As some of you may know I have started reading the Bible in Chronological order, along with this I have been following along with the Chronological Bible Blog, reading their comments and also the questions that go along with each day’s lesson. (*see note) Today, I began reading about Joseph, the son of Jacob, whom Jacob loved above all his other sons. Jacob loved him so much that his favor was clearly seen by Joseph’s brothers. Favoritism in families is never good, and it will always bring strife, no matter what. In Genesis chapter 37 we begin to read about Joseph and his dreams. God spoke to Joseph in his dreams, pretty much throughout his whole life. But the question was asked, whether or not Joseph should have told his brothers about his dreams?
Joseph was seventeen years old when the first dream came to him. (Gen. 37:2) He was a very young boy and lacked, I believe, a sense of discernment and understanding that comes with age. In Joseph’s defense, I don’t think he knew any better, I think he had a dream, was excited about the dream and wanted to tell someone. I know many of us can relate to Joseph, at least I can. I hear something from God and I want to share it, not always using the discernment the Lord gave me, which leads me to the lesson the Lord is teaching me today.
Discernment can be defined many different ways. Discernment is basically having good judgment and understanding of ethical and moral matters. As Christians we are to have discernment when it comes to spiritual things, such as discernment of spirits (good or bad). Discernment is a gift from God given to His children to help us determine what His will is, it is also given to us to protect us and keep us from walking a path He does not want us to walk. But I saw in the story of Joseph, a different type of discernment that we as believers are to practice. And that is the gift of discerning whether we should speak or hold our peace.
“Now, Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, ‘Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” Genesis 37:5-8
Joseph could have kept the dream to himself. It would have caused a lot less stress on him in the upcoming days, but instead of seeing, and discerning the feelings of his brothers, he went ahead and spoke, causing more strife and more hatred towards him. As I read these words, I was reminded of something that Paul said to us in Philippians. Paul prays that our “love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” (Phil. 1:9) Paul was encouraging us to love one another, to lift one another up, to edify one another- through our words as well as our deeds.
Words are a powerful thing. They can cause us to stumble, they can cause us to turn away from God, and they can be used for either good and for bad. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:36 that “every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” We will be held accountable for what comes out of our mouths, every last word. (Ouch, that hurt!) Joseph could have used the discernment given to him by God and kept the dream to his self; but he didn’t. The Bible tells us that his brothers hated him not only for the dream he had but “for his words.” (vs. 8)
It is so easy for us to forget that what we say has as much impact on a person as what we do. Having discernment in what we speak is just as important as having discernment in what we do. The Bible tells us, and God commands us to speak to edify, to lift up, and to encourage one another in the faith. We are also supposed to rebuke and correct those who need it- using the discernment the Lord gave us. Joseph, because of his lack of discernment caused strife when there really was no need to say anything at all. How many times have I spoke when I should have kept my peace?
Paul tells us that we are to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, (Eph. 5:19) making melody in our hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to Him always and for everything. As I pondered on what the Lord was speaking to me today, I realized that too many times I let my tongue get out of control; I speak when there really is no need to speak. We need to train ourselves to speak that which edifies and encourages each other, and learn to ask the simple question, “Is what I am saying to the benefit of the hearer?” Sometimes less is best.
Not only do we need to discern what we speak, but do we always need to go into every detail? We could spend a lot less time talking and more time listening, I am sure. James 3:5 tells us that the “tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” The power to lift up or tear down is in our tongues. We have to learn to exercise the gift of discernment that has been given to us. I believe as we mature as Christians, as we draw close to God, as we seek His face, we will learn to discern what to speak and what not to speak. But we should also be aware that sometimes, it is better to just not speak at all.
I pray the Lord Jesus would help you understand the gift of discernment that He has given us, not only in what we do, but in what we speak. I pray that we may mature in His grace and His knowledge and come to the understanding that in our tongues we speak life or death to the hearer. In Jesus Name, Amen.
(*NOTE-Daily reading schedule at: www.ChronologicalBibleBlog.com)