* This post is part of an Advent devotional, being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here.
Thursday: 4 December
Read: Isaiah 8:11-18
(Light a candle)
We are quick in our culture to use God’s name how ever and whenever we want. Just a few chapters before this one, Isaiah sees God seated in the heavenly throne room. His response to this encounter is to cry out “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” We need not listen long before realizing that Isaiah could just as easily have been talking about our day and age as his own. From OMG in our texts to Jesus’ name as a way of punctuating our sentences with anger or surprise, we have made the holy into a flippant and cheap way of expressing ourselves.
Our speech matters. It’s not simply that our naïve and reckless use of God’s name violates the third commandment. It’s much more that. Through our judgmental, vengeful, hate-filled speech and general lack of grace in our words and attitudes toward others, we fail to honor the image of God in others. Truly, we are unaware of the power in our own words. We are quick to speak harshly, to belittle, to find humor in the failings of others. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount show the potency of our speech about the people around us. “Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” It’s seems our speech has the power to destroy others and ourselves.
We have been made in the image of God – the God whose speech ushered in the universe, the God who spoke to Moses in a burning bush, the God who called out to Samuel in the tabernacle, the God who became Word-in-the-flesh and dwelled among us. It is no wonder Proverbs repeatedly identifies people who hold their tongues as ‘wise’ and James calls us to “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” We might not create the stars above or the seas below with our speech, but God has gifted us with the capacity to shape how others will experience the world – and God! – through the power of our words. Oh, how we have become a people of unclean lips!
Perhaps then, the most fitting posture for us as we engage this Advent season is to become a people who listen more than we speak. Maybe then, we can learn to echo the cadence, tone, and content of God’s speech. Imagine how the world around us might change if others would encounter God through the character of our speech! I wonder if with this listening posture, we might even learn to hear God’s voice speaking through those we have called poor, irritating, foreign, and our enemies. We may not have had a vision of God’s throne room like Isaiah did, but the glory of the Lord still fills the earth. If only we will have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, that the light of your life may fill us with the living hope that our sins will be no more. Amen.