In high school, my AP English teacher had a large banner hanging in the room with the sentence, “A WORD AFTER A WORD AFTER A WORD IS POWER.” Used skillfully, words can have the power to change a person; whether it be the speaker or the hearer. Words can inspire people for good – consider the “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. Words can also manipulate people to do despicably destructive actions – consider the rhetoric of Adolph Hitler.
King David bemoans the twisting of words through the influence of sin in Psalm 12:1-4:
Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
Those who say “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
A person does not have to use words in the way of Hitler in order to fulfill the lament of David. Notice the simple matter of lying, undue flattering and boasting, and the arrogance of being one’s own master through the mastery of the use of words. All of these activities are forms of manipulation for self-gain and self-righteousness and a self-centered living. Often, as David laments in Psalm 12, the master manipulator of words uses their skill for self-promotion at the expense of others.
David contrasts the destructive use of words with the words of the Lord in Psalm 12:6-7:
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever.
The words of God are pure. They are refined. They are without blemish. The Word of God is able to keep and guard a person from evil. Through the power of God’s Word, a person can become a purified, refined, and saving person in the world. The words of person who has the Word dwelling in them richly (Col. 3:16) will have the impact on another person for the speaker and the hearer’s ultimate and eternal good.