Four Little Words

Words—the vehicles with which we communicate.  Oh, how strong they can be for good or for evil. One simple statement can change a life, or even the course of history! As I was reading about King Saul, this fact was evident. Four little words!  They were not careless words or words spoken to hurt anyone; they were actually words of praise.

David had just returned from a victorious battle and “the women sang as they danced, and said: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’” (1 Samuel 18:7).  Did these women mean to slight Saul? I don’t think so, they were just so proud of their new hero. (I’m sure it didn’t help that David was young and handsome and had a heart of gold!) But Saul felt the sting—so much so that from this point forward, King Saul is out to eliminate his competition. In fact, the very next verse reveals Saul’s thoughts:

“Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’”

Four little words—David his ten thousand—but they changed the course of history. In hearing these words, Saul’s heart was filled with jealousy and hatred, and eventually God removed His spirit from Saul and placed David on the throne of Israel.

Watch your words!  This is the phrase we use when teaching God’s third commandment to children: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Obviously, this command is specifically speaking about taking God’s name in vain—using it carelessly and without thought. But certainly, we can apply the mandate to every word we speak. It makes me think of the line from my all-time favorite film, Ever After by the queen. She tells Danielle’s (Cinderella’s) stepmother to “choose your words wisely for they may be your last.” Most of us will never stand in that place this side of eternity, but can you imagine the outcome if we weighed our words with that much consequence? Truly, we would think more, listen more, and speak less.

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

Another thought is, did these women speak wrongly? Should they have said what the did? Were they trying to make a statement about Saul or were they simply giving honor to their hero, who, incidentally, just one chapter earlier slew Goliath?

Matthew Henry gives insight on the scenario by explaining that poets often would write these songs and present them to the people who would then sing them during the processional celebration. Perhaps the writer was an avid fan of David’s. Perhaps the wording just worked well for his tune. We don’t know, but either way Saul’s reaction was a bit narcistic. Matthew Henry writes:

“Proud men cannot endure to hear any praised but themselves and think all their honor lost that goes by themselves. It is a sign that the Spirit of God has departed from men if they be peevish in their resentment of affronts, envious and suspicious of all about them, and ill-natured in their conduct; for the wisdom from above makes us quite otherwise.”

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” James 3:17

Perhaps the best advice on this topic comes from an old saying:

Be careful of your words because you may need to eat them!

Keep it sweet, dear reader!


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