We have a young man from Germany staying with us at the moment. Over breakfast this morning we were discussing the different German words for bread. I speak reasonable German, and I thought there was just one generic word: Brot. But apparently not. The bread that comes out of my breadmaker isn’t actually “Brot”, it’s called (in German) Toast. It’s Toast before it’s been toasted, and it’s Toast afterwards. I learnt that “Brot” is actually the drier German bread with a hard crust, often made of rye flour. If you toast Brot, it’s still called Brot after it’s been toasted. So a slice of bread can be a slice of toast, and a slice of toast can be a slice of bread. Words can be very confusing.
So Joni and I had an amusing conversation, but what was interesting for me was that the Lord had also been speaking to me about words before breakfast. I have read two scriptures on the subject in the last few days: one is Ephesians 5 vs 6: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience,” and the other is from one of my favourite passages of the bible, Isaiah 11:
“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:1-4)
In case you didn’t see it, the connection is between being “deceived by empty words” and the Branch (Jesus) not deciding by “the hearing of His ears.” The words we hear can be very deceiving. Sometimes this is deliberate; sometimes the person speaking is just using them badly; and sometimes we deceive ourselves into hearing something that was never actually spoken. Sometimes more than one of these may be in play at the same time, but whichever it is, the result can often be words that are empty of truth and appearances that are not what they seem.
As we move into the new season that has already begun with COVID, the deceptions around us are going to multiply. There will be deceptive explanations of government policies that are promoted as being for the good of society but that have actually been inspired by demonic principalities whose aim it is to weaken and persecute the Church. As the enemy sends in more forces we will find ourselves face to face with demons more regularly as they operate through people who are opposing us or who are binding up the captives we are sent to liberate, and every word that will come from their mouths will be a lie. There will be – and already are – political and social movements that claim to have an agenda of social justice, but which actually are driven by a much darker agenda of closing down all expressions of the true justice that comes from the King of Kings. We need to discern the spiritual realities behind appearances, and we can only do this by faith.
It isn’t just in obvious “battle situations” that this need is apparent, but within our own relationships. We need to grow in unity, in our churches, our marriages and our families. We need to look past inadequate words and try to see each other’s hearts, and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to do that. And then we need to know the heart of God for the other person, so we can continually build one another up in love. When compared to the riches of God’s grace we are all infinitely poor, so it is with righteousness that we must judge one another. We cannot rely on the sight of the eyes or the hearing if the ears if we want to grow our relationships in Christ.
The discernment we need to ask for has six components, and they are listed above. They are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. I will try and unpack these another time, but that needn’t stop us asking the Holy Spirit for them now, because now is when we need them. And I want to leave this with a final thought. The “rod of His mouth” has to be the Word of God, and the “breath of His lips” the Holy Spirit; so we come back to the over-arching importance of the Word and the Spirit in the ministry of the Church. Jesus warned his disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees”, which was the predominant “bread” of the religious culture of the time. We too need to look beyond the bread of appearances and seek out the Bread of life, which is every word that proceeds from the Mouth of God and is fed to us by the Holy Spirit.
The battle is hotting up, so if we don’t, we are toast.