Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why mouth?

This summer, the four youngest kids are participating in the Bible Bee. They are memorizing a whole bunch of verses as well as doing an inductive Bible study on 1 Peter. Even though I had several memorization projects already, I decided I wanted to memorize the verses along with them. Stephanie and I are doing about 70 verses, and they are conveniently ordered in the order found in the Bible. Currently I'm working on Psalm 32:3-5, but I'm a bit behind schedule.

One morning not long ago, I was reading in the book of Joshua. I've been making my way through it since April, and I had made it to Chapter 12 already, but on a whim I looked up the only Bible Bee verse in Joshua. 
Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.- Joshua 1:7-8

  It read it through, and suddenly a question occurred to me. In verse 8 it says, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth". Why "mouth"? Shouldn't it be your eyes? What would a book be doing in your mouth for anyway? Ah, but it clearly says "mouth", not "eyes". Every word of God is flawless (Prov. 30:5), and there isn't a single word of Scripture that is put in on accident.. Still, I wondered why it was so. 

Right then, in that wonderful way that He does, God made me realize something. The Book of the Law was in Joshua's mouth because he was speaking them, not reading them. He had them memorized! How else could he meditate in them day and night? Joshua was a busy man! He didn't have all day to pore over the printed page; he wasn't a scribe. He was a war general, the leader over an entire displaced nation. He needed to know it anytime, anywhere.

There is something about memorizing Scripture that gets it into you in a way that simply reading it doesn't. When I am memorizing, I have to pay attention to every single word; skim reading just won't cut it. The meaning comes out in a new way every time. "For GOD so loved the world/ For God SO LOVED the world/ For God so loved the WORLD!" I repeat it over and over again, and in effect, am preaching to my own soul.

There is a power in reading words, another in hearing them, and another in speaking them. It says in Romans 10:10, "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." You cannot say something you do not believe, unless you are lying. It shows whether it is actually in you. If, when my siblings do their regional Bible Bee competition, they are asked to recite a verse that they haven't memorized, will they be able to speak it? Of course not! It's not in them. Likewise, unless we have taken in the Truth, we cannot speak it.

If you think about it, the eyes come first, but the mouth is much more intimate. You might look at everything at the buffet table, but that doesn't mean it's all going in your mouth! (Watch out for the wasabi!) And think of the change in a relationship after that first kiss, or even after the first conversation. Eating, breathing, kissing, speaking, all these are what the mouth does. And what are we to have in our mouth? Jesus! He is the Bread of Heaven, the Breath of Life, our Heavenly Bridegroom, and the very Word of God. He's the One that all these metaphors were created to point to in the first place. It is clear, He is supposed to be in us.

Now think for a moment, if God's words are in our mouth, and they aren't departing, then there isn't exactly any room for your words any longer. Your mouth has become His mouth. As it should be, for we are His Body. "'and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Eph. 5:31b-32) When His words are in your mouth, it doesn't mean you quote nothing but Scripture all day long (Although I'd like to see someone give directions for making chocolate chip cookies that way.) What it means is that the only words that come out of your mouth are what is in accordance with Jesus. Only what is true and noble, pure and praiseworthy, wise and edifying. Only what glorifies the Lord.

Oh that you and I would be filled with Him today! That we would delight in Him, taking Him in and pouring Him forth. That we would literally "treasure [His] words more than [our] necessary food" (Job 23:12) and "meditate in them day and night" so that we do not turn from Him to the right hand or to the left.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

"But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it." (Deut. 30:14)

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