Whose Words Do I Speak?

“The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.’ So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak… Balaam said to Balak, ‘Behold,.. have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak…’

“Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he shows me I will tell you…’ God met Balaam. And Balaam said to him, ‘I have arranged the seven altars and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.’ And the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, ‘Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak…’

“‘How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?..’

“Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.’ And he answered and said, ‘Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?..’

“And the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, ‘Return to Balak, and thus shall you speak…’

“‘God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?’

“Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord says, that I must do’?.. 

“Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

“’The oracle of Balaam,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    who sees the vision of the Almighty.'” Numbers 22:35,38; 23:3-5,8,11-12,16,19,26; 24:2-4

Balaam had a loyalty problem. Though he was God’s spokesman, his heart flirted with other affections. He was easily swayed by the possibilities of fame and fortune, and could not stand firm on God’s firm word. He spoke absolute refusal with absolute ambivalence, always entertaining the next enticement from Balak. Ultimately, against the backdrop of his weak and ineffectual deal-making, sovereign God’s pronouncements went forth. His word always stands, and we would do well to stand with them. (Numbers 22:1-32)

The guarding of the tongue is no small matter. God takes our words seriously- they flow from our hearts, and He cares about our hearts. He expects us to take care of what we say. Words are His tools for consolation, blessing, and eternal life, but they can also be restless and full of deadly poison. (Luke 6:45; John 6:68; 1 Corinthians 14:3; James 3:8)

What constrains our tongues, and who restrains them? If the Lord Jesus constrains us to speak His life-giving words and we comply, His Spirit will restrain us from words that divide, deceive, and destroy. What malice, deceit, slander, and breaking of confidences need we put off? Will we rely on His Spirit to replace ugly words with those that upbuild and accord with grace and peace? (Colossians 3:8; 4:6; 1 Peter 2:1)

Put a guard over my lips, O Lord, and guard my heart. May I speak only Your words, in Your gracious and strong voice, to the end that Your truth is made clear and Your excellencies are magnified. (Psalm 141:3; Proverbs 4:23; 1 Peter 2:9)

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