10:20, "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy
bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath
wings shall tell the matter."
This morning, there are many expressions found in our vernacular that are Biblical in origin. Years ago, my late father stated his desire to eventually preach a sermon about expressions we use, their Biblical roots, and original meanings. Unfortunately, that sermon, to my knowledge, was never actually preached. However, studying the Bible on a regular, consistent basis will produce conversational language that is rooted in Biblical structure. Perhaps one of the reasons that language today is suffering so badly is that people do not read the Scriptures like they once did, and therefore, it is not permeating their speech on a daily basis. As there is a goal in walking better according to the Scriptures, so that walk should have Biblically-seasoned speech, and if we have some expression that is straight from or very close to Biblical expression, we are on safe ground in our words.
Have you ever heard someone say, "A little birdie told me that?" The verse above is where that expression originates. That expression basically means that someone heard some news down the line from the one that originally dropped it. Sometimes, the little birdie's words are a bit exaggerated, but this expression (and this verse) is most commonly in reference to true information that was almost to completely confidential but got out anyway. How is it that the most secret of information can leak out? How is it that our best efforts to keep things quiet and under wraps sometimes fail? Solomon says it is like a bird flying with the message in its wings. Most of the time, the reason that the word gets out is that it is damaging or condemning to someone. Solomon uses the example of cursing the king or the rich. Whenever those in positions of authority or power are spoken against, the news seems to get out as it is damaging to a party or person.
However, going beyond the common expression, let us dig into the deeper meaning of this verse for our daily walk and discussions. A good corollary to this verse is, "and be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23p) Whenever we have problems according to the flesh, those sins can and do catch up with us. Each of us has personal sins that we battle on a daily basis, and these fights that we have are fights to keep these things from festering up into a blaze of destruction in our lives. Without keeping the old body of death at bay, our lives would be fruitless in their service to God. We would continually be some combination of way side, thorny, or stony ground that the seed could not bring forth fruit unto perfection.
Notice that Solomon describes our very most private of conversations to be those that get out. If we are speaking in our home - specifically in our bedroom, there is not a much more private place than that. Even when people come to our homes, that will be the room least likely for a visitor to enter. Yet, Solomon ascribes this most secret of places to be the place that birds carry information from. Yet, tracing back this a little further, Solomon starts in the realm of our thoughts. Let us look at the opening again, "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber." When we have thoughts, those thoughts - left unchecked - will eventually become words. Those words - left unchecked - will eventually become open patterns for our conduct.
While the "little birdie" application is indeed a truism from this verse, Solomon is also describing something far more hard-hitting. He is laying out the pattern or progression for habits. Our habits are not something that we just woke up one morning and starting doing just like we do now. A habit is first formed with a thought. That thought begins to grow until it takes up a sizable amount of time in our day and space in our mind. That large thought then becomes something we talk about, perhaps first in secret. Later, that private-like conversation becomes an open pattern of conduct that people know us by.
Beginning with the more "heavy" of applications, Solomon speaks of bad habits. It is a bad habit to curse them that have the rule of authority over us (king). It is a bad habit to curse them that employ us (rich). Rather, we should pray for those in authority over us, no matter what we think of the person. However, if we have cursed thoughts about our authorities, cursed thoughts about our neighbours, etc, these thoughts will eventually, unless dealt with, become words. Sometimes even the private words will be made public by someone other than we ourselves. Yet, if still unchecked, these words will filter into our regular, habitual routines from day to day. We will not be able to let much time go by without talking negatively about this one or that one. People will begin to know us in that sense.
And yet, this trend to a habit also applies to the more "pleasant" of applications. Very often, people who are not the most cheerful, pleasant, and joyfully engaged think those that are that way "have that personality and are made that way." It is true that different personalities are made differently, but someone that has remained steadfastly joyful is not just made that way with that personality. Someone who can routinely rejoice in what the Lord has done in their lives, regardless of how naturally bad things have gone, is one that had to work at that habit. As with the bad habits, so this good habit did not just "come" one morning out of bed. This habit first was a thought that began to itch and grow. This growing itch to pray more, study more, go to church more, etc stems from the new man God plants within the soul. Just as the old itch comes from the old man, so the new itch comes from the new man.
These thoughts - unchecked by the flesh - become broader in our minds. Perhaps more study leads to a desire to study even more. Perhaps the first prayer was difficult but the doing became increasingly easier over time. These thoughts begin to be words that are uttered (maybe even privately), but eventually, these unchecked items become daily habits that spill and pervade into every area of our conduct. Just as gossiping and cursing about others will brand us with that reputation, so will these actions (that started as mere thoughts) brand us with the reputation of "Friends of God." (James 2:23)
When we spend more of our thoughts in God's book listening for that still, small voice in our lives, those thoughts will create more words and conversations along the same lines. Those conversations will generate a lifestyle that is marked by the impact and impression of God's righteousness in manifest form. Perhaps some of us see less and less spirituality in our local circles than we once did. Perhaps some expressions are beginning to go by the wayside that show Biblical impact in our lives. Regardless, we should be seeking to press forward more than ever in service to our Lord in unashamed fashion. When Nicodemus came to Christ in John 3, he came to Him by night. Regardless of what anyone wants to say about the state of the man's heart (not the point at all in my opinion), he still came to Jesus by night (showing fear). He did not want to lost his status among his friends: the Pharisees. Later, he is more willing to say something about Christ (John 7:50-53), yet this conversation was not a very public one. Yet, by John 19:38-42, Nicodemus is completely immersed in thoughts of Christ by openly taking care of His body with Joseph. May our good thoughts be left unchecked to promote sound speech and good lifestyle habits, and may our bad thoughts be checked immediately that they go no further.