What the Lord Hates

June 17, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification, Tongue

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

While many speak of the importance of love, we often fail to realize that he who loves much must also hate much. He who loves his wife must hate him who would steal her away or injure her. He who loves his children must hate him who would lead them astray or hurt them. He who loves the Church must hate him who would disrupt her peace or divide her. As Jesus tells us, “One cannot love God and mammon. He who loves the one must hate the other.” Similarly, the Lord who loves and cherishes righteousness necessarily hates and despises wickedness.

Consequently, in the course of his instruction to his son, Solomon takes a moment to remind him that there are certain things which the Lord despises, which He hates. Solomon arranges these sins in couplets. The first and last go together; the second and second to last, and so on. Let us consider each in turn.

The first and last items have to do with arrogance and pride – a proud look and one who sows discord among brothers. These exhortations describe the one who fancies that his way is always right; the one who cannot appreciate the wisdom and insight of others; the one who is haughty and domineering, crushing others. Haughty people inevitably cause discord because they have to prove that they know best – and the only way they can prove they know best is if they eliminate the competition. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware pride.”

The second couplet addresses lying and deceit. The Lord despises the lying tongue and a false witness who utters lies. He hates the tongue that pours forth honey but under which is found poison; the tongue that plots the destruction of others while securing its own advantage. So, Solomon warns, “Beware lying and deceit.”

The third couplet exhorts those “whose hands shed innocent blood…whose feet are swift to do evil.” The Lord despises murder, violence, evil plotting, and destruction. Our hands have been given to protect the innocent, but the wicked man uses his hands to slay them; our feet have been given to walk in the path of life, but the wicked man walks in the path of death. So, Solomon warns, “Beware violence.”

At the heart of these couplets is the heart. That which the Lord hates is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” Earlier Solomon had warned his son – “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” So here, in his arrangement of sins the Lord despises, he returns to the heart. It is our heart that makes us proud, that treasures lying and deceit, and that leads us to scheme and plot and destroy others. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware an evil heart.”

Reminded that our whole being – our looks, our speech, our actions, and our hearts – are open and laid bare before the face of Him to whom we must give an account, let us confess our sins to Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Keeping Instruction or Despising Correction?

June 3, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:17 (NKJV)
17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray.

Once upon a time there were two men traveling to the city of Zoe. It was an ancient city, the inhabitants of which lived in happiness, abundance, and peace. The Lord of the city openly welcomed visitors to the city and even invited them to stay and become citizens. Indeed, so generous was the Lord of the city that he sent envoys into the world to explain the way to the city.

The first traveler was named Sophos. He had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received directions to the city with great joy. “Always pass through the narrow gate and stay on the narrow path,” he was told. “For wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction.” He set out on the road to the city. Though there were many paths that led off the main road, wide paths that seemed to lead to pleasant pastures, he made sure to stay on the narrow path that led to the city of Zoe. In due time he arrived at the city where he was warmly welcomed.

The second traveler was named Moros. He too had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received instruction. But as he set out on the road to the city, the narrow lane began a steep climb and the going became difficult. It was then that he noticed the wide gate that gave access to a broad path leading down to a plain that was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar (Gen 13:10). So he went through the gate and headed down the path.

The Lord of the city knew that the country toward which Moros was heading was filled with vagabonds and cutthroats, so he had placed his envoys near the gate to warn travelers lest they go that way. One of the envoys warned Moros, “Beware! You are heading to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Lord of the city shall soon destroy.” But Moros would not listen. He had no desire to admit he had been wrong to wander off the narrow path and no desire to resume the arduous climb. So he continued along the path to the plain, admiring the pillar of salt that the inhabitants of the plain had built to point the correct way.

He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray. Reminded that God has pointed out the way to the Heavenly City and given us instruction to guide us on our way, let us confess that we often wander off the path and have need of the Lord’s correction. And let us pray that the Lord would preserve us from folly and from refusing to listen to those who would summon us back to the way. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Created for Work

May 6, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Wealth, Work

Proverbs 10:16 (NKJV)
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin.

When God fashioned us in the beginning and placed us in the Garden of Eden, He immediately commissioned us. He gave us a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Our role in the Garden was not to sit back and luxuriate; it was not to be in a perpetual state of leisure. God gave us a mission to accomplish, a work to complete. Six days we were to labor and do all our work; on one we were to rest and worship. So what was that labor? God placed us in the garden, we are told in Genesis 2:15, to tend and to keep it.

First, we were to tend the garden. We were to cultivate the ground and to make it even more fruitful than it already was. We were to extend the order of the Garden to the rest of the world and offer the fruit of that labor up to our Creator as our service of worship and adoration. Second, we were to keep the garden. We were to guard it and protect it from destruction – whether destruction from our own hands or from those of an intruder.

What this means is that work was part of the paradise of God. We were designed to tend and keep the earth to the glory of God. Work is a gift from God. Tragically, we rejected our twofold calling. We failed to protect the Garden from the serpent-intruder. We permitted him to lead us astray and we rebelled against God. Consequently, the blessing of work became twisted and tainted by the curse of toil. Thorns and thistles, death and destruction, came in the wake of our sin. Work and toil became intertwined.

But God did not abandon us to toil. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to restore us to fellowship with Him. By faith in Jesus’ Name, He forgives our sin and gives us His Spirit so that we can once again tend and keep the earth to the glory of His Name. Solomon reminds us, “The labor of the righteous leads to life…” Those who fear God work to the glory of God and so bring life to the world. While still troubled by the effects of sin and required to wrestle against thorns and thistles, we do so as those who have been reconciled to God and restored to the glory of work. Because Christ has risen from the dead, Paul reminds us, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Teaching children, changing diapers, balancing accounts, building homes – every dimension of earthly labor can bring glory and honor to our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, there are those who still refuse to work for the glory of God. They violate the first and greatest commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, all their labor remains intertwined with toil and is dishonoring to God. From digging ditches, to cleaning toilets, to painting landscapes, to healing the sick – the wages of the wicked lead to sin.” Those who do not fear God sin even in the littlest things and, since sin leads to death, their toil leads to meaninglessness and death.

So here’s what Solomon would have you remember: God the Creator has put you in the world to labor for His glory. He has sent His Son to redeem the world that you might be reconciled to Him and do all your work motivated by a desire to glorify His Name. So do you? First, do you love work or do you love leisure? Do you value the tasks that God has given you to perform or are you constantly endeavoring to avoid them? Second, what motivates your labor? Are you working just to make money? Working just to make your payments? Or are you working for the glory and honor of the Lord?

Solomon reminds us to labor faithfully to the glory of God – this is the pathway to life. But often we shirk our responsibilities, often we fail to offer our work up as worship to the Lord, often we fail to protect our workplaces from those who would destroy them; we have need to confess our sins to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Storing up wealth or living hand to mouth?

April 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:15 (NKJV)
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

In the text before us today, Solomon highlights the blessing of wealth and the danger of poverty. On the one hand is the blessing of wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… In the ancient world, a strong city was a place of refuge and protection from the ravages of warfare. Walled cities, or strong cities as Solomon calls them, were havens of security in an insecure world. Like the walls of these strong cities is the wealth of the rich man. His wealth enables him to hide himself, his family, and his friends in times of hardship or difficulty. His wealth is a source of security and protection. It is a blessing from God.

On the other hand is the danger of poverty. The destruction of the poor is their poverty. Whereas marauders, thieves, and foreign armies often left strong cities alone, they frequently laid waste small villages and unwalled cities, plundering property, slaying the populace, and sometimes devastating the surrounding countryside. These unwalled cities were constantly exposed to danger and oppression. Likewise, the poor man. When hardship arrives, the poor man has no resources upon which to draw to sustain himself or his family. His poverty is his destruction.

Solomon’s words remind us, first, of the blessing of wealth and the value of saving. Living hand to mouth is sometimes necessary but never wise. Always better to save for a rainy day, to build one’s wealth, so that in times of hardship you have a strong city to which you can flee. In Scripture, it is not sinful to acquire wealth; it is sinful to have a lust for wealth, it is sinful to use your wealth to promote wickedness, it is sinful to steal from others in order to gain wealth; but it is not sinful to acquire wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… and is, therefore, a blessing from God.

Solomon’s words also remind us, second, of the blessings of spiritual wealth. It is the man or woman who knows the character and promises of his God who will be able to endure times of hardship and suffering. And this type of wealth, spiritual wealth, is a wealth that any child of God can acquire whether he be rich or poor. On the one hand, Paul writes of the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). On the other hand, James writes of the poor, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (2:5) Spiritual wealth is a strong city which any child of God may acquire by the grace of God.

So what of you? Are you endeavoring to store up wealth in order that you may have a strong city in times of trouble? Are you avoiding debt and endeavoring to save or are you just living hand to mouth? Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s character and promises so that you may be able to weather the tribulations that will come your way in this life or are you spiritually poor? Remember the words of Solomon: The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

Reminded of our calling to think of tomorrow and to store up wealth for times of trouble, let us acknowledge that we often fail to do so. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

A Word Fitly Spoken

April 8, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue, Truth

Proverbs 25:11–12 (NKJV)
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that all those who believe in Him shall likewise rise from the dead and that even now, by the power of the Spirit, we can walk in newness of life, empowered by Christ to live in such a way that we please our Heavenly Father.

Two areas where we are most in need of Christ’s resurrection power are our tongue and our ears. James exhorts us, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (1:19). Our ears are to be open and our tongues are to be circumspect. We are to listen attentively and speak carefully.

In our study of John’s Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders for their failure to listen to what He was saying. “If I speak the truth,” He had said to them, “why do you not listen to what I say? He who is of God hears the words of God; therefore, you do not listen, because you are not of God.” Jesus’ words remind us that the child of God cultivates an ear for the truth. He wants to hear the truth even if it is uncomfortable and even if it comes in an inglorious package. As I said at the time, better to receive a diamond wrapped in cow dung than cubic zirconia on a shiny band.

When we consider our calling as listeners, therefore, it is to cultivate a willingness to listen even when others are speaking unclearly or unkindly. We want the truth. Solomon urges us, “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Prov 23:23).

Corresponding to this duty as listeners is our duty as speakers. While the godly listener does his best to overlook style and to grasp the substance of what another has said, the godly speaker is to do his best to communicate clearly. Better to present the diamond on a shiny band than wrapped in cow dung. And it is this calling that Solomon highlights in our text today:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

While the duty of the listener is, in our text, to have “an obedient ear,” the duty of the speaker is to be a “wise rebuker” and to utter “a word fitly spoken.” The calling of the speaker, in other words, is to display the truth in all its glory – to make it like an apple of gold, an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold such that it is easy for a listening ear to accept it, that it is displayed in settings of silver.

Solomon’s words remind us that effective communication takes hard work. It takes skill to craft golden apples, earrings and ornaments – and learning to speak clearly requires no less skill. It takes years for silversmiths to learn their craft – and developing a listening ear takes no less time. So what of you? Are you learning to communicate more clearly and to listen more carefully? Husbands, are you studying your wife so that you can live with her according to knowledge? Wives, are you studying to communicate clearly and listen obediently to your husbands? Parents and children, do you regularly evaluate your tongues and your ears to make sure that you are communicating well? Singles, do you place a higher value on others than on yourself and study to understand them well and communicate to them lucidly?

Reminded that Christ rose from the dead to empower us to be faithful speakers and listeners, let us confess that we are often lazy and sin regularly with our tongues and our ears. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Wise People Store Up Knowledge

March 11, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Education, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:14 (NKJV)
14 Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.

Our proverb today once again contrasts the wise and the foolish – a common theme in Proverbs and so a thought that should never be far from our own minds. We should daily, hourly be asking ourselves, “Am I being wise or foolish? Am I exhibiting the characteristics of the wise man as he is described in the Word of God?” If you aren’t asking that question regularly, then might I suggest that you are most likely a fool? The fool is the one who fails to consider his life, fails to reflect on his own character, and constantly justifies himself whenever he gets into trouble.

So let us note this contrast in our text. Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. On the one hand is the character of the wise. The wise store up knowledge. They are careful to listen, eager to learn, and thirsty to imbibe as much knowledge as possible. While wisdom and knowledge are distinct, the wise man knows that the more knowledge he possesses the better able he will be to make wise decisions and to give counsel that honors the Lord and reflects the way that He has made the world. Wise people store up knowledge.

In contrast, the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. Whereas the wise are eager to open their ears and learn, fools are eager to open their mouths and pontificate. They already know all there is to know and there is very little that others can teach them. And so, because fools refuse to listen so as to understand how the world works, they are always near destruction. Financial disaster courts them, spiritual disaster pursues them, and relational disaster follows them. The mouth of the foolish is near destruction.

Solomon’s contrast reminds us that the wise man is the one who listens well, learns well, understands well, and does all these things before he speaks. James admonishes us, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Consequently, Proverbs frequently urges us to restrain our lips. Solomon will comment in verse 19 of this same chapter in Proverbs: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Again Proverbs 17:27 exhorts us, “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” The wise man learns far more than he teaches.

So what of you? Are you storing up knowledge? Christian, do you regularly study the Word of God and sound theology so that you are prepared to weather the storms of life and to offer solid counsel to others? One reason so many Christians founder under trial is because they lack a robust and solid grasp of the Word of God and so do not know the character of God. What about you?

Husbands and fathers, do you regularly study the Word of God and sound books on the family so that you are equipped to lead your families in the fear of the Lord? As a husband, your calling is, like Christ, to wash your wife with the pure water of the Word that she may be pure and spotless. It is to live with your wife according to understanding (1 Pet 3:7). How are you doing? As a father, your calling is, like Joshua, to teach your children the fear of the Lord. How are you doing?

Children, are you storing up knowledge? Are you taking your studies seriously? Are you learning to read well so that you can read the Word of God more faithfully? The things you learn now are equipping you to lead your families, your churches, and your communities in the future. So what kind of leader will you be? Are you storing up knowledge or are you despising knowledge? The wise child does the former, the foolish child does the latter.

And so reminded this morning of our calling to be wise and not foolish, to store up knowledge and not to despise it, let us confess that we are often lazy, often disinterested, often rebellious, often foolish. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Do People Just Want to Hit You?

March 4, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:13 (NKJV)
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.

As our Creator, God did all things well. The creation that spun forth from His hand was good. And man, the pinnacle of that creation, was glorious. As we consider what it means to be created by God, therefore, it is important to note that God fashioned us with tongues. God fashioned us with tongues in order that we might speak words – words that reflect the eternal Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. God fashioned us with tongues in order that the words we breathe forth might give life to others – life-giving breath that reflects the life-giving and eternal Spirit of God. Our tongues, in other words, are a chief part of our glory as human beings.

It is the part of the wise man, therefore, to recognize that his tongue is a gift from God and to learn to use that tongue well. Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding. The one who understands the world rightly will use his tongue to convey wisdom to others. He will use his tongue to speak truth, to worship his Creator, to bind up the broken hearted, to oppose injustice, to expose wickedness, to honor authority, to express thankfulness, etc.

However, because we humans rebelled against God, that which was a chief part of our glory has now become a chief part of our shame. James, the brother of our Lord, reminds us that the tongue is a fire, a very world of iniquity. Among the various members of our body, it is the tongue that often gets us into trouble – with God and with others. With our tongue we slander, we boast, we gossip, we berate, we lie, we corrupt, we complain, we grumble, we destroy and so we bring upon ourselves dire consequences: a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.

I once had an acquaintance who served as a police officer. Though he loved police work, his mouth routinely got him into trouble. He repeatedly spoke ill of his superiors to his fellow officers. He was convinced that he knew better how to run the department and how to make police work effective. But despite his appreciation for his own wisdom, no one else seemed to appreciate it. He was passed over for promotions and urged to seek a position in another department which he eventually did – and then another and then another. For no matter where he went it seemed that no one appreciated how much he understood about police work.

So what of you? Does your mouth keep getting you in trouble? Do employers keep encouraging you to seek other positions? Do your parents wonder if your ears operate as well as your mouth? Do people hang on your lips, treasuring the flow of wisdom, or do people just want to hit you when you start talking? Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.

Reminded that we are called to be men and women of understanding who convey wisdom to others, let us confess that we often need to be corrected instead. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Stirring Up Strife

February 25, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility

Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.

When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.

But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?

Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.

Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.

But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.

So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?

Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Mouth as a Well

February 12, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:11 (NKJV)
11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

After Ishmael mocked the young child Isaac, he and his mother Hagar were cast out of Abraham’s tent and wandered for a time in the wilderness. Soon their skin of water was used up and the two were dying of thirst. So Hagar placed Ishmael under a shrub and went away from him a short distance lest she see him die. Then she lifted up her voice and wept.

The Angel of the Lord heard their cry. He spoke to Hagar. “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She filled her waterskin with water, and gave the lad a drink and they lived. This well in the wilderness was a well of life.

As that well in the wilderness was to Hagar – preserving her life, rejuvenating her strength, and restoring her hope – so is the mouth of the righteous to those who hear him. The mouth of the righteous is a well of life. As those who live in a fallen world, the paths we travel are often dry and thirsty. We face doubts, discouragements, disappointments, and even death. Scattered throughout the world are wells, put there by God to refresh our souls. As a follower of Christ, you are to be one of those wells. Paul commands you, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph 4:29). Be a well of life.

Because wells are so precious in the wilderness, because they are the only places where one can obtain water, they were often chosen as a place of ambush. Thieves and marauders would prey upon unsuspecting travelers, pillaging their property and often taking their lives. Wells were often places of violence.

So too are the mouths of many. Violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Travelers come seeking water, seeking refreshment on the journey. But what they find instead is violence. They are confronted by bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting. Their souls are ravaged, their hope diminished, their dignity destroyed.

So what are you? Are you a well of life? Or are you a bandit? Do your words bring refreshment, strength, and hope? Or do they rob others of dignity and hope? How do you speak to your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your neighbors, and your friends? Do you build up or do you destroy? The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

Reminded of our calling to use our mouths to bring life to others, let us confess that we often use them to bite and devour and destroy. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.