Pure Speech

"Yes, at that time I will change the speech of the people to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord, and serve Him with one accord." Zephaniah 3:9

If we dismiss and overlook the minor prophets because of their harsh denunciations we miss half the picture. Certainly, they condemned sin. The first two chapters of Zephaniah are a harsh condemnation and warning to Judah because of her spiritual indolence and idolatry. The temple was active, but the hearts of the people were wrong. They needed to be corrected. So do we.

But every prophet also has a section of redemption and that is certainly true with the third and final chapter of Zephaniah. He promised that one day God would restore the people, bless them, and be near to them. When they repented they could turn to God and find that He was searching for them all the while.

The verse quoted above is one example. One prevalent problem with the people was their speech. In His restoration of them, God would change their speech to a "pure speech." This transformed speech would lead to serving God "with one accord." I like that connection. It is obvious, but needs to be stressed.

What is a pure speech? First, it is always true. Lying is condemned in the Ten Commandments, and lying about a neighbor is particularly offensive. Always speak the truth. Before you say something, ask yourself if it is true, not just in part, but in the whole. We can avoid many problems if we simply seek to speak the truth.

Second, pure speech is gracious. Jesus taught us to give mercy as we have received it, and warned that we will receive the standard of judgment we apply to others. Gracious speech means that you will never criticize someone who is absent. It also means that you will allow that you probably do not know the whole story. Instead of pronouncing a verdict based on half the evidence, you speak graciously. Or you might choose to not speak at all!

Third, pure speech means that you will seek to use speech to be a blessing. This applies even when we need to address problems. I read somewhere recently that "the failure to confront is permission to continue." That is true, and we do need to confront problems. Let's make sure, however, to do this in a healthy way, by speaking to the person who needs it and not about the person with everyone else in earshot. Pure speech always seeks a solution rather than creating a problem. Speech is one of the most powerful gifts God has given us. Use your speech to bless others.

The real point of this verse, however, is that the transformed people of God will serve Him "with one accord." As servants in a church, we should set a standard of being "in one accord." That does not mean that we will always agree, but it does mean that we will use our speech to solve problems rather than spread them.

Take a moment in prayer today to examine your speech. Is it pure? It can be. Let God speak to you, transform more of you, and use you to be a blessing to others. Let's set the standard, by using "pure speech" and serving God in one accord.


Terry Ellis

October 1, 2012