Friday, August 9, 2019

The LORD Alone

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
1 Samuel 7:3-17

The ark of the Lord was returned to Israel after being captured by the Philistines and set in Kiriath-Jearim in the house of Abinadab, a Levite.  Then twenty years passed after the ruin of Eli’s house and the great defeat of Israel.  It was said in verse 2 that Israel lamented after the LORD.  No explicit reason was given by the author as to why Israel lamented.  It is strange because normally Israel should have rejoiced because the ark of the LORD was returned to them.  Some theologians suggested that they lamented because the Philistines continued to harass them from time to time in those twenty long years.  Yet in those twenty years being harassed by the Philistines, they did not seek the Lord, but continued in the practice of worshiping the Canaanite gods.  Baals and Ashtaroth were especially mentioned in verse 4 as they were the chief gods of the Canaanites.  The worship practice of these gods was an abomination to the Lord.  They committed sexual immorality as they worship them.  Remember that Hophni and Phinehas also committed sexual immorality in God’s temple.  So the Lord abandoned them into the hands of their enemies.  Their life was then a repeat of what happened in the time of the Judges.  Their lament however was not a sign of repentance.  Not yet.
Because Israel still kept their worship of other gods.  They had forgotten about the Lord and His covenant with them.  Then suddenly in verse 3 the name Samuel returned to the scene.  For twenty years Samuel was under the radar.  He was last heard twenty years before in 4:1 when his word was said to come to Israel.  It was the word of judgment that the Lord spoke to Samuel as He called him to His service.  God’s judgment on Israel took place in chapter 4.  Now in chapter 7, Samuel resurfaced.
And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
This is the call to repentance.  Israel had been humbled.  They lamented.  Yet they had not repented.  For they still kept their gods with them.  Samuel had to confront them of their greatest sin.  The main goal was for Israel to return to the Lord wholeheartedly.  They had to get rid of other gods.  They had to direct their heart to the Lord only.  This was not easy to do.  All Israel had learned the way of Canaan.  They had adopted the foreign way of life.  It had become their habit, their culture.  In fact, they grew up in that culture, because their fathers had been unfaithful to the Lord ever since the death of Joshua and all the elders who followed him.  And worse, Eli did not provide a good leadership for them.  He let them continue in their sin.  He even let his sons defile the temple of God.  Thus the people learned the contemptuous way of worshiping God.  So Samuel had to call them to repent!
            How about us?  What does Samuel have to do with us?  It’s just history, isn’t it?  It’s good we know the story, isn’t it?  The answer is No!  It is not just history and it is not good to merely know the story.  This passage speaks about us as well.  The sin that Adam and Eve passed down to Israel is also passed down to us.  Just like the Israelites got distracted with other gods, we too today are distracted with other gods.  Their gods were in the form of statues, deities, idols, such as Baals, Asteroth, Moloch, and many others; but the gods of the modern age are more in the form of wealth/money, power, and pleasure.  Not few Christians waywardly mix God with all other gods.  R. C. Sproul quoted Charles Spurgeon and said:
In a sermon on the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” the English Puritan preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said that “the proud sinner wants Christ, and his own parties; Christ, and his own lusts; Christ, and his own waywardness. The one who is truly poor in spirit wants only Christ, and he will do anything, and give anything to have him!”[1]
The modern Christians mix God with wealth, God with power, God with pleasure.  They can’t believe in one and only God.  They always want God + something else.  For these Christians, God alone is not enough.  Obviously, they are not those who are truly poor in spirit.
            To these Christians, 1 Samuel 7:3 speaks strongly against them.  This is a call for repentance.  This is a call for them to get rid of all the pluses.  They need to worship and serve God only.  This message is for you today in your hearing.  Are you one of those Christians who secretly believe that God alone is not enough?  It is a fact today that many churches attempt to attract people to Christianity through the reward of wealth, health, and success.  This is what I heard some pastors claimed:
“If you believe in Christ, you will be rich!  If you believe in Christ, you will be healed!  If you believe in Christ, your life will be successful!  Because God is King and you are the children of the King of the world.  God is rich, and so He will shower you with material blessings beyond your dream!  If you pray to the King, do not ask for a bike, such request would be undermining God.  Ask for the newest Mercedes!  If you pray to God, do not ask for a simple house, for God can give you much more than a simple house.  He can give you even a million dollars house.  He is rich!  Ask and you shall receive!”
These are just examples of what some pastors claimed falsely in the name of God.  Yet their followers fill up the church.  Tens of thousands of people come.  But God alone is not enough for them.  They want God + wealth/money, God + health, God + success, God + power, God + pleasure, and God + sin.
            If you find it in your heart that you secretly want God + everything else, if you find in your heart that you secretly refuse God alone, then you need to repent.  Samuel called Israel to get rid of all foreign gods.  Samuel called Israel to wholeheartedly worship and serve God alone.  Then the people responded to Samuel’s call.  Their hearts had been brought low.  They could not find hope in their current state.  They lamented profusely.  They wanted God to help but did not have the heart to let go of their idols.  But their hearts were broken.  They were desperate.  This was prime time for transformation.  Their disequilibrium must be corrected.  Their desperation would not find peace unless they got rid of all other gods and wholeheartedly focused on God only.  So upon Samuel’s call, they resolved to follow the call.  1 Samuel 7:4 records that Israel got rid of all foreign gods and served only the LORD.
            This was a new dawn in Israel’s history.  After about 300 years of unfaithfulness to God, Samuel reformed Israel.  300 years before Samuel, Joshua called Israel to do the same thing.  Joshua 24:14-15 records:
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Now, the covenant was renewed again through Samuel.  Israel’s relationship with God was restored that day.  Through their commitment and action, they then honored and glorified the LORD, the only God that deserved to receive such honor and glory.
            The gathering at Mizpah was the next process in the relationship restoration.  Mizpah was an important place where Israel had also gathered when they had to deal with the evil deed of the people of Gibeah of Benjamin as recorded in Judges 20:1.  A very important event was to follow after this purification process.  It is said in verse 6 that Israel poured water before the LORD and fasted and repented.  A very fitting response.  And then Samuel was said to judge Israel.  John Woodhouse explained the meaning of the word judge or שָׁפַט in Hebrew:
While Samuel’s “judging” the people may well include what follows, it is right to see this sentence as a summary of what he had done up to this point. He had called Israel back to the Lord and prayed for them.  This is not what the word “judged” usually means in English, but the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament for precisely this. Samuel set things right in Israel by his words to the people from God and by his words to God for the people.[2]
The word judge here thus means setting things right for the people before God.  And Samuel and all other servants of God in the Scripture did the “judging” by way of speaking the word of truth.  Much of what I am doing right now.
            Now, the Philistines heard that all Israel were gathered at Mizpah, so they intended to destroy Israel once and for all.  It was only convenient for them to find all Israel gathered at Mizpah.  Interestingly, when Israel heard that the Philistines had assembled their army to destroy them, they were afraid.  This is interesting because 1 Samuel 4 recorded a different tone of the war between Israel and the Philistines.  In ch. 4 it was the Philistines that were trembling with fear because they thought God was with the Israelites.  Hophni and Phinehas had brought the ark of the Lord into the battlefield and the army of Israel felt very secure with its presence.  But now, the ark of the Lord had been safely returned to Israel, yet Israel did not feel secure at all.  They were trembling with fear.  In their fear they asked Samuel to cry out to the LORD.  In ch. 4 Israel did not cry out to the LORD, they treated the ark of the LORD as if it was a talisman containing magical superpower.  Israel in ch. 4 did not need God.
            Samuel then interceded for Israel by making a sacrifice of lamb.  That’s a sacrifice of atonement for Israel.  Samuel obeyed the Law of Moses faithfully.  In contrast, Hophni and Phinehas treated the sacrifice to the LORD with contempt.  So, the Lord answered Samuel’s plea in v. 9.  All was done as God had commanded, with wholehearted devotion, and God of love and mercy answered.  In ch. 4, even though they had the ark in their midst, the Lord was not there with them.  For they had violated the Lord’s law.  V. 10 records that God thundered against the Philistines and threw them into confusion.  This even finds its reference in Hannah’s prayer, particularly in 1 Samuel 2:10a:
“The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven.”
The Lord indeed broke the Philistines to pieces.  Israel was victorious against the Philistines that day.
            Afterwards, Samuel set up a stone and called it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.”  For truly the LORD helped Israel in their desperation.  This too was in stark contrast with what happened in ch. 4, where Israel encamped in Ebenezer as they went into battle with the Philistines.  But the name of the place where they encamped betrayed them.  For the Lord did not help them that day.  The Lord judged them for their sins.  But in our passage we see how God helped Israel.  Israel should learn that day that it was not the ark of the Lord that had the magical superpower, and surely not the name of the place that brought them victory.  But the LORD Himself, the Lord alone, who helped them, who gave them victory, who had the true power.
            During the rule of Samuel, Israel was safe from the Philistines.  Samuel judged Israel faithfully.  He was never tired in speaking the word of God to Israel so they would live properly before the Lord.  Samuel was that good and faithful leader of Israel, unlike Eli and his sons.  Samuel was a type of Christ, a shepherd King for God’s people.
            In the same way, and much more, we now have the shepherd King Himself taking care of us.  Christ has done all the requirements of the law in perfection.  So we are set right before the LORD by Jesus Christ our High Priest.  He Himself sacrificed his own flesh and blood to atone us.  Now He sits on the throne, judging us through His words.  This story of Samuel and Israel is also our story.  As the people of Israel listened to Samuel, we too must listen to God’s word.  As the people of Israel wholeheartedly committed and acted accordingly to the call of repentance, we too must commit and act accordingly to the word of God.  We are to get rid of our attachment to wealth, power, and pleasure – the gods of this age.  Serve God only!
            No, I do not say to you that now you must abandon your business, your career, all your possession, or that you now can’t enjoy anything, or that you may not have any power.  That is not what God is commanding all of us.  In 1 Timothy 6:10 Paul said:
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
No, it is not the money that is the root of evil, it is the “love of money” that is the root of evil.  You know it in your heart that when something or someone is more important than God in your life, then you have fallen into the sin that Israel committed from time to time.  If you love other things more than God, then you know that those other things have become your gods.  I am not saying that you must prioritize serving in the church over taking care of your family.  That too is a form of idolatry.  Serving in the church does not necessarily mean serving God.  For the Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus in Mark 7:
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

I am not teaching you to abandon your family for the sake of serving in the church for that would be irresponsible.  Nevertheless, our devotion is to the Lord only.  Not to anything else.  Ask God to search your heart, what it is that you are clinging to.  And remove your unholy, unwarranted desire.
            The shepherd King Jesus has done His part in perfect obedience and faithfulness to the Father for our sake.  Now it is our part to respond properly to Him for we have received His salvation.  It would be utterly absurd to accept His salvation and then treat Him with contempt by flirting with other gods.  Remember that bringing the ark of the Lord into the battlefield does not mean God is present, in the same way wearing all the church and religious attributes does not mean that God is with us.  Do not treat such things as if they were talisman.  What matters is the position of your heart toward God.  The Shepherd King has provided us with whatever we need to thrive in His Kingdom.  All He asks of all of us is to live properly as the children of God.  Today is the time for the reformation of our hearts.  Amen.

[1] R.C. Sproul, Following Christ (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996).
[2] John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 130.

The Danger of Tongue

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
James 3:1-12

A stern warning is given here by James.  A context is provided by James in relation to the danger of tongue.  In this passage James focuses on being teacher.  There is a solid reason as to why James picks up on teacher in this particular passage.  Unlike our today’s world, teacher that day was a very prominent profession.  And especially within the Jewish community, the title “Rabbi” is not something to mess with.  Rabbi or Teacher was esteemed very highly that the Rabbi could influence the course of life of the people and even the nation.  However, as we have known through our reading of the gospels and Pauline epistles, we could easily find how terrible the rabbis of Jesus’ and Paul’s day.  Jesus spoke against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in Matthew 16:5-12 & 23:1-36.  He said: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Jesus meant their teachings.  And Paul spoke against the “false teachers” in Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 4:1-5; 6:3-10; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:1-8 & 12-14; 4:2-5.
The main tool for teaching is speech.  And speech is metaphorically controlled by the tiny part of our body known as tongue.  The usage of tongue in itself carries a potential danger.  For with tongue humans could lie to one another, accuse their fellow humans falsely, and thus cause harm to others.  The case of Jezebel and Naboth was a prime example of how tongue used for deceit caused an innocent’s death.  And the most troubling example was how the religious leaders of Israel used their tongue to condemn Jesus Christ, the sinless man, and Son of God.  Tongue can be even more dangerous, therefore, when combined with prominent position.  In the case of Naboth vineyard, it was the queen’s tongue that did it.  In the case of our Lord Jesus, it was the rabbis’ tongue.  The religious leaders of Israel were the teachers of the people.  They were indeed very influential on the people, which then led to their shouting and demand for Jesus to be crucified before Governor Pilate.
Tongue, James says, is small, yet holds an extremely great danger to destroy life.  Tongue, James says, is like fire.  It can devastate the million acres of forest.  All it needs is a little spark.  Then James moves on to the reality that nobody could tame the tongue.  This is a fact.  We could tame many wild animals.  We could even train tigers and lions to obey us, yet tongue is something else.  In Matthew 15:10-11 & 16-20 Jesus says:
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
The problem with the tongue is not the tongue itself, but with the heart of man.  The heart of sinful man is loaded with sins and all kinds of evil.  And the corrupt heart defiles the whole person.  This is what total depravity is all about.
            Speech is one special feature that only humans have as God’s creation under heaven.  No animals possess this special feature.  With it we are like God.  Because through speech we work with words.  And words are amazingly powerful in life.  Let me tell you a secret of heaven and earth.  God created the entire universe with His words.  So we are all composed of words.  In biology, the science of human genome has uncovered that within our DNA there are codes or we may say words, which if written it would be approximately 600,000 pages long.  Those codes are information about us.  A regular book is usually around 200-300 pages long.  In our life it would be extraordinary if we could read 1000 books, which would be around 200,000 pages.  Only a few people in this world could read 3000 books in their lifetime.  But God wrote 600,000 pages long of information in each and every one of us within our DNA.  And God gives us His eternal words, the Scripture, so as to guide us in life.  Our discovery, our knowledge, our experiences, are all communicated with words.  And those words got us think, feel, will, move, and so on.  So, words cannot be underestimated in our life.  It influences us physically and spiritually.  Every human being possesses this capability to bring forth words through speech.  Our tongue is like the rudder in the ship or the bit for horses.  The question is: “What words are vibrated through our tongue as directed by our heart?”
            It is interesting to study how horses are controlled by bit.  The horse’s bit is a metal thing that is put in the horse’s mouth and connected to some kind of rope that goes to the hands of the horse rider.  The bit rests on the horse’s tongue so the horse can arrange it in its mouth as it feels most comfortable.  An expert horse rider said that the most important thing to control the horse is not the bit but the rider.  The bit is just a tool.  But the way the bit is controlled by the rider makes a huge difference.  In the same way, the tongue is only a tool.  We are not born with an evil tongue or a golden tongue.  We are born with a regular tongue.  But the problem is the heart.  The Fall has corrupted the heart of man, which is basically the core.  Thus our whole being is defiled.  If we are to fix the problem of speech, thus of tongue, we must aim at something that controls the tongue.
            I do not need to retell or re-emphasize the danger of tongue for I believe all of you know about it.  Especially if we have experienced its sting.  Once or twice or probably more, we have experienced it ourselves how false words hurt us.  For that part we all know the damage tongue can make.  For we all have been its victim from time to time.  However, we too have tongue on our own.  Thus within us there is this risk of harming others through the usage of our tongue.  This is my main concern today.  Remember the case of Naboth and the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, remember the damage that tongue could do.  Remember also your own experience when you were hurt by others’ use of their tongue.
            One solution is given by James, which is not many should presume to be teachers.  He does not say that none should be teachers.  But he says that not many should be teachers.  This means that teachers are only the select few.  Why?  Because Teaching is a prominent position.  It commands control and power.  It influences the heart and mind of the hearers.  People go to teachers for answers, for wisdom, for help.  Even though the profession has often been confused with schoolteacher who often in many schools teach only the academic matters (particularly only dispensing information and certain trade skills), teaching is still an indispensable human activity that holds so much power.  The next question is: “Who are the select few?”  The answer from the text is obvious, those who can tame their tongue.  What a tall order this is?!  Yes indeed.  But there is a way.  James says in 1:19-22:
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Here, James does not focus only on teachers, but to all who have tongue to bring forth speech.  There are three steps that James prescribes here: 1) quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 2) put away wickedness and receive God’s word, and 3) practice the word of God.  These three must be done in completion.  We must not select what we like and neglect what we do not like.  But we must do all.
In our first step toward taming the tongue we are to divert attention to the ears.  Quick to hear is the key.  We are generally difficult to listen.  This is an important discipline.  In order to control the tongue, we ought to get ears to help us.  When the ears are ready to help, we can hold our speech.  This is what James means by being slow to speak.  Do not rush with our speech.  Listening is important to gain thorough information.  Before we speak of anything, we must have the complete information.  Ears and tongue must collaborate in such a way that tongue must give way to the ears to take precedence.  Upon listening to the information, we must be patient, thus slow to anger.  Treat the information as data, it can be right, it can be wrong.  But whatever it is we must not take every information personally.  If we take every single information it personally, we will be emotional, and thus it leads to anger.  James says that unholy anger is worthless.  And so, as our ears step into the frontline, our emotional processing must be cooled down to the max.  The heat of the battlefield is always at the frontline.  Knowing that, we march into the frontline with maximum coolness of our emotion.  This is emotional discipline.  Thus, ears, tongue, and emotion work together properly so as not to create damage.
The next step is to clean up our processing station.  With the information rushing in and a lot of emotional stimulations, we ought to tend our processing station, because we are going to process all those information and stimulations.  James says that first of all, we must get rid of wickedness.  Any evil thought or inclination must be thrown away.  Our processing station can’t be corrupted with wickedness.  It must be clean.  And the most important of all is to accept the Word of God.  In other words, James does not suggest other kinds of words.  There are two other words in this world.  The words of man and the words of Satan.  Those two can’t become the standard that fills our processing station.  Only the Word of God that may sit in the control room of our processing station.  When this discipline is done properly, we must proceed to the next step.
The third and final step is to be the doer of God’s word.  One of the greatest sins of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law is that they did not wish to practice the Law that they themselves taught.  This is what Jesus says concerning them in Matthew 23:1-4:
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
We must not become like them.  The Word of God we must practice.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-27:
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
This means that the standard that is already in our processing station cannot remain detached from our behavior.  It must govern our deeds.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem had the standard in their processing station, yet they broke every Law by desiring Jesus’ death.  We must not neglect our behavior.  Alvin Plantinga once said that our behavior may alter our belief and thought.  He said that if we don’t think it would, then consider this: do not pray or read the Bible or have anything to do with Christianity whatsoever for 3 years, at the end of that 3 years do you think you would still be a Christian, believing in the God of the Bible?  James is right in his remark:  17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  (James 2:17).
            Now, the last touch of these wonderful three steps that James gives us in taming our tongue and thus not letting it be defiled by the corrupted heart is to look at what Jesus says in Matthew 7:12: “12So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.  In practicality, if you do not wish someone gossips about you or talks negatively about you behind your back or accuses you falsely for things that you did not do or speaks harshly to you with evil intent, then you ought not to do those things to other people as well.
            And this, in the 21st century, extends to the use of social media.  We might not use our tongue physically to gossip about someone etc., but instead using our thumbs to type up words in whatsapp or line or telegram or IG or facebook, but we still harm others through our “tongue.”  Be careful about our “tongue.”  The social media is like a forest.  If you lit a fire there, it will burn the entire forest.  A hoax is not only restricted to major news, but small practical life matters may also be disrupted by a hoax.  To help further with taming our tongue, let me tell you a story about Socrates:
In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute”, Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
“Triple filter?”
“That’s right”, Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and …”
“All right”, said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary.”
“So”, Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: The filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well”, concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
I sure hope by this time you understand where I am getting at.  More important than getting your tongue in check is getting your heart in check.  Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” And in Ephesians 4:29: “29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  I will leave you with that and hope you will truly be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, then accept the Word of God, and finally practice His words in your life.  In that way you shall tame your tongue and use it only for the glory of our God.  Amen!