James 3:3-6 NKJV
It seems like every time James writes about the tongue, he has concluded his remarks on the subject. But then, he comes back to it and each time his comments gain strength. It makes me wonder if gossip and enmity plagued the church even from the beginning.
For sure, the tongue is a mighty force! In James 3:3-6 he likens the tongue to a burning fire of iniquity.
In James 3:3-6 he wrote, “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
Oxford Dictionary defines iniquity as immoral or grossly unfair behavior. The closest synonym is ‘wickedness’. In verse 6 James tells us the “tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.”
His whole discourse, both in this section and in his previous comments about the tongue makes me wonder what had transpired in James’ congregation in Jerusalem? In today’s section of scripture, James says we can put a bit in a horses mouth and they obey. He says we can even drive a ship through the deepest oceans with a small rudder. And so he says it is with the tongue! He compares how the fire in the tongue can change the whole body of the church like one small spark can create a fire in the forest that can destroy everything and set it “on fire by hell”.
The good news here is that even though the tongue is a fire that can do great damage, our God is more than able to hold the earth in the palm of His hands.
Hebrews 12:14-15 we read we are to, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
The writer of Hebrews says God did NOT create us to burn with an eternal fire. In Hebrews 12:18-21 we read, “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
On earth, or after earth, God did not intend burning for no reason. While there are growing times when we are plagued, those times are set apart by God for our good (Romans 8:28). The writer of Hebrews here refers to a time of burning without God.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Think about it…we were created to come to the city of the living God. When we are suffering, we can come to God.
Then, the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 25-29, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
Do not refuse Him who speaks…but listen.
Listen to God who speaks from heaven. Listen for He shakes the earth and the heavens. At the appropriated time God will shake and remove that which can be removed SO things that can’t be shaken will remain. The writer tells us then we will receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
And in Hebrews 12:29, we learn the reason that can and will happen is…”our God is a consuming fire.”
The fire in the tongue of a man is nothing in comparison to our God.
I also get the sense that our listening now is but a whisper to what the sound of the thunder of God’s voice will be when God shakes the earth and heaven.
Oh, what a day that will be!
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Listen
Spend time today listening for the still small voice of God. Write down thoughts you have and hold those words in your heart.
In God, Deborah