Have Your Lips Been Anointed with Grace?
By Erik Retallick
In Psalm 45:1-2 we read the following words. “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” The context in which these words were originally written was at the beginning of a Psalm (or hymn) written by one or more of the sons of Korah, to celebrate the marriage of one of the kings of David’s dynasty, to his bride.
Here in the UK we are used to having special pieces of music, anthems and choral music written for special Royal occasions such as marriages, coronations and special anniversaries. This was exactly the same in Old Testament times, when, as we read constantly throughout the Psalms, God’s chosen people, the Israelites were exhorted to Praise God using all the best musical skills they could bring to honor and uplift the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is fascinating to see that in many reference Bibles, verse 2 links with Luke 4:22 where Jesus has just completed reading a passage from Isaiah in His local synagogue at Nazareth in the Galilee region. In this verse (Luke 4:22) we read “All spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” We are called as Christians to be imitators of Christ in all that we do and say, our words and actions are meant to be like His, leading people to be amazed at our gracious words and kind actions, especially towards those who are marginalized, the poor, orphans and widows.
Unfortunately, we know that in reality, as a result of sin entering the world, we know that this is not always the case! James, in his letter to the Jews who had been scattered among the nations as a result of persecution and the Grace of God to reach out with the Gospel to the world, says that we need to train our tongues. In chapter 3 from verse 3 onwards, we read the following words. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example.
Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.
Before all of us feel so discouraged by this verdict from James, and quit wanting to speak, write or talk about anything to anyone, in case we say or write the wrong things, we need to consider that God, by His Grace, uses ordinary men and women, not angels or supermen, to share the love of Jesus to a fallen and broken world. That means you and me, brothers and sisters in Christ, can be anointed or set apart to be messengers or people who spread the Good News about what God has done in our lives, through sending His only Son Jesus, to be our Savior and Redeemer. Through faith and trust in His finished work when He said “It is finished,” as He hung on the cross, we can be saved through His perfect sacrifice to take away our sins.
In the second part of this message, I hope to deal with the issues of negative thinking and speaking, and how these can be dealt with by God’s Grace. Meanwhile, I would like to end by suggesting something which is often quoted in the UK, where I live. You won’t find this in the Bible, but I guess it is a word of common sense or wisdom aimed at people like myself! “Before you open your mouth to speak, make sure you have put your brain in gear!”
In my last podcast, we looked at some of the aspects of how we are called to be imitators of Jesus, in our actions and in our speaking, which apply to our everyday living. I am aware when I write and when I preach, that I am writing and preaching to myself before I write and speak to you. I am aware of the fact that in my own day to day life, it is so easy to say the wrong things, do the wrong things, tear people down rather than build them up, and that without the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life, I can achieve absolutely nothing constructive in my daily interaction and communication with others.
I would like to share some thoughts about how we can become difference makers to the 21st. Century world in which we live and how God can change our hearts and our thinking.
By way of introduction, here are some words from Isaiah 6, in “The Message” paraphrase, beginning to read at verse 1. Isaiah is talking about an encounter with God which was obviously significant otherwise it would not have been recorded for us in the Bible and part of it used until now as a central part of the worship of many churches!
“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne – high, exalted! – and the train of His robes filled the Temple. Angel seraphs hovered above Him, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is God of the Angel Armies. His bright glory fills the whole earth.’ The foundations trembled at the sound of the angel voices, and then the whole house filled with smoke. I said, ‘Doom, It’s Doomsday! I’m as good as dead! Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted – even blasphemous! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate. And here I’ve looked God in the face ! The king! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!’.
Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me. He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with the coal and said, ‘Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out.’ And then I heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Who shall I send? Who will go for us?’ I replied, ‘I will go, send me!’ “
What can we learn from this passage, particularly about our own situation, our relationship with God, and what He wants us to say and do?
The first thing that stands out is that Isaiah had a genuine one-to-one encounter with God and that it was significant to him, because he remembers exactly when and where it happened, in the year king Uzziah died, and in the Temple at Jerusalem. Have you had a real encounter with God, and how significant and life-changing was it to you?
Secondly, he heard the Angel-seraphs singing or calling to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy is God-of the Angel-Armies. His bright glory fills the earth” Isaiah was receiving teaching by example of how to worship God, by declaring His greatness, from heavenly servants of God themselves. That must have been something he never forgot, because this chorus is re-echoed by followers of Jesus in churches and fellowships around the world day by day.
Thirdly, he actually felt the foundations of the Temple shake, because the presence of God was so real at that time in that place. Have you ever been in worship and experienced similar things to Isaiah, when he was worshiping God there in the Temple?
Fourthly, he felt condemned by the awesome nature of the purity, holiness and greatness of God Himself! This led him to confess his own unworthiness, awareness of his bad habits of speech and the speech of the people around him. Are you always aware of the speech and conversation of those around you and being influenced by them? Or are you listening for the still, small voice of God as He speaks to you through His Word the Bible and convicts you by His Holy Spirit living in you?
The fifth thing we see is that his lips were touched by a live coal from the altar where a fire was burning to bring sacrifices to take away sin. As a result, the Angel-seraph who performed this task, declared Isaiah free from guilt and sin. We too need to encounter God and accept that Jesus died for us on the cross, as the perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. By accepting Him into our lives and confessing our sins to Him, we are purified and prepared to serve the Most High God. In Ephesians 2:8-10 we read, “By Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Sixthly and lastly, God speaks specifically, saying “Whom shall I send?” which challenged Isaiah. Because of God’s cleansing from sin, which Isaiah has received there appears to be no hesitation in his reply: “I will go, send me!” How prepared are you to serve God, to sacrifice your own interests in order to help those in need?
If you can, please read this passage yourself during a prayer time, Bible reading session, and (if you have time), listen to this podcast again and see how God, by His Grace, can use each one of us in different areas of service to those around us.
Many, if not all of the servants of God we read about in the Bible felt unqualified, couldn’t speak eloquently (Moses), felt they were too young (Jeremiah and Timothy), wanted to go somewhere else (Jonah), but God in His grace was able to meet their needs and inadequacies and use them. He can do the same for each one of us, if we are open to Him and to one another, by His grace!
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