Silence Isn't Always Golden
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, December 2017/January 2018 & February/March 2018~Volume 17, Number 5 & Volume 17, Number 6
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 17
The other day I changed my youngest daughter's sheets and bedding and decided to take off the rail that attaches to her mattress. Her mattress is on the floor because she has been known to roll so much in her sleep that she can roll off the end of the bed at times. I wanted to see if maybe she had outgrown the need for the bed rail and had stopped her rolling. I suppose I should have known better because I see her in all different positions in her bed at night, but I still persisted with my plan. As the night wore on, it was evident she still needed her boundary to keep herself safely and securely in bed. Before long, I found her half off the bed. I moved her back on, telling myself I would attach the rail the next day. Soon, though, I found her all the way off and figured that that moment was a good time to put the rail back on. After securing her boundary, I lifted her into bed, where she stayed nicely until she awoke the next day.
When I lay down in my bed that night, it was with a new appreciation for that boundary--the bed rail--which held my sweet daughter so securely. In fact, I had peace because the rail was back on. It made me think of the need for a boundary, a rail, a gate for our mouths to hold in our words. I remember David asking God, "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." (Psalm 141:3) There are times I have done the same thing to the gate of my lips like I did with my daughter's rail that day. I didn't use it. Perhaps I didn't remember its great need, thinking maybe I had outgrown its use, and other times I just was not mindful to employ it, use it, or reestablish its worth and need. But we never grow out of the need to set a watch over our mouth and keep the door of our lips. In fact, Scripture says the tongue can't be tamed, though the wildest of animals can. (James 3:7-8) Wisdom involves staying within boundaries and also realizing the need for them. Gates save lives....if they are mindfully attended and shut at proper times. Likewise, we are wise to refrain our lips, spare our words, keep our mouths, study to answer, and bridle our mouths. (Proverbs 10:19, 17:27, 21:23, 15:28, 39:1) And yet, wisdom is not only found in the shutting of the mouth. It is found in the opening of it too. The Virtuous Woman knew this, for she is praised for the opening of her mouth with wisdom.
Proverbs 31:26 says, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Sometimes we say too much....in the wrong way....at the wrong time....with the wrong heart. That is not wise. Is the preferred alternative silence? Sometimes, perhaps, but a better alternative is wisdom. Silence is not what the Virtuous Woman is praised for, but rather the opening of her mouth with wisdom and the law of kindness in her tongue.
Often during a discussion, I catch myself framing a response in my mind when I should be listening intently to the one who is speaking to me. Sometimes, I do even worse than that and actually cut off the person and give my response before they are even finished speaking. And worse yet, there are times I answer back with full proofs and the weight of logic and reason (I was a mathematician, you know) before I even hear the whole matter. This is foolishness and shameful, and the Bible doesn't mince words about it. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."—Proverbs 18:13 Words carry great weight and how and when we open our mouths is critical to our witness and our walk. Interestingly, the Virtuous Woman not only knew how to use her hands and her mind well, but she also knew how to use her mouth well. Her lips, like her hands, feed many.
There is much said in Scripture about controlling our tongue, and we are wise to realize that many times it is best to close our mouths. I love the Scripture that vividly reminds me not to utter my whole mind in the heat of the moment. I need that reminder. However, I used to misunderstand that passage, thinking it only addressed the closing of your mouth. Then I noticed the last word in that verse. "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards."—Proverbs 29:11 Notice the wise man doesn't necessarily keep it in indefinitely; there is often an afterwards--a time to open your mouth with wisdom in kindness. While it is certainly wise to know when to keep silent, it is equally wise and important to know when to open your mouth. The Virtuous Woman is credited with the opening of her mouth in wisdom, and Scripture is chock full of many women whom God used to accomplish great things by the opening of their mouths in wisdom. Let us look at a few of these women. But first....where did the Virtuous Woman's wisdom come from?
We are told that the Virtuous Woman opens her mouth in wisdom, but this requires that she must possess wisdom in the first place. Proverbs 31:30 provides a clue to the origin of her wisdom when it says of the Virtuous Woman that a woman that fears the Lord shall be praised. Since Scripture states that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we can conclude that the Virtuous Woman's fear of the Lord birthed her wisdom, and it also instructed her in wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10, 15:33) Then she likely inclined her ear to wisdom and applied her heart to understanding and cried after knowledge and understanding, seeking and searching for them like hidden treasure, for then she could understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God, which is true wisdom. This search would have led her to the source of wisdom. The LORD is the source! He gives wisdom and out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He lays up sound wisdom for the righteous. (Proverbs 2:1-7) God gives wisdom to a man that is good in His sight, and we are only found good in His sight or righteous by the blood of Christ. (Ecclesiastes 2:26)
Walking with wise people is a way to wisdom. (Proverbs 13:20) Wisdom is also found with the well-advised, so we can assume the Virtuous Woman chose friends and advisors very carefully. (Proverbs 13:10) One of my favorite ways to get wisdom is to simply ask for it. We are promised in James that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God, Who gives bountifully, and it shall be given to us. (James 1:5) The quest for wisdom is the search of a lifetime! “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”—Proverbs 4:7 Keep in mind wisdom is better to acquire than gold, and I think I know where it is hidden. One of my favorite verses in Colossians gives the place--or rather the Person. "In Whom [Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."—Colossians 2:3 I have been praying for years for the Lord to open to me the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hid in Him. Consider joining me in this prayer, but remember its answer could come in the form of a humbling trial, for with the lowly is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Now let us turn our eyes to the pages of Scripture and listen to the words spoken by real women God used. Notice, by God’s grace, what the opening of their mouths in wisdom accomplished.
Abigail saved her own life and the life of many others and kept David from sinning by acting quickly, sending a gift to David after her husband refused to and opening her mouth with wisdom to David. In fact, her words are so significant in changing what David had determined in desperation to do that he blesses her and acknowledges that God sent her to open her mouth wisely and change history! David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me. And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.” (1 Samuel 25:32-34)
God used Esther to save herself and her people, the Jews, through which the Messiah would be born, because she opened her mouth in wisdom, even though it took great courage to do so. After risking her life by appearing before the king without being called, she boldly spoke and invited him to two banquets. At the second, she didn’t hold her tongue, but opened her mouth in wisdom, and for good reason.
“For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.” (Esther 7:4) The king gets to the bottom of this matter and Haman is executed, his house given to Esther, and Mordecai is given Haman’s old job and the king’s ring. But Esther risks her life a second time and opens her mouth in wisdom yet again. “And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews.” (Esther 8:3-9) This bold, wise move to open her mouth in wisdom caused the Jews to be able to legally defend themselves against any who would rise up against them on the day that Haman had planned their destruction. Hence God mightily used this young woman who didn’t hold her tongue, but opened it in wisdom, to preserve a nation.
Even young girls can open their mouths in wisdom and make a difference. A “little maid” who was brought away captive out of Israel and waited on Naaman’s wife opened her mouth in wisdom and a leper was totally healed! “And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.” (2 Kings 5:3-4) You know the rest of the story. Namaan finally makes it to Elisha’s house and is told to go wash in the Jordan, which after some coaxing, he eventually does and gets totally cleansed....which all got started when a little girl opened her mouth in wisdom. Her wise words were the pointing of someone to a true prophet of God.
A Gentile woman opens her mouth in wisdom to Jesus and wisely even defends her request after it is initially denied, and her daughter is delivered from a demon and she receives a wonderful compliment from Jesus. In fact, read closely and see what Jesus tells her, “For this saying [the woman’s wise words] go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.” Opening her mouth in wisdom and even persisting in this case brought great results. Here is the story: “For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto Him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And He said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.” (Mark 7:25-30)
I love the parallel record in Matthew 15:22-28 where we see that the woman even cried out to the disciples and we also hear Jesus’ final response. “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Her great faith was shown through her speaking--by opening her mouth in wisdom.
Ruth was told to turn around and head home. Orpah was too, and she turned back. Not Ruth. Instead she opened her mouth in wisdom and said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17) The rest is history....and a wonderful history for this woman who opened her mouth in wisdom, and later married her “redeemer” Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David and a Gentile woman mentioned in the Christ line. There is no wiser way to open your mouth than Ruth did when she claimed the true God as her God. I must mention that Ruth also opened her mouth wisely to Boaz, following Naomi’s counsel, and said, “Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid.” (Ruth 3:9) This was a bold and wise display of faith with beautiful results.
By the way, Boaz’s mother was a woman who spoke up wisely too and even ended up in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith, though she had a sketchy past. The harlot Rahab saved herself and her family because she hid the spies, yes, but also because she opened her mouth in wisdom saying, “Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token...” (Joshua 2:12) Rahab hung the true token of the red thread in the window and was not only delivered, but also became the great-great-grandma of King David and another Gentile woman in the Christ line.
While it may be a parable, the widow who was treated unfairly and came continually before the unjust judge was eventually helped because of her continual coming and opening her mouth wisely. This is a picture of perpetual prayer, which is a wonderful way to open your mouth in wisdom! (Luke 18:1-8) Another woman of prayer, Anna, not only served God by praying night and day, but also when baby Jesus was brought into the temple, she gave thanks to the Lord and then opened her mouth in wisdom “and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:37-38) Telling others about Jesus and thanking the Lord are wonderful ways to open your mouth in wisdom.
Another woman, a worshipper of God whose heart the Lord opened, wisely opened her own mouth and said to Paul and Silas, “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” (Acts 16:15) Her words of constraint worked. Even later when Paul and Silas were released from unjust imprisonment, they went straight to her house. The woman is Lydia and her wise words caused her house to be a hub of Christian activity and comfort. Desiring to care for others is good way to open your mouth in wisdom.
Priscilla and her husband Aquila not only had a church in their home and housed Paul, but they also took time to open their mouths wisely to instruct a brother privately. Apollos was eloquent and fervent in spirit but he only knew of the baptism of John and he began to speak in the synagogue. “When Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:26) Since this is plural, we see also Priscilla involved in opening her mouth wisely in speaking the truth of the Word of God (with her husband), which is always a good way to open your mouth in wisdom. Paul later calls both Aquila and Priscilla “his helpers in Christ.” (Romans 16:3)
In all these examples of women (and girls) of faith who opened their mouths in wisdom, we see something consistent in their responses--no matter the situation, the law of kindness was in their tongue. This is just like the Virtuous Woman. She not only opened her mouth in wisdom, but in her tongue was also the law of kindness. Kindness is a part of wisdom and an easy part to forget as we seek to make our points and win others to our ideas. However, we must remember, apart from kindness, our “wise” words cease to be wise. Often, the winning of the debate is the losing of the real battle. Keep kindness and wisdom as the goal and not persuasion or making your case. Our words should be always spoken with grace, seasoned with salt.
Notice also that kindness is called a law. That is because it is not dependent upon the circumstances, who we are talking to, the tone in which we are being addressed, or any number of variables. It is a law because it remains constant, and it is a law we must learn to abide by. Perhaps many of us learned Ephesians 4:32 as a child, but it is not a childish concept. Being kind, tender hearted, and forgiving, especially when we feel wronged, is not an easy task, but it is God’s way. He gives us the example to follow by showing us how it is done. Charity--the agape love of God--suffers long.....and is kind.
I must add a brief word of warning. There are also many examples of women in scripture who answered foolishly and brought dire consequences upon themselves, so remember the need for the gate of your mouth and never underestimate its value or importance. Remember David’s wife Michal who opened her mouth with sarcastic ridicule and was barren until the day of her death? (2 Samuel 6:20-23) Don’t forget Miriam’s foolish jealous question, asking, “Doesn’t God speak by me and Aaron too and not just by Moses,” which resulted in her becoming a leper, white as snow. (Numbers 12:2, 10) Job’s wife told Job to “curse God and die” and Job rightly said she was speaking like one of the foolish women. (Job 2:9) Sapphira, opening her mouth foolishly, agreed to lie about what she sold her land for, thus tempting the Lord, and she died instantly. (Acts 5:8-10) The warning is sounded. Keep your mouth and your tongue and keep your soul from troubles. (Proverbs 21:23)
Life and death are indeed in the power of the tongue, but the tongue is really a reflection of the heart. It is out of the heart that the mouth--the tongue--speaketh. (Proverbs 18:21, Matthew 12:34)
Once, after hearing a sermon about the importance of having a gate for your mouth, one of my boys said to his little sister, who had just lost her two front teeth, that she could be in trouble now with her words getting out because she had lost her gate! It may have looked like that when she smiled, but of course her mind and ultimately her heart are the gates she needs and possesses. We must do due diligence in keeping our heart if we desire to do due diligence in keeping our tongue. In fact, if we desire wise words to flow out, we must pay attention to what we allow to flow in and what we allow our hearts to muse on. A wonderful prayer that I love is found in Psalm 19: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Let us fear the Lord and search diligently for wisdom and understanding, asking God often to give it and to open to us its treasures that are hidden in Christ. Let us wisely refrain our lips, using our gates, and spare our words, but let us also open our mouths in wisdom, with the law of kindness in our tongues, for such does the Virtuous Woman.
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