Tongues, Flames, and Other Things That Devour

Rebecca Van Noord

Joshua 12:1–13:32; 2 Corinthians 11:7–15; Psalm 52:1–53:6

I’d like to skip over the description of the “mighty man” in Psa 52. Of all of his destructive influences, the mighty man is most judged for his use of words. The psalmist’s words burn because I’ve set more than a few forests ablaze with careless words (Jas 3:5). So how should someone like me respond to the psalmist’s judgment?

“Why do you boast about evil, O mighty man? The loyal love of God endures continually. Your tongue plans destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceit. You love evil more than good, a lie more than speaking what is right. You love all devouring words, O deceitful tongue” (Psa 52:1–4).

Prideful self-reliance is at the root of the evil man’s devouring, razor-sharp tongue. He boasts to make himself appear mighty. He takes “refuge in his destructiveness” (Psa 52:7). In contrast, the psalmist finds refuge in God, in the sanctuary of His loyal love: “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God. I trust in the loyal love of God forever and ever” (Psa 52:8).

On my own, I’m more like the mighty man than the stable and prosperous olive tree. I can try to manage my words, fabricating my sense of security on the basis of good behavior. But efforts born out of self-reliance—the root problem of my flippant speech—always fail me. Unless I recognize the foolishness of my pride, I cannot see my desperate need for God. Without hope in Jesus, who provided refuge through His sacrifice, I’ll never resemble the psalmist’s prosperous olive tree.

Oftentimes, the places where we fail so miserably, where we need the most grace, are also the places we see God’s work all the more. His Spirit changes us into people who bear the fruit of thankfulness. It makes us ever more eager to say with the psalmist: “I will give thanks to you forever, because of what you have done” (Psa 52:9).

Where do you see pride and self-reliance taking root in your life?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.