READ: Job 13-15, Psalm 4, Luke 21, Revelation 5
PROVERBS OF ASHES
God is perturbed with man’s empty words, not because words are unimportant but because they are so vital. There is power in words both to hurtfully break bones and to lovingly give life. God intriguingly has chosen to communicate largely through words, create through His Word, and spread the good news (gospel) about what He has done primarily through words.
We live in an age increasingly shallow, yet hollow words are nothing new. Many scholars think Job is chronologically first in the Scriptures, and way back then Job scolds his verbose friends: “Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes” (Job 13:12). While words have the power to unpack incredibly complex concepts, they also can be used to reduce profound truths to flippant ditties. American spirituality in particular tends to reduce massive realities about God into little rhyming phrases–cute but eventually repulsive. (Arius was able to spread his heresy about Jesus not being divine widely through the use of cute, rhyming songs.) God calls us to a simplicity that does not reduce His character to formulas. We are intended to articulate His complexities (as best we can) without relying on platitudes that we mouth but have not experienced. Truths we have not lived but parrot to others are proverbs of ashes.
The essential mark of human words is their short shelf life. Words sourced in the wisdom of man quickly sour or fall to the ground. What seems cute or catchy if repeated often enough becomes irritating. By contrast Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Luke 21:33). Due to the lasting power of God’s words, it is imperative to sing, pray, and preach them. Literally. What better way to pray than to pray Scripture? When we pray Scripture, we know we are praying the will of God back to Him, and our prayers are guaranteed to be answered. When we sing Scripture, we sing back to God His own passions, and we can do nothing but experience His pleasure and presence. When we preach Scripture, we speak timeless truth and it is supported by the authority of the eternal one.
When Jesus baptizes us with His Spirit, it always affects our mouths. In an age where technology has empowered more empty words than ever, it is imperative there is something distinctive about our words–lest we merely add to the babble. Jesus promised: “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:15). These are the proverbs we need to be speaking, not ashes but anointed speech.