Friday, March 4, 2016


"I said, 'I will guard my ways
That I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle
(muzzles usually are to keep one from biting)
While the wicked are in my presence.'
I was mute and silent,
I refrained even from good,
And my sorrow grew worse.
My heart was hot within me,
While I was musing the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue...
I have become mute,
I do not open my mouth,
Because it is You who have done it."
(verses 1-3, 9)

James 3 lets us know how hard it is to tame the tongue.
It is a fire lit from hell, so how it burns within when withholding it.
It is hard enough to suffer, but to suffer silently?
That is hardest of all.

An alarm is a loud, raucous warning.  It is hard to silence: if you've ever burnt your toast and the fire alarm goes off when "the fire burned," you know that.  Once upon a time B.C. (before children) I was working at Point Loma Nazarene College cleaning the dorms one summer.  My man came to find me and set off an alarm on an exit door.  It echoed unmercifully through the empty halls.  He tried and failed to silence the stupid thing.  Being the rowdy wild man that he was in those days, he ripped it off the wall and stomped it to death.  My boss was not happy, needless to say.  It is difficult to be silent when we are alarmed.  "My heart was hot within me," is repressed grief.

"Remove Your plague, (Thy stroke) from me;
Because of the opposition of
Your hand I am perishing."
(verse 10)

"This seems to be a figure taken from gladiators, or persons contending in single combat.  One is wounded so as to be able to maintain the fight no longer: he, therefore, gives in, and prays his adversary to spare his life.  I am conquered; I can hold the contest no longer: thou art too powerful for me.  He cries what our ancestors used to term craven; the word spoken by him who was conquered in the battle ordeal, or trial by combat." (Adam Clarke) We only are saved when we are conquered. 

"Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner like all my fathers."
(verse 12)

If we are silent, it is because we crave to hear God's voice.   "'I am a stranger with thee'   I have not made this earth my home; I have not trusted in any arm but Thine. ...I knew that here I had no continuing city.  Like my fathers, I looked for a city that has permanent foundations, in a better state of being." (Adam Clarke) 

I was drawn in my childhood and youth to spirituals, like "I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger, traveling though this world of woe.  There is no sickness, no toil or danger in that home to where I go."  I would wander my home singing this though not having suffered such as the lyrics described.  However, it was a perspective that took root in my life in the truth that we are strangers, sojourners in this world. 

"And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You."
(verse 7)

This is the final word, hope,
"Before I depart and am no more."
(verse 13).

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