by Peter Youngs

In these difficult days we live in, every country in the world is struggling with finances, anger, war, and disease. Each one of us from the goodness of our hearts wants to understand our world and the communities where we live. And we may wonder if we can or should do something about it. We are the people of God, the salt of the earth. We must be a light to others. Surely, we can understand. And with the help of God, we can encourage and help others understand it.

And so, we speak, we talk, we may even argue. We have ways of communicating today that no one before in the history of the world did. People can hear us not just in our house, our church, our community. They can hear us in other countries. The clamor of voices all seeking to understand and be heard is like nothing before in the history of man! It is into this confusing clamor as a proclamation from the rooftop that the Psalmist speaks and tells each of us breathing the breath of life in this moment, and we must:

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalms 34: 13,14)

Speak Truth

And we may ask: “Me? Is he speaking to me? He must be talking to them because I’m not speaking evil.” God is speaking to every one of us male, female, old, young – all those who are commanded to speak truth. He is not talking to anyone else! God is pleading with us to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from deceiving others because that is what “guile” in the Hebrew means.

This is the warning that must come before we can move on to the next verse and seek the Shalom Peace, the Jerusalem, city of Peace. God’s people serve the Prince of Peace, and they must realize the seriousness of their calling if they are to be effective in their prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem where they live in unity.

Imprinted in Our Nature

First, we must understand that the reason we have a desire to understand, to speak, and to act is because it is imprinted in our nature from the very beginning. Woman was created with man. She is not a later idea. We must understand this!  “…in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27b). This is during the creation week! Man began as a whole creature, male and female. It is this mystery that must be understood if we are to realize our purpose on this earth.

In Gen 2:18 God states: “It is not good for man to be alone,” or single, or unchallenged perhaps? So God caused a deep sleep to come upon Adam and he removed a rib. This was not a little bone. The Hebrew word here means side. It is the same Hebrew word to describe each side of the Ark and each side of the Tabernacle. (The same tabernacle which we also know represents the body.)

Woman was created with man.

Woman was created with man.

Our Desire for Relationship

But we don’t need to understand Hebrew to know this. We can learn it first, from Adam when he said in verse 24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.” And second, we learn it from our own hearts because we know our desire to be in relationship and fulfill this great mystery is powerfully present within each one of us.

And yet this is only part of the reason the Psalmist said to keep our lips from deceiving and to depart from evil. The other reason is not as pleasant. The serpent told us that if we would eat of this fruit we would “be as gods knowing.” We want to know. We desire knowledge, we wonder about everything, and as we learn we want to be right! Don’t we like to be right! We may even tell others when we are right! And when we think we are right, we can so easily find ourselves in Psalms 34:13 instead of 14.

The Basis for Human Motivation

Knowledge and relationships are the basis for human motivation. And the person who is teaching us to sing in Psalms is warning us that it can be evil, or it can be the very Shalom Peace of salvation to the world.

Each one of us has built within our character, deep in our hearts, a desire for these two things that are as powerful as our desire for food and water. We sometimes think we know, and we think we are in relationship, and we are like the man Isaiah spoke of in 29:8 who dreamed he had food and water, but when he woke up he was hungry and thirsty: “So shall the multitude of nations be that fight against Mt Zion.” Are we in relationship? Do we know?

Are we in relationship?

Are we in relationship?

Our Desire for Knowledge

We find this demonstrated again in Genesis 11 and 12. Mankind wants to build the city and tower of Babel. He wants to come together as one. That is the city. We are drawn to figure out how to get along, how to govern ourselves, what laws are right so that we can live in a city, how does it work, and who lives in our city? But we also want to build the tower that reaches to heaven itself. This is our desire for knowledge because God is Truth (Isaiah 65:16 and I Corinthians 16:22).

There can be only one truth because there is only one God. Mankind is still attempting to build towers to become god and claim all truth. The internet is the greatest tower of Babel built to date and its result is just as confusing. And within that same effort we are still today trying to come together as one to define city, or gathering of like-minded people. This is what every political faction believes. Each one believes they have the truth; each one believes they know how to get along and build the perfect city.

Heed the Warning

The answer God gives us is the same in Psalms as it is in Genesis. First, we are warned in Psalms 34:13 not to be evil, not to deceive. In Genesis 11 we see how our tongues that are knowing became confusion and deception at Babel. My dear people of the body of Christ, we cannot proceed to verse 14 in Psalms or chapter 12 in Genesis until we fully understand and heed the warning of verse 13 and chapter 11.

The tongue can be evil, and the lips can deceive. Our righteous intent can kill. Every one of us has seen division in the body of Christ, and it is so important that we see this in terms of real blood and real death. When we can look back at Babel and see the confusion that has caused people who once sat by your side to be cut off, and when we can repent from our complicity in that process, we are ready to move on to the next verse and the next chapter.

God is Calling All Nations

God’s answer of mercy is Genesis 12 where he calls Abraham into relationship saying: “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Relationship first. Communion, acceptance, and inclusiveness first! They do not have to look like me, agree with me, or speak my language. God is calling all nations and his son died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5).

God is calling all nations.

God is calling all nations.

It is now that the beauty of Psalms 34:14 can be seen. Do Good is “asah tob” in the Hebrew. Asah is used as create in Genesis, (Let us Asah man in our image), and tob is the same good that God used when he looked at creation and said, it is good. We have the power to create good in our tongues from the breath of life behind our lips that God breathed into us. When we “seek Peace” that is “baqash Shalom.” This seek in the Hebrew is to look for something that is lost or missing.

Restore and Renew Relationship

Is peace lost or missing among us today? Has God given us the power to find it? This answer you will not find in the words I create on this page. This answer God has placed in your heart using those who were your spiritual parents. Your desire is for relationship. Your desire is to restore and renew relationship. And your experience in your own relationships allows you to know that the women among you are not insignificant little bones but an entire side of you that has been missing. The power of this great mystery of Christ and the church allows you to also know that you are even now missing and yearning for those who you love who are not here and even those who you have not met yet!

Because the final word of verse 14 is pursue it. That Hebrew word “radap” is to pursue as an army would dedicate itself to a final victory. It is to sacrifice yourselves to a cause as the army of God. And this I know you have done, are doing, and will continue as long as God gives you breath. Because you have.

This article was originally written as a letter to the Mount Zion Seventh day Church of God of Kenya on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. The author’s grandfather is credited with sending the materials and people who helped start the congregation. This letter was written to the present church fathers and mothers who continue to hold the motivation for relationship and knowledge – as a witness to call to their remembrance that which they have held and do hold in their hearts.