“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” NASB
The King James translates this same ‘timely word’ as, “a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”
In this verse then we have two descriptions of the types of words that bring joy and delight. These words are called apt (appropriate or suitable in the circumstances) and timely.
It is on the importance of apt words spoken in due season that we focus our letter today.
We have grown so accustomed to speaking a general word in all seasons that we no longer remember the power and importance of speaking an apt word in due season.
We have lost the ability to see and hear with the clarity required to speak in this manner. There is very little that is exact about our speech.
If we are to be a people who model the very Image of the invisible God, then our desire must be to speak as He did, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak,” and I, “speak just as the Father taught me.” John 8:28, 12:49
How does the Father speak? What are the characteristics of His words?
“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:1
These words are wholly pure and perfectly refined that they may be sharp enough to pierce “to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
And in these purified words lies a promise for us as well to be likewise refined, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10
That the thoughts we think, the affections we feel, the words we speak, the actions we conduct - that they would “be acceptable in your sight oh Lord.” Psalm 19:14
That we would be formed into a holy, blameless, pure and spotless people who speak not of ourselves, but speak only as the Father has taught us.
Make us a people who have been so tried, so refined, and so purified that we do not speak unless it be an apt answer in due season. Let us put aside “every idle word men may speak,” knowing that we, “will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36
And not only because we would give an account on the day of judgment, and not just because we desire every word, thought and meditation to be acceptable in Your sight, but also so that we would become a people who manifest both Your Spirit and the reality of your Kingdom unseen. (1 Corinthians 12:7, Luke 17:20-21)
May we become a people, who with apt words spoken in due season, make the invisible visible.
In place of apt and timely words, we have followed other leadings:
Speaking what is right
Speaking from the heart
Speaking what is right
Some of us would applaud Job as an example of a righteous man who spoke words of wisdom and who didn’t sin even in the most extreme of conditions. Yet God, when He finally appears to Job, does not come with praise, “Well have you spoken,” instead He reminds Job of the futility of his words, “Who is this who darkens My counsel by words spoken without knowledge?”
Job’s words were right, they may even be called wise, but they were neither apt nor were they timely - and thus they were better left unspoken.
The fools in Proverbs are the ones who cannot stop speaking. The wise are those who, “guard their mouths and their tongues,” waiting to speak until they have an apt answer to give in due season. Proverbs 21:23
Do we guard our mouths so diligently? Or are we so convinced at the rightness of our words that they burst out uncontrolled, spewed upon any and all who may be within earshot?
We tell ourselves, “It doesn’t matter if the word was timely, nor if it was apt, because it was so right.” Let us guard ourselves from such thinking.
Speaking from the heart
Likewise, there are those who feel the need to speak because their words come from the heart. How could we possibly ask someone to restrain what comes from such a place?
Yet the Lord answers this question in Ezekiel 13, “Say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” vv.3-4
“They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.” v.6
Rather than speaking our own words because of how right they feel, expecting that just because we declare a thing God will make it so, we must stay silent.
Those who understand the importance of an apt word, and the danger of rashly speaking, are not those who demand, ‘Let me speak! I will be heard!’ But are rather those who make it their continual prayer, “God, let my words be few.” Ecclesiates 5:2
Where do we find ourselves today? Speaking right words out of season, sharing words from the heart expecting God to honor them, or letting our words be few?
And as we have done many times in the past, let us end our letter today with stories of these Kingdom principles lived out in church history, that we may be encouraged by their examples.
A word being spoken in the power of God: "In the days of the Commonwealth, one of the early Quakers, 'a servant of the Lord, but a stranger outwardly,' came into an assembly of serious people who had met for worship. 'After some time of waiting on the Lord in spirit, he had an opportunity to speak. All became silent.
He said by way of exhortation, 'Keep the Lord's watch.' These words, being spoken in the power of God had its active influence upon most of the meeting. Some felt great dread and fear upon their spirits...After a little time he spoke again, saying, 'What I say to you, I say to all. Watch.' Then he was silent again a little time, but the whole meeting, being sensible that this man was under some extraordinary spirit and power, were all pondering what manner of teaching this should be.
His was such a voice that most of the hearers had never heard before. It carried such great authority with it that it was unavoidable for them to be subject to the power.'" (Harvey, The Rise of the Quakers, pp.73-74)
A word worth 600 trumpets: “After his exile from Scotland and upon his return it was said, "John Knox could put more life into his hearers than six hundred trumpets; but he did not palm off glittering generalities and pious cant. If his voice was worth six hundred trumpets, it was because there were six hundred trumpets sounding through his soul.
What was never heard on land or sea and what came down from the kingdom above he heard and gave to the men of the kingdom beneath." -The Homiletic Review, Volume 67, 1914
A haunting word: The biography of General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, contains a story from Booth’s childhood, prior to his conversion, about a cousin named Gregory who, “though he said little to the boy in a personal or direct way, conveyed a feeling to the child’s soul of respect for the spiritual life.
On one occasion Gregory said to him, ‘Willie Booth, do you know that religion is something that comes to you from outside of you.’ This idea haunted the boy.”
A word of deep musing: The Diary of Mr. Joseph Williams of Kidderminster recounts a time from Joseph’s youth when his father shared the story of an old gentleman imploring his son to not follow in his footsteps. Instead to, “‘Mind religion - religion in your youth; and do not do as I have done. I have slighted many convictions, and now my heart is hard and brawny.’
I was in a manner thunderstruck with the old gentleman’s last words; and though my father went on to relate more that he there uttered…yet my thoughts were wholly swallowed up in deep musing on these words, ‘My heart is hard and brawny.’
I had such an affecting sense of the old gentleman’s dreadful state, that it engaged my mind all the rest of the way; and even while I was transacting business, it was uppermost; for his words were ever sounding in my ears….While I was musing the fire burned, my heart was hot within me.”
Will you join me today in asking the Lord to make us a people of such apt and timely words. Nothing careless, nothing hasty, always and only in due season.
Knowing that these timely words need not be many, because they are so exact. Make us so exact today Lord.