We have been inundated with words. The relatively recent neologism “mass media” is an attempt to simply describe this growing flood. Of course it includes images, art, film, but wound through it all are words, words, words. Thousands of dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, anthologies rush through the air via fiber optics or some such wizardry, and I can mash my thumbs on a piece of glass the size of a note card, and in a few seconds, a certain selection of those bazillions of words will assemble before my eyes, lining up obediently, taking their bows, pirouetting on my handheld page, all at the command of the ones and zeros and their engineer friends.
Of course in this crab nebula of words, there are many foolish words, many false words, many spiteful words. How many chat rooms, how many forums, how many email lists, how many blog post comments fill up with angry venom, bitter accusations, whiny daggers hacking and slashing? How many stories are spun seductively inviting young, undiscriminating minds to imagine a world where up is down and down is up – where young women are invited to view themselves as objects to be used, where middle aged men grow discontent with what God has given, where the old resent the young and the young resent the old? How many words are arranged by the Evil One to question what God has said, to imagine disobedience as a grand adventure?
And yet, despite the danger, despite the chaos, despite the mass hurricane of words that swirl around us, God speaks words. He has spoken very particular words in Scripture and in His own Son Jesus. And He continues to speak in upholding the universe, its every atom, its every hair, its every blade of grass, every sparrow, every echo of every syllable of every word. And He commands His people to speak, to sing, to proclaim, to cry, to write, to dig into the treasury of His Word and to fling the gold into the sky, to paint the air with gilded words. The heavens declare the glory of God. They talk nonstop, and when the grace of God smacks us in the face, it makes us talk like the heavens. The Word is a word generator. The Spirit hovers and there is no language where their voice is not heard, spoken, read, written.
Who is the air traffic controller for this word storm? Who orchestrates these notes, these sounds – Who makes them sing? Is that even possible? And how do we dare to speak, to write, knowing our own hearts, knowing the words that well up within us, the words of anger, of bitterness, of envy, lies and worse. And how many words have slipped out? How many have been dashed off in an email or a text, and how we wish we could unsend them. And then there are words that are meant well but somehow don’t land how we intended them. We sent them into the ether and they got spun around and around and landed sharply. They hit a bystander. There was collateral damage. They were misunderstood, taken badly, had unintended consequences. Sometimes we learn that our intentions are not enough protection: we need second and third opinions. But sometimes we also learn that in a sinful world, sinners can twist the truth, can take sinful offense, can be determined to find fault. In fact, Jesus said that if they twisted His words, we should expect them to twist ours. The gospel isn’t the aroma of life to those who are perishing: it reeks like a corpse; it smells like death. The truth is a bloody cross, and that offends men who have fashioned themselves into gods.
There is a promise of hope and a beginning of an answer to our questions in our doctrine of Scripture. Often when Christians begin speaking boldly, when they begin condemning sin and folly and preaching Jesus crucified with unction, the cries come up and frequently from fellow Christians that the preacher, the evangelist, the blogger has got a big head – they think they’re a prophet, an apostle, they’re just like Jesus anointed to clash rhetorical swords with Pharisees, but seriously dude: you’re not Jesus. You’re not an inspired gospel writer. You didn’t have a vision of God, high and lifted up in the year King Uzziah died. When you make locusts your regular diet, come let us know and maybe we’ll let you say your piece. Frequently, the doctrine of Scripture is used as a gag order on our words. Tone it down, buddy, you’re not inspired.
But this is to get it completely backwards. Yes, of course it is true that the canon is closed. Nobody is inspired like St. Luke or the Prophet Malachi today to add another chapter to the Book of Revelation. Point taken. But it is this hugely important fact that fuels our speech. It fuels our confidence, our boldness, our blogging, our preaching. How can we write if the canon is not closed? How can we know if we are not missing some information? What if there was one more chapter? The close of the canon is God’s assurance that He has spoken sufficiently. We have all that we need. We have His Word. So we speak, we write, we tweet. Not only that, the Word is a fiery blade with sixty-six jagged, razor teeth. Who knows where it could land? Who knows whether some unsuspecting widow will be cut by a passage in the gospels? Who knows whether a prostitute will come across a prophet’s denunciation of Israel’s harlotries? Who knows whether a young man struggling with same-sex attraction will get sliced on one of Paul’s lists of the works of the flesh?
Yes, we may not be prophets or apostles or Messiahs, and we most certainly must wield our words with the humility that befits our office. And sometimes this means honest apologies, but God has spoken and He is still speaking and so humility means bold words. He has been pleased to use the faltering attempts of millions of men, women, and children telling the truth, sharing the gospel, writing letters, texting, blogging, tweeting. We serve the God of words, the God who has spoken the Eternal Word, and who has perfectly revealed Himself in a collection of human words. And the same Spirit that orchestrated all of it has been poured out on all flesh causing them to speak. Due care must be taken, but this must not be a cloak for cowardice.
We do not know how our words will be taken. We do not know where they will land. We do not know who will read them, who will hear them, who will misunderstand them, who will be transformed by them. But we serve the God who does know, the God who overwrites all our words. Drink deep from the waterfall of His Word, and then let the flood rip.