Sunday mornings in a pastor’s family are the stuff of legend. Besides having to feed, wash, and dress everyone, we are also expected to actually get to church on time. In our family, this means that my husband and I usually end up driving separately (our apologies to planet earth).
This last Sunday was no different. My husband had already left with our two boys, leaving my daughter behind with me as I finished getting ready. For some reason, I was feeling a bit spiritually disheveled that morning and so I did something I’ve never done before in my life. I asked my daughter to read to me while I was doing my hair and makeup.
It went something like this:
“Phoebe, get your Bible and come here to my bathroom. Now, open it. What day is today? … I know it’s Sunday. What day of the month is it? … The 12th? Okay. Find Psalms and read me chapter 12.”
So much for intentional parenting. Thankfully, God is always intentional, and in the next few moments, my baby-girl-turned-fourth-grader read me words of life and hope.
Psalm 12, like many of the psalms, opens with a lament for the brokenness around us.
“The godly one is gone,” David cries. “The faithful have vanished from among the children of man.”
And how does David know this? Is it the violence he sees in the streets? Is it the sexual promiscuity rampant in the marketplace? Is it that the wrong parties rule in government? No, David knows that the world is broken by the words he hears.
“Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” They say, “With our tongue we will prevail, out lips are with us; who is master over us?”
According to David, evil men have a weapon and it is their words.
I’ll admit it: I don’t think about words this way. Even as a writer and blogger, I tend to undervalue words. Maybe it’s some sort of linguistic inflation that occurs when I write: the more words I produce, the less valuable they seem. In my world, words are a dime a dozen and what can they really accomplish anyway?
Apparently, a lot.
The truth is that despite being all around us, words are powerful. They are powerful because they are tied directly to our true selves. Jesus taught that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So more than simply being a set of sounds or shapes, our words are actually the embodiment—the incarnation—of our hearts. What we say with our mouths or type with our fingers reveals what is going on inside us.
And suddenly we understand why David feared them so much. The evil in men’s hearts takes form in the words they use; worse still, evil men will use their words to act out the evil in their hearts. But this truth—that our words are directly tied to our hearts—cuts both ways. It is also why David can proclaim that we will be saved by the words of the Lord.
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace.
The safety we can find in God’s words isn’t in the words themselves. It’s in what these words reveal about the Father’s heart toward us. It’s what they reveal about His power, what they reveal about His faithfulness. When David says that “the words of the Lord are pure words,” he is reminding us that unlike all the deceitful, untrustworthy people around us, the Lord Himself is pure. He is faithful.
And suddenly we understand why John called Jesus “the Word” of God (John 1:1). Jesus Christ is the embodiment—the incarnation—of the Father’s heart. What we could not see, what previously had had no form, reveals itself to us in Him. To paraphrase His own words, “Out of the abundance of God’s heart, Jesus is.”
And this is why the Lord can guard us from the evil around us. Even as the wicked prowl, deceiving and flattering on every side, we will be saved by the final Word of the Lord because His words represent His nature. His words are trustworthy because He is trustworthy. His words are pure because He is pure. And because He is justice, His words will never be “just” words.
Even if they are delivered to us from the lips of a petite 9-year-old girl on a frantic Sunday morning.