BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“When they reached Succoth, Gideon asked the leaders of the town, ‘Will you please give my warriors some food? They are very tired. I am chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’ But the leaders of Succoth replied, ‘You haven’t caught Zebah and Zalmunna yet. Catch them first, and then we will feed your warriors.’ So Gideon said, ‘After the LORD gives me victory over Zebah and Zalmunna, I will return and tear your flesh with the thorns and briers of the wilderness.’ From there Gideon went up to Peniel and asked for food, but he got the same answer. So he said to the people of Peniel, ‘After I return in victory, I will tear down this tower’” (Judges 8:4-9 NLT).
The Bible gives the description of the tongue in James 3, which also underscores the need for everyone to control his tongue. “So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself” (James 3:5-6 NLT). As small as the tongue is, if uncontrolled, it can cause so much trouble for anyone and any society.
James 1:19 says you should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Verse 26 says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (NLT). A tongue without control is like a vehicle without a brake. Jesus said by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned (Matthew 12:37).
In our main text, Judges 8:4-9, the men of Succoth and Peniel did not exercise discretion in their speech. If they had no bread to give Gideon, as he had requested, they should have told him politely and not ridiculed him. They suffered the consequences for their action after he had captured Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian, over whom they gave him a rude reply.
“Then he came to the men of Succoth and said, ‘Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you ridiculed me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your weary men?’ And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. Then he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city” (Judges 8:15-17 NKJV). The tongues of the men of Succoth and Peniel put them in trouble. They were not initially Gideon’s target. Be careful what you say. Watch your tongue.
Nabal’s foolish jeering
Nabal’s action was similar to that of the people of Succoth and Peniel. He ridiculed David over his request for the upkeep of the people with him. Nabal uttered disrespectful words to David, despite the kindness he had shown him. “‘Who is this fellow David?’ Nabal sneered. ‘Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and water and the meat I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?’ So David’s messengers returned and told him what Nabal had said” (1 Samuel 25:10-12 NLT).
Nabal could have just said “No” to David’s reasonable request; he didn’t have to jeer at him. What he said was enough to make David really angry, and it did. He would have gone with 400 men to destroy Nabal and all that belonged to him but for the swift and wise intervention of Nabal’s wife, Abigail (verses 13- 35). Nabal died not long after then without David killing him. Indeed, Nabal was a fool just as his wife had said (verse 25). Proverbs 18:7says, “The mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips get them into trouble” (NLT). Watch your tongue.
Shimei’s lousy talk
In 2 Samuel 16:5-13, Shimei cursed David as he fled from his son, Absalom, who had rebelled against him. It was an unwise utterance. As he went, he cursed David, throwing stones at him and tossing dust into the air. He didn’t consider the consequences of his words. “As David and his party passed Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, a member of Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded them. ‘Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!’ he shouted at David. ‘The LORD is paying you back for murdering Saul and his family. You stole his throne, and now the LORD has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, you murderer!’ ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. ‘Let me go over and cut off his head!’ ‘No!’ the king said. ‘What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah! If the LORD has told him to curse me, who am I to stop him?’Then David said to Abishai and the other officers, ‘My own son is trying to kill me. Shouldn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to do it. And perhaps the LORD will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses.’ So David and his men continued on, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing as he went and throwing stones at David and tossing dust into the air” (2 Samuel 16:5-13 NLT).
Shimei never knew David would return to the throne. He was myopic – he should have considered that possibility. Be careful how you talk to people when things are not going well for them or they are going through some challenges. They may soon come out of that situation, and what you’ve spoken to them would either count for or against you.
Absalom’s rebellion was quelled. David was on his way back to Jerusalem and Shimei had to beg for forgiveness. “As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. ‘My lord the king, please forgive me,’ he pleaded. ‘Forget the terrible thing I did when you left Jerusalem. I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel to greet you.’ Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shimei should die, for he cursed the LORD’s anointed king!’ ‘What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah!’ David exclaimed. ‘This is not a day for execution but for celebration! I am once again the king of Israel!’ Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, ‘Your life will be spared’” (2 Samuel 19:18-23 NLT). David spared his life. He forgave him, but he didn’t forget!
Before David died, he didn’t forget to hand over his case to Solomon, his successor, to execute judgment on him – Shimei must die a bloody death! “And remember Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin. He cursed me with a terrible curse as I was fleeing to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan River, I swore by the LORD that I would not kill him. But that oath does not make him innocent. You are a wise man, and you will know how to arrange a bloody death for him” (1 Kings 2:8-9 NLT). In fact, Shimei’s matter was what David discussed last with Solomon before he died, so Solomon could remember vividly. Solomon set a trap for Shimei, which he eventually fell into. He violated Solomon’s word never to go out of Jerusalem, and for that Solomon got him killed for cursing his father, David (1 Kings 2:36-46).
The word you speak is a seed; you will reap your harvest in time. Therefore, sow good seeds. “For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies’” (1 Peter 3:10 NLT).
An Amalekite signed his own death warrant; he cut short his life when he told David, with his own mouth, that he killed Saul. Perhaps he actually did; perhaps he didn’t, but the account of the death of Saul did not state that he was killed by an Amalekite (1 Samuel 31:1-6). Even if he had killed Saul, as he claimed, he didn’t need to come to tell David. Probably he did that looking for a reward from David, knowing full well that Saul was after David’s life until his death.
He probably thought David would compensate him generously for eliminating his arch-enemy, thereby paving the way to the throne of Israel for David. But to his chagrin, David ordered him to be killed. “Then David said to the young man who told him, ‘Where are you from?’ And he answered, ‘I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.’ So David said to him, ‘How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?’ Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Go near, and execute him!’ And he struck him so that he died. So David said to him, ‘Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed’” (2 Sam 1:13-16 NKJV). The New Living Translation says in verse 16 “‘You die self-condemned,’ David said, ‘for you yourself confessed that you killed the LORD’s anointed one.’”
The mouth of this young Amalekite put him in trouble; his mouth killed him. “If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 NLT). Your mouth will not kill you in Jesus’ name.
The fate that befell that young Amalekite also befell Rechab and Baanah, the two brothers, killers of Ishbosheth, the son of King Saul, who succeeded him. Hear what these two captains of Ishbosheth’s troops said to David, which put them in trouble: “And they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron, and said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and his descendants’” (2 Samuel 4:8 NKJV). After killing Ishbosheth, they didn’t have to go to David to tell him. Nevertheless, they went to him with the head of Ishbosheth, apparently looking for favours being aware of the enmity between the house of Saul and David.
What was the response of David to this favour they thought they had done him? “But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, ‘As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity, when someone told me, saying, ‘Look, Saul is dead,’ thinking to have brought good news, I arrested him and had him executed in Ziklag — the one who thought I would give him a reward for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous person in his own house on his bed? Therefore, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and remove you from the earth?’ So David commanded his young men, and they executed them, cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron” (2 Samuel 4:9-12 NKJV).
The tongues of these brothers killed them. They could have killed Ishbosheth and fled without going to tell David. There are cases like that in the Bible. For instance, Sennacherib was murdered with swords by his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, and then escaped to the land of Ararat while another son, Esarhaddon, succeeded him as the king of Assyria (2 Kings 19:37). But the tongues of these captains killed them. “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; a quick retort can ruin everything” (Proverbs 13:3 NLT). These murderers, unknowingly, gave up themselves!
Jephthah’s rash vow
Jephthah is an example of a man unable to control his tongue – he made a rash vow. He was not careful when he made the vow. He acted on impulse, and later blamed the daughter who had done the right thing by jubilantly coming out to welcome a victorious father from the battlefield. She wasn’t there when her father made the rash vow in Judges 11:30-31.“And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering’” (NKJV).
However, in verse 35, Jephthah blamed the girl for bringing calamity on him and troubling his soul. “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it” (NKJV). Jephthah should blame himself and not his daughter. But she was a good daughter – she submitted herself to the father to fulfill his rash vow as he had vowed to God. Obviously, she was not sacrificed as a burnt offering in accordance with the father’s vow (verses 36- 40).
Jephthah should have been more careful in making his vow. That’s the same mistake many people make today. Their vows sound good to their ears, but are they inspired by the Spirit of God? When it’s time to fulfill their vows, they’ll be reluctant; they’ll be regretting. Be careful what you say. Be careful of high-sounding vows not birthed by the Spirit of God. “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed — Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-7 NKJV).
Don’t make a vow you’ll be regretting later and reluctant to redeem. Hear also what Deuteronomy 23:21-23 says: “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth” (NKJV).
Saul’s foolish oath
Saul’s oath is another example of a foolish vow which had a negative impact on his army. Why ask soldiers at the battlefront to fast? They should fight and not fast (1 Samuel 14:24). Because of his unwise oath, Israel couldn’t consolidate their victory that day. Jonathan had ignorantly violated the oath. “But the people said to Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’ So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die. Then Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place” (verses 45-46 NKJV). Saul shouldn’t have placed the people under this kind of oath.
Ultimately, it wasn’t his oath that gave Israel victory but Jonathan’s faith in God and courage. “‘Let’s go across to see those pagans,’ Jonathan said to his armor bearer. ‘Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!’” (Verse 6 NLT).
Israelites’ burdensome oath
In Judges 21, the men of Israel regretted the oath they swore to before God not to give their daughters to the Benjamites. “Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, ‘None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife’” (verse 1 NKJV). The oath and the subsequent war followed the refusal of the men of Benjamin to bring to justice the men of Gibeah of Benjamin who raped to death the concubine of a Levite who was on a journey with her. She had passed the night in the house of an old man of Mount Ephraim sojourning in Gibeah. Israel’s vow or oath was spoken in the heat of emotion.
In the battle against Benjamites, the Benjamites won the first time and second time, while the other tribes of Israel, which had suffered heavy casualties won on the third occasion. However, they realized the implication of cutting off one tribe from Israel after killing in the battle 25,000 Benjamites who were swordsmen, men of valour (Judges 20:35, 46). The other tribes of Israel regretted this vow; they grieved for them saying, “Today we have lost one of the tribes from our family; it is nearly wiped out. How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the LORD not to give them our daughters in marriage?” (Judges 21:6-7 NLT).
In order to ensure the continuity of the tribe of Benjamin, because of the implication of this vow, Jabesh Gilead was completely destroyed, excluding the women who were virgins. The 400 young virgins found were given to the Benjamites as wives. The destruction of Jabesh Gilead was a punishment for refusing to join in the war against the Benjamites (Judges 21:7-14). When the wives they got for them were not enough, they instructed the Benjamites to abduct the daughters of Shiloh as wives at a yearly feast of the LORD (verses 16-23).
Though what the tribe of Benjamin did was bad, the oath the other tribes took appears to be an inappropriate punishment. They should have been more careful.
Conclusion: God told Laban in a dream the previous night before he met fleeing Jacob, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad” (Genesis 31:24 NKJV). What you say is no longer your property, once you say it! So be careful what you say to people. In the real sense of it, you can’t withdraw what you’ve said; you can’t wipe it from people’s memory, even if you retract it. Psalm 34:13 says, “Watch your tongue” (NLT).
The Bible describes the tongue as a fire. Be careful that it doesn’t destroy your life (James 3:5-7). The tongue could be a deadly poison also. “But the tongue can no man tame; (it is) a restless evil, (it is) full of deadly poison” (verse 8 ASV). Don’t let it poison you or your hearers. Even when you stand before God, be careful what you say; don’t make rash vows. Don’t let your mouth cause you to sin. Avoid multitude of words (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Num 30; Psalms 65:1, 76:11). “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NKJV). David said, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will curb my tongue when the ungodly are around me” (Psalm 39:1 NLT). This should be your resolve too.
Use your mouth to speak the right words, edifying words, words of blessing, and not curses. “And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10 NLT)
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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