A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
The Speech of the Godly Woman
This is the chapter that excites me the most to write about thus far. Those women who grasp the message here and walk in it will be set to transform their worlds. What awesome power is in the tongue, and how incredibly positive this force can be when employed by a godly woman.
In an earlier chapter I spoke of a woman’s high calling as a helper to man. Let me elaborate a little bit upon this. I am convinced that one of the things a woman is called to in her role as a helper to man is to help him recover the understanding of who he was created to be. When a woman treats her husband with reverence and respect she is affirming him and magnifying his own understanding of his high calling. When women fail to respect men they act as a drag and a weight upon the man. By failing to respect man, man is encouraged even more to not respect himself and he sinks lower and lower.
A part of the high calling of women in this day and hour is to help men to regain the understanding that they were created in the image and likeness and glory of God. This will ultimately prove to be to the woman’s benefit. When a man sees himself as created in the image of God, he will begin to act more godly. He will treat his wife with love, compassion, mercy, and understanding. His behavior in all ways will become more elevated. When man begins to see that he is the image of God and not a mere beast, he will also begin to see that his wife is much more than a physical body to be lusted after or despised.
Man needs a helper. It was Yahweh who declared that it was not good for man to be alone. There has been no day when man’s need has been greater. May many daughters of Sarah come forth to elevate their husbands, to lift them up in the midst of a world that seeks to diminish them. May they by their very behavior, by their conversation and respectful demeanor, remind their men that they were created in the image of God and that the calling of man is an exceedingly high calling.
A woman’s tongue holds within it a tremendous power. It can build up, or tear down. It can produce life, or bring forth death. So much has been written about it. Have you ever wondered why so much of the writing in scriptures concerning women involves their tongues? Let me give you a small sampling of these scriptures.
It came about when [Delilah] pressed [Samson] daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; aAnd reproofs for discipline are the way of life to keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
Proverbs 31:10, 26
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels… She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.
A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; he who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand.
It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
I Corinthians 14:34
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
I Timothy 2:11-12
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
I Peter 3:1
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives…
Over and over throughout the scriptures the woman and the tongue are linked together. There is good reason for this. There is power in the tongue of a woman and man is greatly impacted by it. The first sin of man occurred when Adam’s wife spoke to him and described the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being highly desirable. Men have been enticed through the flattering tongue of an adulteress and have been brought to ruin. Kings have been persuaded to commit great evil through the seductive words of their wives as is seen in the relation between Ahab and Jezebel. Men have turned their back on Yahweh and followed the urging of their wives times without number.
Yet men have also been persuaded to a course of godliness by the tongue of a woman. Cities have been delivered at the counsel of a wise woman. The weary souls of men have been refreshed as choice words have been spoken from the lips of women in a moment of great need. The anger of man that would have led to rash and regrettable acts has been cooled by the choice fruit of a godly woman’s tongue. Men who have been lacking in courage have been emboldened by the words of faith and confidence that have arisen from the tongue of a wife, daughter, mother, or some other woman.
If a woman will die to the fleshly impulses that want to control her tongue, and she will surrender her tongue to the purposes of God, she will find herself wielding a tool of great life-giving power.
An event happened early in my marriage that showed me the incredible power of the tongue of a woman when it is used wisely. It often happens that when a woman sees her husband doing something wrong that she will take it upon herself to correct him. This is never to be her role. A woman should not nag her husband or seek to correct him with a word of reproof or rebuke. It is unseemly and inappropriate for those under authority to do such a thing. Yet a wife or a daughter can, with wisdom and restraint, speak in such a manner that the authority will desire to change from a course of disobedience or ungodliness.
My wife demonstrated this principle to me in a very graphic and moving way. Not long after we married, my wife and I purchased our first home. I was working as a painting contractor at the time and one day I decided to paint the bathroom in our home. When it came to painting around the bathtub I placed a small ladder in the tub to reach up near the ceiling. Because a bathroom is a room where moisture is ever present I chose to use an oil base paint due to its greater immunity to water damage.
As I was standing on this ladder in the tub the ladder rocked and the can of oil base paint fell and landed in the tub spilling its contents everywhere. Oil base paint cannot be cleaned up with water, it has to be cleaned up with paint thinner or mineral spirits. This was a major mess and as soon as the spill occurred I was immediately infuriated. I was greatly upset at the prospects of having to clean up the mess all over the bath tub. In a fit of anger I picked up the closest thing to me, some sort of container one would find in a bath tub, and I hurled it with all of my strength out the door and down the hall where it ended up in some far room.
As the projectile exited the doorway I looked and my wife had just come to see what the commotion was. Fortunately I missed hitting her, but I saw her stare with mouth agape as this object flew past her and she saw the obvious anger that I was demonstrating. Tony never said anything about my outburst, wisely remaining silent. She did not even give me so much as a disapproving glance. I think she was simply in shock.
As I mentioned, we had not been married very long at this time. I think there must always be some concern in the mind of a woman about what kind of a man they are marrying. Many men seem to be Prince Charming when they are dating, but they turn into an ugly toad after the vows are said. Many are the women that find out that their husbands have a violent streak after the marriage ceremony, and many endure beatings and worse.
I am not sure what worries my violent outburst caused my wife, but her response was a study in the awesome power of the tongue when it is used with discretion and wisdom. Tony said nothing to me about the matter concerning my outburst. The next day, however, when we were together and we were embracing she looked me in the eyes and she said, “I am so glad that God gave me such a gentle and loving husband.”
Tony said this with great sincerity, and the moment the words came from her lips I was reminded of my action the day before that seemed anything but gentle. I felt instant conviction as I looked at my bride and I wanted to be that good thing that she confessed about me. I wanted to be gentle and loving. I wanted to be worthy of my wife’s confession and praise.
Tony never had to scold me or offer a word of reproof about my uncontrolled outburst. She did something far more powerful and effective. She became my cheerleader and I saw that she was rooting for me. I wanted to prevail in godliness because I saw her as being my advocate and not my adversary.
Over the next days and months I thought greatly about the dynamics of what my wife had done, and how she had elicited from me a desire to become more godly. I thought about how most women would have handled it and how they would have scolded or reprimanded their husband and how it would not have borne the same fruit.
One dynamic that I discovered was this: a man by his very nature hates to disappoint someone whom he knows thinks highly of him. If a man knows that someone is standing behind him as a cheerleader and they are rooting for him, pulling for him, and wishing that he will be victorious and successful in the things of life that really matter, that man will exert supreme effort to not disappoint such a one. If a man knows that a woman reveres him and holds him in high esteem, the man will seek to be worthy of her opinion.
I also saw another dynamic. If a woman chooses the lower course and she begins to correct her husband and to speak to him of all that he is doing wrong, then the man will see her not as a cheerleader, but as a critic. A man has no such drive to appease a critic. A man might be hounded into changing his behavior in some matter, but his relationship with the woman who criticizes is invariably altered. Rather than seeing her as a supporter, he will view her as an adversary and contention will result. He will have no inner drive to rise up to her high and lofty opinion of him because he does not perceive that she has such a mindset. Rather he sees that she finds fault with him and has deemed him to be deficient and lacking.
Had my wife scolded me when she observed my action, I might have apologized, but more likely in the state of anger I was in I would have said something unkind to her. However, by choosing the course of restraint and encouragement, she produced within me a desire to attain to a place of gentleness that was not yet mine. There is a world of difference between the man that is goaded into a course of righteousness and the man who eagerly pursues the course. My wife produced in me a desire to be more gentle and to control my anger, and she did it by revealing that she admired me and thought highly of me.
It is little wonder that so many marriages today find the husband and wife pitted against one another, arguing, fighting, threatening. In all of these marriages the wife has taken the role of a critic and she has determined that it is her responsibility to tell her husband when he errs, and to correct and condemn him when she disapproves.
In a ball game the cheerleader is on the same side as her team and she is rooting and pulling for her team. The players want to prevail that they might be worthy of those who are rooting for them. This should be the relationship between the wife and her husband. But when she chooses to criticize she crosses the field and becomes an adversary. The house becomes divided and a battle ensues. No longer does the man find an inner desire to excel that he might not disappoint the one who adores him, for there seems to be little adoration.
I have spoken of these things in common terms, but there are great spiritual principles involved. There are numerous scriptural examples of women who have pursued the same course demonstrated by my wife and they have changed the hearts of men. One of the clearest examples is found in the encounter between David and Abigail. I have been amazed as I considered the wisdom of this woman and how she changed the heart of David and kept him from a path he would surely have regretted.
During the time that David had to flee Israel to escape the wrath of King Saul, he had about six hundred men join themselves to him and they became a traveling band of warriors who would fight against the enemies of Israel. At times, however, they would attempt to settle down in one location, and during one such time they found themselves in a region where a wealthy man by the name of Nabal pastured his flocks. Shepherds at the time were always in danger from marauding bands who would seek to come in and steal flocks and kill or chase off the shepherds. David’s men, however, not only restrained themselves from stealing Nabal’s flocks, but they protected his shepherds and flocks from others.
At then end of the year when it came time to shear the sheep, Nabal gave a huge party and celebrated for many days. David sent a couple of his young men as ambassadors to Nabal anticipating that in his prosperity and great celebration he would desire to reward David and his men for their service in protecting his flocks and servants. However, Nabal acted foolishly and he insulted David and his men and he sent David’s men back empty handed.
David was enraged when he heard of Nabal’s insults (Nabal even accused David of being a rebellious servant that had broken away from King Saul). David, whose actions were typically very humble, responded in pride and swore that he would not leave a single male living in Nabal’s household to see the light of day. He and his men proceeded to go to Nabal’s home with the intent of slaughtering everyone.
This would have been great sin had David done what was in his heart. Yahweh has said, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19). We are advised to give place unto wrath and to not take vengeance into our own hands. Fortunately, the Father sent a woman to dissuade David from his course, and her words are a study in wisdom and humility.
I Samuel 25:23-35
When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. “Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, since Yahweh has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for Yahweh will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of Yahweh, and evil will not be found in you all your days. Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with Yahweh your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when Yahweh does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When Yahweh deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be Yahweh God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as Yahweh God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request.”
Undoubtedly, the people of the area knew the things that had been spoken of David. It was no secret that David had been anointed by Samuel to be king and that Saul was seeking his life due to jealousy. Nabal preferred to put his own twisted interpretation on this, and it was this that infuriated David so much. David was suffering tremendous things. He was the most faithful of servants to Saul, yet he was treated as an enemy. He had to leave family and home, and even go and live as an alien in a foreign land. Many times he remained just one step ahead of Saul and certain death. His life was a life of peril.
I am sure that David often wondered if God would truly fulfill what He had promised to him. Living in caves and foreign lands as an outcast must have caused his heart to doubt and question what God had promised. Nabal’s words accusing David of simply being a rebellious servant to Saul must have struck deep to his doubts and insecurities.
Many men have doubts and insecurities about their call and election. Many who have been called to minister in some capacity endure great torments when they find themselves walking as outcasts and rejected by the mainstream. Often these doubts can be such a weight of reproach that they lead the person to sin, even as David would surely have sinned had Abigail not interceded.
Look at Abigail’s words. She knows the distress in David’s heart. She is a wise woman and she perceives the issues that are warring within David. She understands what is necessary to raise him back to a place of faith so that he will not act out of his desperation and frustration. She begins by speaking of the surety of his calling and she declares with great confidence that David will certainly see all that Yahweh has spoken to him fulfilled.
This was really the heart of David’s anguish. The promise of Yahweh had tarried. It had been many years since the oil was poured over his head by Samuel and the years had driven him far from a place where he expected to see the promises of God fulfilled. These thoughts tormented his heart and were like a goad in his spirit. Abigail proved herself to be a cheerleader of David, rooting for the fulfillment of God’s purposes in his life with these words:
Yahweh will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of Yahweh, and evil will not be found in you all your days. Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with Yahweh your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when Yahweh does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When Yahweh deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.
David needed someone to understand what had been promised to him. He needed someone to encourage his heart when all the circumstances around him were discouraging. He needed to hear from the lips of another person that his situation was not hopeless, but that Yahweh would perform all He had spoken. Abigail’s words were like a healing balm to David’s aching heart. She encouraged him with words of faith and hope, and as she did so David’s desperation and pain was washed away to be replaced with calm and peace and with the patience to wait upon Yahweh.
What perception was in the heart of this woman! She did not go out and scold David for wanting to destroy her family. She did not tell him that the course he was on was wicked. No, she affirmed him and encouraged him and lifted him up. She brought back hope in a time when he desperately needed hope. And in the end she turned the heart of the man who would be the greatest king to ever rule Israel and she kept him from grief.
David, did give place to wrath. He accepted Abigail’s gift and he and his men returned, and Yahweh did exact vengeance for Nabal’s wickedness. We are told that about ten days later God struck Nabal and he died. David then took Abigail to be his wife.
Is it any wonder that David took this woman to be his wife? Man needs a helper and Abigail had already proven herself as one who was a great help to David. When he was desperate she brought him hope. When he was in pain she eased his hurt. When he was doubting that he would see the word of Yahweh fulfilled, she spoke words of great confidence as one who saw the promises already accomplished.
This is the awesome power of a godly woman in the life of a man. Yahweh has placed such influence within this creation He has called woman. She can help man to reach the goal before him and to achieve the prize. She can encourage man when he faints, and lift him up when he falters. She can produce in him a desire to be better that he has ever been before. Blessed are the Abigail’s, the women of wisdom who use their tongues to build up and not to tear down, to bring forth life, and not to spread death.
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