I haven’t put anything on this blog lately. Thus I might be inspired to write a post about laziness or apathy. But since I don’t want those qualities attributed to me I will write about the preciousness of words instead.
“Silence Is Golden” sang one band in the 60’s. Though it appears that they were lamenting some kind of love triangle the truth of that statement (considered by itself) is very profound. For, in a sense, words only have meaning against their counterpoint, silence. Without (some) voluntary silence our words would be an endless chatter and indistinguishable from each other.
Indeed sometimes silence is preferred to words, such as when parents want their children to be quiet in the presence of guests, or when prayer is offered to God. Some people, we think, just talk too much and end up putting their foot in their mouths. If they would only learn the value of listening (silence) then they might see that we don’t always need to hear their opinion about everything. Hence the proverb “Speech is silver, silence is golden”.
We can only imagine the silence of eternity. What was being said when we were not there? (we are self-centered creatures after all). All men are lost in the awesomeness, if not coldness, of the question of eternity. Whether we believe it was some divine Creator or impersonal force(s) that is responsible for the creation of the universe, someone or something always WAS. So before we WERE, there WAS. The supposed (please forgive my lack of faith here) Big Bang must have made a lot of noise (if the rules of ‘space’ do not apply to the time before the creation or arrival of the universe). But this explosion (?) has no meaning to it: it just WAS.
Out of this meaningless cosmos we have arrived with our millions of years of evolution to the point of being able to speak intelligibly with one another (even to the extent that each language carries the potential to be understood or translated into any other language known to man – presumably because they all originate from a common source). But our chatter has been understood to merely be a higher form of that of the animals who are our relatives of one kind or another. After all they communicate too, don’t they? Well I suppose they do, they were made to do so like us.
The problem is that if our speech is merely a product of random forces (even if seemingly intelligent and purposeful) they ultimately have no meaning in light of something that just happened for no reason whatsoever, that just WAS. The meaning we ascribe to our words and thoughts then is just apparent and not real.
But then we have to face the reality of anarchy, at least as far as communication goes. Consider the law of non-contradiction which states that something cannot be something and not the opposite of that something at the same time and in the same way. A cannot be not A when it is A. Or, to make it simple, a dog cannot be a dog and not a dog at the same time. If a dog is no longer a dog then don’t call it a dog. Call it something else. Like a whale or an apple or whatever it has become.
Now is that law, as some have pointed out, merely a convention? Something we have invented in our minds? Something that does not really exist? It certainly should be if there if everything just IS (depending on what ‘IS’ is). Hmmm…. and well I suppose if that is the case then this whole post would have no meaning at all or could mean the opposite of what I had intended it to be. Maybe the title of this post, ‘precious words’, means ‘not precious words’ or maybe it even means ‘coffee grounds are a really great dessert when they are added to banana peels’. I am not saying that, and I hope you don’t try it (though who am I to judge you if you really like that sort of thing?). In fact perhaps me saying that ‘I am not saying that’ could be me saying that I am saying that and well, you get the picture (or postcard).
For some reason, though, some people would get really angry if we had the courage to ascribe to them the opposite of what they said (or whatever meaning we might want to give it). Imagine the consternation of our evolutionist friends if after they gave a rousing speech on the the veracity of Darwin’s theory of evolution and a condemnation of the dim-wittedness of creationist sympathizers, we said “Cool! You totally agree with me!” They would undoubtedly reply “No I don’t! Didn’t you listen to anything I said?” And we say “Wow you really have changed your views, haven’t you? So when are you going to start coming to Bible study?” Reply: “Grrr…”
Or perhaps I am hauled before the Human Rights tribunal for some violation of hate crime legislation (we won’t give an example of a target group here because they might be offended and have me indicted for said offense). The tribunal says to me “Why did you speak against ‘x’ in this fashion?” I reply: “Hey, so you think I SHOULD speak out against ‘x’ with greater vehemence?” Reply: “No, please listen to me. Actually you need to stop speaking out against ‘x'” I say: “Cool so now you are going to start paying me to speak against ‘x’ and also impose legislation upon the nation through your arbitrary standards of right and wrong to oppress ‘x’ because you deny an ultimate reality in favour of random processes of the brain that exude themselves in such a fashion that they now create these laws under whose tyrannical shadow we all must live? Reply: “Uhhhm?!”
And if it all just WAS/IS it would probably be better to be silent instead of babbling on as we do every day (maybe).
It seems to me then, that at this point I should propose an alternative; one that I will leave to the reader to decide whether or not it makes more sense (although in reality if this alternative is true they have no choice but to believe it for all words to the contrary are a suppressing of truth – Romans 1:18).
In the beginning was God. (Genesis 1:1) If there was silence in eternity past it was because God willed it. In the midst of this silence then God spoke and it WAS. The reality that God wanted appeared by His words. A personal being who IS, WAS, and always WILL BE good in all that He does and says. And He made man in His image. (Genesis 1:26-27) So He did not make him and her like the rest of His creation. He did not speak them into existence but formed him out of the dust of the ground. (2:7). He WAS because God made Him be.He has meaning because God made him that way.
And because God created him in His image, man spoke too. Though he could not speak anything into existence, because he is still a creature, as God’s likeness man could name things and thus be like God. He named the animals and he even named his wife (though we labour here to say that his wife had more meaning to him than the creatures that appeared before him). And when we look at it from this perspective we see the preciousness of words, or better that words (and meaning itself) are a gift from God.
For even God and man could talk, they could speak together. Precious words flowed between the Creator and His creature. They could understand each other, and man could obey the words of God.
But someone else spoke too. It was another creature. He spoke lies and persuaded man to believe in his lies. His lies through man’s fall brought death and misery into the world. Now when man speaks he does so according to the lies that he believed. (Genesis 3; Romans 3:13-14)
Yet God was not willing that that would be the final word. No, He said that He would put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Indeed the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15). He said it would happen, in fact He guaranteed it.
So He spoke to His people (Israel) of old through His appointed prophets guiding them through His Spirit in order that the people might know that He was sending a Saviour. (2 Peter 1:21) Though man could say nothing to convince God to stop Him from judging Him for His sins, though he couldn’t take God to court (Job 9:32) and defend himself, some said that God would provide. (Genesis 22:8)
Indeed God spoke to us though we didn’t want God to speak to us anymore. He sent the WORD (His Son) into the world (John 1:1&14) so that all who would with the heart and mouth confess Him would be saved (Romans 10:8-13) from the judgment to come. This Word saves because He was silent before His accusers and opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). He did not defend Himself but went to His death. Yes Heaven was silent too; no words were given in response to His statement “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” as He suffered and died on the cross (Matthew 27:46) Forsaken that we might live forever, before the presence of our God, our Lord and Saviour because the Word took the penalty due to believers for their sin.
Those who are saved now, by God’s Spirit, are “swift to hear, slow to speak”. (James 1:19) They understand and follow the command that their “speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6); that lies and deceit are to be repalced with the words of the gospel: the good news, the good words, the good speech of God’s grace and mercy to fallen man.
But maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you don’t believe. But before you say anything, think: is what you are going to say mean something? anything? If not, why say anything at all?
“But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”(Habakkuk 2:20)