Word Power (Part 1)
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. - Proverbs 25:11
It may be said of someone “he’s a man of few words” or “she’s a talker.” Words can be few, but words can be powerful. Every day we are bombarded with people trying to find their voices. It seems that everyone has an opinion needing to be shared. Social media not only makes words more accessible than ever, it is a platform that has far-reaching implications. I am astounded daily how much people are willing to share about themselves on the Internet. A place that has a shelf life of, oh, forever.
Proverbs has a lot to say about the power of words and how we use them. Unfortunately, we don’t always choose to use our words “aptly” and the results can be devastating.
Words can be used to encourage, destroy, and change the directions of people’s lives. Make no mistake, words are powerful.
Some of the most devastating words I encountered were from a doctor. I was going through the change of life and had no idea what was happening to me. Most of my friends are younger and my mother never talked about going through menopause, so as I entered this stage of life, I had no clue what was happening. All I knew was I found myself crying all of the time and running from being in a crowd of people – which is totally out of character for me. And the timing could not have been worse, let’s just say the stress of planning my daughter’s wedding and menopause was not a great combination.
Feeling dejected and scared, I went to the doctor in hopes of finding out what was happening to me. My normal doctor was booked for months and so I went to one who didn’t really know me. I shared how I was crying all of the time and how my personality was so different. Normally, I loved people and I was running from them. I cried and poured out my heart to this man and I will never forget his words: “the reason you are so miserable is because you are fat.” He was not finished. “I bet your husband no longer sees you as attractive.” Can you imagine? I have a feeling you can. Just what a depressed, menopausal woman needs to hear, right? I called my daughter on the way home and could not even carry on a conversation because I was crying so hard. Even today, many years later, I can still feel the sting of his words.
Let’s take a look at a person in the Bible who was affected by some words that were said to him. Do you remember Elijah? Here’s a quick look at his history. As a prophet, he:
- Called down fire from heaven after 850 Canaanite prophets couldn’t
- Raised a widow’s son from the dead
- Rode to heaven on a whirlwind that churned in the wake of a fiery chariot
- Was the 1st prophet God sent to win back the hearts of the Jewish nation
- Reminded the people of God’s power and to convince them that there were no other gods
- Experienced his greatest public miracle at Mt. Carmel, which involved his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:19-40)
- Prophesied that the drought would soon end after 3 rainless years (1 Kings 18:4)
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is just coming off of one of his greatest “wins” – he has humiliated the prophets of Baal in the ultimate “my God can beat your god” competition where he was outnumbered 450 to 1. God sent down fire from heaven to consume the offering. There was no doubt at the end of that day that Elijah’s God was the one true God. God was glorified and the people of Israel fell on their faces and worshipped Him. Not only that, remember the 450 false priests? Well, they were put to death. And if we want to top it off a bit, the drought that Elijah had predicted a few years back also came to an end as the people turned back to God. As a prophet, it does not get much better than this. And this is where we pick up the story.
1 Kings 19:1-2 "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, 'May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.'"
Elijah just called down fire from heaven! Certainly he wouldn’t be afraid of a threat by someone whose gods had just been humiliated. Or would he?
Let’s see how Elijah responded.
1 Kings 19:3-4 "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, LORD,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'”
Next week, we’ll pick up with part two of this story and talk about Elijah’s response. Until then, I want you to think about a time when you were discouraged by someone’s words. How did you respond in that moment? I think next week you’ll be able to see some of your own story in Elijah’s as we unpack the way these words impacted him.
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