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May 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 16, 2021

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”
And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles . . . . Exodus 4:10-16; Numbers 12:6-8

Intro: Some of you will remember when Jake Caldwell who spoke at Reflexion awhile back

Jake has written a book, Tending the Body, which provides training to keep the body supple
“. . . who doesn’t want to be supple? Who doesn’t want to be able to move with grace and ease? Who doesn’t want to be free of tension and restrictions?” “Pain is a picture that the body paints in order to say something to us. . . . all pains can be read for their messages.” “What is the body saying when it limits our suppleness? . . . Whatever else the body wants, it certainly wants our attention.”
– this is what we have been doing in these Sunday talks
• giving attention to our bodies – but not just for suppleness
• we are discovering the spiritual experience of life in a body
Thomas Ryan, in Reclaiming the Body In Christian Spirituality, “There are many ways in our culture in which we do honor our embodied nature–from skin creams to fitness centers. But rarely do we pay attention to our bodies with the intent of opening ourselves to God through the experience we are having in our bodies.” “When we pay attention to what we are living in our bodies and how that opens us to the flow of grace in new ways, the result is renewal.”
– we began with the crown of the head, and now we descend to the nose and mouth

The word nose does not appear often in the Scriptures

When it does, most often someone is putting a ring in it (Ge. 24:47)
I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears . . . . (Eze. 16:11)
– if not a ring, then a hook or rope, to drag and control a person (2 Ki. 19:28)
• more often in scripture, we read of the nostrils
◦ this is the point at which we first received the breath of life
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creatures (Gen. 2:7)
• Helmut Thielicke said we are constantly being told that humans are animals
◦ which, he says, is true biologically, but we are more than biology
◦ the human person is one-part soil and one-part divine
◦ the divine breath this is what it is to be “alive and kicking”
as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils
(Job 27:3)
– nostrils, especially God’s, could propel a blast of air–as with a sneeze (Ex. 15:8)
• flared nostrils indicate anger
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, In the Old Testament “we read of an enflamed nose. This metaphor is based on the idea of angry snorting. . . . Of course the English Bible translations have ‘became angry’ or ‘was angry’ instead of a literal translation of the ‘enflamed nose’ expression, but in the process, as so frequently happens, the metaphorical and anthropological features of the saying are lost.”
• as sensitive receptors, the nostrils can become irritated easily
God says that people who say,
“Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day (Isa. 65:5)
– there are frequent references to what the nose does; i.e., “smells” (Lev. 1:9)
• it is not surprising to find the nose and mouth in same passage
◦ they give us a combined sense of smell and taste
How beautiful is your love, my sister my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
honey and milk are under your tongue;
the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon (Song 4:10-11)
• in the sacred art of icon paintings, what seems like weird features, tell a story
Ouspensky and Lossky, regarding the way saints are depicted in icons: “An excessively thin nose, small mouth and large eyes—all these are a conventional method of transmitting the state of a saint whose senses have been ‘refined’ as they used to call it in the old times.”

The mouth is far more complex in scripture and recurs many times

Not only is the mouth mentioned many times, but also the articulators of speech
– how we form sound of words with the tongue, teeth, lips, and palate
• the mouth is a gift – an instrument with spiritual significance
mouth to mouth is the most direct encounter
◦ two vocal partners in speech – a conversation
◦ this is really where Moses walk with God began
◦ a statement, then a question; an answer, then an objection; the objection overruled, and so on
– kissing signified respect, reverence, even worship
• it was always an act of devotion that expressed intimacy
◦ so with greetings and good-byes (Ex. 18:7; Ruth 1:9)
◦ and so with the most intimate relationship
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine
(Song 1:2)

The tongue could be a study project in itself
(it appears more than fifty times in just Job, Psalms, and Proverbs)
– it is used literally: to drink (Jdg.7:5), stuck to the roof of the mouth (Ps. 22:15),
and parched with thirst (Isa. 41:17)
• tasting food and drink is literal, but also sometimes metaphorical
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8)
◦ we also taste the future (Heb. 6:4-5) and taste death (experience it, Heb. 2:9)
• frequently the tongue can be weaponized
They make their tongue sharp as serpent’s teeth
and under their lips is the venom of asps (Ps. 140:3)
◦ having, as it were, a life of its own, the tongue can plot destruction and become a sharp razor (Ps. 52:2)
◦ a “tongue lashing” is a verbal whipping (Job 5:21)
◦ James 3 contains a poetic essay on the destructive power of the tongue
– but we also see the ambivalence of the tongue
A gentle tongue is a tree of life (Pr. 15:4)
The tongue of the wise brings healing (Pr. 12:18)
• in fact, the tongue can be “inspired”
The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue (2 Sam. 23:2)
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready [writer] (Ps. 45:1)
• “tongue” can also mean a native language
◦ as the one human language was divided at the tower of Babel
◦ but in the New Testament the breach is repaired by “speaking in tongues” (a spiritual gift)
– I’ll have to stop myself here, because there’s just too much more to see
• but when you are reading your Bible, notice any references to the tongue
◦ and remind yourself of the importance of the words it produces

The teeth, like the tongue, can be used as weapons
My soul is in the midst of lions . . .
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords (Ps. 57:4)
Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth! (Ps. 124:6)
– there’s an instance of people grinding their teeth in rage (Acts 7:54)
• and the famous gnashing of teeth in frustration and regret (Mt. 8:12)

The lips have the same capacity for harm as the tongue and teeth
– they can contain venom (Ps. 140:3) or nectar (Song 4:11)
unclean lips refers to everyday speech
◦ the lips require purification to be of use to God
strange lips refers to a foreign language
• and lying lips are an abomination to the LORD (Pr. 12:22)
The mouth and articulators are mostly about their function; that is, speech

The Book of Proverbs has plenty to say about speech
Staubli and Schroer, Countless sayings in the book of Proverbs are devoted to the beauty and balance of speech, the art of proper and timely speech and silence, and especially just and unjust speech. . . . Again and again they admonish to honest speech, warn against glibness, lying, and the use of too many words or hasty speech.”

In the Proverbs we learn:
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven . . .
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecc. 3:1, 7)
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Pr. 25:11)
These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heartstrings of a friend.
The ill-timed truth we might have kept–
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say–
Who knows how grandly it had rung?
(from “The Fool’s Prayer,” by Edward Sill)

the cheapness and danger of flattery and “many words”
“Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts (Pr. 20:14)
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Pr. 10:19)
A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet (Pr. 29:5)
the value and blessing of right speech
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body
(Pr. 16:24)

The mouth and hand work together
– the hand moves things around in physical space
the mouth moves things around in mental space
. . . you have kept with your servant David . . . what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth and with your hand have fulfilled it this day (1 Ki. 8:24)
– more important is the connection of the mouth and heart
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34, 36; see also Mt. 15:17-19)
• Jesus is reiterating the Beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart
• our truest words do not come from the mind, but from the heart

I haven’t mentioned yet, the mouth of the LORD

What was remembered as coming from mouth of the LORD, was authentic and binding (Jos 17:4)
– like Jesus, our survival depends on what God speaks
man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (De. 8:3)

At Reflexion, we’ve been concerned to train our ears to be more sensitive
– because God often speaks to us, not with thunder clap or roaring tornado,
• but in his still small voice – no more than a gentle whisper

I also haven’t said anything about the mouth of babies

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength (Ps. 8:2)
Jesus quoted this verse, but from the Greek translation of the Old Testament
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise (Mt. 21:16)
– their exuberance, heart-felt intonation, honest and innocent observation
– this brings us to the most important use of speech
• prayer – communication and fellowship with our God
• praise and giving thanks
◦ our bodies are receptors for God’s love, mercy, and grace
◦ but our mouths are for broadcasting his love,
for sharing his mercy and grace with others
I will bless the LORD at all times
his praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . .
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together (Ps. 34: 1 and 3)

Conclusion: One final thought

And it has to do with what the Scriptures say about “the full mouth”
– for instance, the mouth can be filled with laughter (Ps. 126:2)
– what I have in mind for you and I:
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps. 81:10)
• this is one of the most beautiful promises I know
◦ God does not simply say, “Open your mouth,” but, “Open your mouth wide

God is not stingy or miserly
He is generous with his children
If we hunger for more of his love and mercy
If we’re starving for more of his grace and goodness
If we cannot get enough of his presence
He tells us to open wide our mouths,
to stretch out our arms with open hands
so he can pour into us all that we are capable of receiving
If [we then], who are evil, know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk. 11:13)

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