what God has brought about

and ponder what he has done.

[10] Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord

and take refuge in him!

Let all the upright in heart exult!

David’s life was very hard. As a young man he had to deal with the murderous jealousy of King Saul and the consequent life of an outlaw (he always reminds me of Robin Hood). His family life was always a mess. His own son would have killed him. He fell into adultery and endured the consequences of his sin. He was refused permission to do, what for him would have been the most significant thing of his life, build a temple for God. He had enemies everywhere, he was surrounded by schemers and power brokers and traitors. He was constantly at war.

He wrote a lot of his feelings, his faith, his complaints in poems and songs that God inspired and preserved into what we now call the Psalms. Besides being marvelous songs of praise to a great God they also provide some incredible insights into the mind and heart of a real man who had real faith in a real God. David was not afraid to say exactly how he was feeling. One can feel the angst, the depression, the exhilaration that David is experiencing as he wrote down his innermost feelings about what he was going through.

In Psalm 64 he writes once again of being hunted down by his enemies. He calls upon God to hear him (verse 1). He asks God to hide him (verse 2). And then in verse 3 he lets us know what great evil they are working against him. They are bad mouthing him. They are speaking evil. David sees their tongues as swords (verse 3), their words are arrows that pierce their bitterness into him (verse 3). Their speech is like men who lie in wait to ambush and attack without warning (verse 4). But there is no indication in this Psalm that they do any more than talk. Their destruction is limited to their words.

We might be tempted to say that David should be able to handle this a little better than he is. They are after all, only words. But it is wrong to think that words are powerless. It is a great evil to teach our children when someone at school has taunted them, or made fun of them or threatened them, that “words can never hurt them”. Words can kill. The tongue is an unruly fire and is itself set ablaze by hell (James 3:6). We want to say to David as he makes his complaint to God that his enemies are talking bad about him, to grow up and be a man. But there are very few of us who were as manly as David was. He was a man’s man. And he wasn’t afraid to admit that a comment was causing him great distress.

There are at least two things to say in light of this.

1) Watch your tongue. You do not know how far reaching a rude comment, unkind remark, piece of gossip, may go into the heart and soul of another. You do not know if something you say can cause a person to feel exactly like David did when he wrote Psalm 64. It is without doubt true that there are far too many over sensitive people who are far too easily upset and far too prone to make mountains out of mole hills. But none of that negates what James says about the tongue. At the very least we need to remember that words are not innocent. They can hurt and destroy and kill. Use them very carefully. Never say that all a person did was use words.

2) If you have been on the receiving end of someone’s destructive words you know how they can crush the spirit. Don’t retaliate. The Scriptures are full of exhortations about returning evil with good. Check out verses 7 of Psalm 64. God shoots His arrows at them. Let God do the avenging. He does everything perfectly. Remember that God inspired David to write this Psalm. He knows what you are feeling. He knows the pain you are enduring. He knows how it has effected you. Hide yourself in Him. There is no better place to hide.

Then check out verse 10. Rejoice in your heavenly Father. For all that people will say about you falsely God knows the truth and He is your refuge and strength. For all that people will do to take your joy away nothing can remove the joy that a child of God has in His God. If you allow yourself to be the victim of every person who misuses his tongue you will be a victim all your life. There will always be those who say evil against you. If you need to be at peace with everybody in order to enjoy peace with God then you will never have peace with God. Rejoicing in Him is completely unrelated to the struggles that you are going through.

Even when people say all manner of evil against you falsely, you can rejoice (Matthew 5:11-12). Psalm 64 is a great tonic for those who have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse or attacks. It was written by a great caring God for His children to find solace in. May it be just that for you when the tongues of others pierce through all your armour like an arrow to the heart.