Stop Talking

Strawberry pie

We have all been asked the question, “If you could spend one hour with a famous person, who would you spend that hour with?”  Maybe it’s not a famous person we want to spend that hour with, maybe it is someone who has passed away before us.  Why is it we want to spend an hour with that person?  I am sure there are many answers to this question, but it all boils down to one main thought.

 

RESPECT.

 

The person we have imagined in our heads that we want to spend that hour with is not usually a crook, a liar, mean, or evil.  Rather, they have gained a level of respect in our eyes because of who they are.  To be able to be in the presence of someone who has done something great usually challenges us to be better people ourselves.

 

No one is clamoring to hear what the homeless drunk on the street has to say, rather people clamor to hear a well-known politician or a wise pastor.

 

Why?

 

Most people have a general desire to succeed, to accomplish something.  Depending on what they hold valuable will often times coincide with what they spend their time invested in.   Many times in life we need a chance to refocus our lives, our thoughts, or our energies.

 

Solomon addresses this in Proverbs 8:32-36.

And now, O sons, LISTEN to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.

HEAR instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

Blessed is the one who LISTENS to me, WATHCING DAILY at my gates, WAITING beside my doors

For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord,

But he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

 

There are some keys here that many would find helpful in their lives if they would prioritize their lives according to these principles rather than the ones they think are important.

 

  1. Stop talking

 

The first key to listening is not talking.  We have all met people who like to hear themselves talk.  When we spend any length of time with them there is nothing we need to worry about saying, they will fill the empty space with their words.  When we talk, we are poor listeners.

 

  1. Start listening

 

Three times we are instructed to listen.  When we listen there are some very positive results.

  • When we listen, we learn how to keep God’s ways
  • When we listen to the right instruction, we become wise.  If we listen to evil, we will not become wise.
  1. Watch daily

 

Habits.  The people we are show up in our daily habits.  Just like we are what we eat, we are also the product of our habits.  What we do daily?  God wants us to meet with him daily.  As we meet daily with God earnestly seeking Him in His Word and through prayer, we become wise.  The word watch in the Hebrew means to be alert and sleepless.  Daily literally means from sunrise to sunset.  The idea here is not a quick check the box kind of meeting with God, rather it is a meeting where we yearn to know Him.  We long for His presence in our lives.  We begin our day devoting time and our undivided attention to reading His Word, praying/talking to God, and inviting Him to be part of every aspect of our lives.  Seeking to have our lives be transformed because of our relationship with Him.  We become so devoted our very words are easily influenced by these daily encounters with God.  Our actions are guided by our daily meeting with God.  Nothing escapes our lips or our hearts without first being checked through the filter of the wisdom that God imparts.

 

  1. Waiting

 

God is not the Jeanie in the bottle waiting for us to rub the bottle and make a wish.  Rather, God asks us to wait.  In the waiting, we show our faith.  In the waiting, as we gain faith we begin to experience peace.  The literal Hebrew meaning for wait also means to protect.  When we gain wisdom, it is our responsibility to protect the wisdom we have.  The only way to protect it is to continue to meet daily with God making sure our thoughts, actions, and habits are lining up with the truth of Scripture.

 

The results are seen in the last two verses.  If we find wisdom we obtain favor.  If we fail to find wisdom, we are injured or experience death.

 

Let us all yearn to be spending time with God, yearning to be wise through a relationship with Him.  The time with Him is not meant as a box to be checked, but a relationship to be cultivated and depended on.  What happens in this time is evidenced by the fruit of our lives.  What we talk about and what our desires in life truly are.  The greater our respect for God the greater our “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:13), the more our lives will be flourishing with the fruit of wisdom.

 

The time spent listening, watching, and waiting is evidenced by the fruit in our lives.

Apples of Gold

apples

“She opens her mouth with wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31:26

We have all conversed with different types of people who exhibit various styles of communication.  Some we enjoy listening and talking with and others we cannot wait to end.  There are many reasons we enjoy sharing and talking with some people and not with others.  Some people only talk about themselves or their children and their accomplishments.  They like to show off their status or maybe they frequently drop names of people they have been with to help boost their self-image.  At the other end of the spectrum are those people who are good listeners.  They ask questions about how we are doing and what is going on in our lives.  We can tell they are truly listening because they ask appropriate questions based on what we are telling them.  We could identify people that fit into both of these categories.

Our virtuous woman is a good listener and when she speaks, it is a “word fitly spoken like apples of gold in a setting of silver. “ (Proverbs. 25:1).  “She opens” in Hebrew has a fascinating meaning.  It means to plough or engrave.  A farmer ploughs his field preparing it for planting.  The better the farmer does at ploughing and preparing the better his production of crops.  A woman with her words can prepare the heart and soul of her listener with words of wisdom and kindness.  Ploughing turns the soil over loosening and exposing different parts of it.  When we as women interact with different people, the words we say can loosen hearts and minds and cause a sensitivity to God and His word that would not have happened if the words had been harsh, quarrelsome, or fretful.  A woman with her words may not always say things that are positive, but she knows how to be constructive and speak a word at the appropriate moment that will sit well with the listener.

The other meaning of the word open is to engrave.  Engraving is a permanent etching into something that is extremely difficult to remove.  Our words are engraved on the hearts and minds of those who listen.  We can all remember one word or phrase that someone has said to us that was hurtful and unkind.  It resonated through our soul and came back to our minds over and over causing repeat pain.  Before we speak, we must carefully consider our words.

If we choose to speak a word of criticism we must have carefully cultivated the field by investing into the relationship with our time, prayers, and frequent kind and encouraging words.  When this is done the field will be ready for the word of criticism, but it will be a “word fitly spoken.” (Proverbs 25:1).  We must also be careful not to speak kind words that are not true or disingenuous.  We can see through these words and they can also cause pain.

We must carefully consider our words, not only what is said, but also when it is said and the tone of voice it is said with.  What we say is engraved on the heart of our listeners and no matter how many kind words are said they may never erase the unkind or hurtful words.  As a listener we need to be wise and discerning in what we hear and not disregard every word that is spoken to us.  Was the word, though seeming unkind, said in a humble and loving way?  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) or “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Below is a comparison between words the virtuous woman says and those that the foolish woman says.  Carefully consider your words as you read this comparison.

Virtuous woman’s speech Foolish woman’s speech 
Builds her house (Prov. 14:1) Tears her house down (Prov. 14:1)
Wise words wins favor (Ecc. 10:12-14) Foolish words consume, are evil madness, and are many (Ecc. 10:12-14)
Considers and holds back words (Prov. 29:11) Foolish give full vent (Prov. 29:11)
Wise words bring healing (Prov. 12:18) Rash words are like sword thrusts

(Prov. 12:18)

Know what is acceptable (Prov. 10:32) Perverse (Prov. 10:32)
Spread knowledge (Prov. 15:7) Loud, seductive, & knows nothing

(Prov. 9:13)

Precious jewel (Prov. 20:15) Quarrelsome and fretful (Prov. 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15,16)
Gracious, seasoned with salt (Col 4:6) Idlers, busybodies, gossips (II Tim. 5:13)
Quick to listen & slow to speak (James 1:19) Evil (Prov. 15:28)
Restrains words (Prov. 17:27)
Ponders answer (Prov. 15:28)
Appropriate words at appropriate times

(Prov. 15:23)

Consider one last verse.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul, and health to the body.”

(Proverbs 16:24)

Questions:

  1. Are you working harder at preparing the soil or planting the seed with your words and actions?
  1. “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply” (Unknown).  How does this quote resonate with you?
  1. How does Proverbs 15:1 fit with our discussion in this lesson?

Deborah-A Mother in Israel

If you take the time to read the book of Judges, a common theme begins to show itself quickly.  “And the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…” (Judges 2:11, 37, 4:1…).  This scenario is followed by years of oppression by Israel’s enemies.  After a period of years “the people of Israel cry out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer…” (Judges 3:9, 15; 6:6…).  In Judges 4, God raises up the fourth judge after Joshua’s death, Deborah, the first and only woman judge.  During Deborah’s time as judge or “prophetess…she would sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:4, 5).  At the same time, the Israelites were being oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan.  The Israelites grew weary of their oppression and sought to rid themselves of the enemies that oppressed them.  As the Israelites began to choose God over idols and serve Him with their whole hearts, God would deliver them from the oppression of their enemies through a judge.  This cycle of idolatry followed by deliverance is a common theme seen in the book of Judges. Since they were not following God, they needed wise council from someone who knew God and could direct them toward a relationship with God.    Deborah’s reputation was spread far and wide throughout the country of Israel as the Hebrews would seek Deborah for her wisdom and assist them in providing solutions to the problems they had.  Her reputation is also seen in Judges 5:7 “I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.”  This was a title of honor and respect. The Israelites would seek Deborah’s wise council to help them correct the wrongs in their lives related to their worship and relationship with God.

How did Deborah attain to such a position of authority as a woman in the 12th century BC?  First and foremost, God ordained that Deborah be in this position of authority.  Second, she was persistent in developing her relationship with God.  A person cannot give wise council pertaining to the things of God without having a relationship with God.  A person cannot give wise council to families and individuals day-in and day-out that provides needed and positive change in lives without having a solid walk with God.  A person’s reputation in a land full of apostasy means only one thing: Deborah was closely communicating with God, and the children of Israel saw by her life and the wisdom she bestowed on others that the hand of God was with her.  When Deborah spoke to the Israelites, they knew she was speaking for God.  A prophetess or judge was a mouthpiece for God.  After years of oppression from Jabin, King of Canaan, the people knew they needed to change their ways and follow God since the “evil they did in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4:1) caused oppression not freedom.

The same thought process exists today in our society that did so many years ago in the time of Deborah.  As a society we are called the “me generation.”  Life is all about me and what I want, not about what others want or what God wants.  So many have turned their backs on God only to find their lives full of confusion, or there is always a sense of something missing and not being able to find it.  What is missing from so many who claim to have all the freedoms they desire?  So many today are missing that intimate and personal relationship with God.

The contrast between Deborah and the children of Israel shows the need for a relationship with God and a willingness to follows His Biblical decrees.  The Israelites were enticed away from following God and His decrees by the bondage of idol worship, only they did not see it as bondage rather they thought they were choosing who to serve based on their freedom to choose.  Each time the country moved away from following God and turned to idols, the oppression began.  So today in the midst of our desire to have the freedom to choose, how often are the choices we make based on our desires rather than God’s directives?  Deborah, a lone woman in her country, made a reputation for herself amongst all the Israelites to follow God and be God’s spokeswoman.

Questions:

  1. After you have read Judges 4, 5, what characteristics of Deborah do you see?
  1. Are these characteristics that you see admirable and worthy to emulate?
  1. What must Deborah have done daily in order in order for the events of Judges 4:5 to take place?
  1. After reading Judges 5:7, write down how Deborah attained this title.
  1. We all have a sphere of influence in our lives. Some spheres are great and others are small, but we all have a sphere.  What changes in your life need to take place so your sphere of influence more closely resembles Deborah’s?
  1. Deborah did not wake up one day and decide to be judge. No position of influence, no matter how great or small, happens overnight.  A positive impact on other’s lives takes determination and faithfulness.  Determine now to make the changes you wrote down in question #5 and determine to be faithful, no matter how difficult the task. Are you willing to take this challenge?  If so when will you start?