Monday, February 02, 2009

A Word in Season

By Claire Alexander

In a writers’ group online, one author told how her pastor’s mention of an Old Testament passage triggered the idea, “the right word for the right occasion.” She decided to add this phrase to her biographical details as her “tag line,” but didn’t know its source.

Someone suggested Proverbs 25:11 NIV: "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Another verse given was Eph. 4:29 NIV: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

My mind went back to childhood years in West Vancouver, following WWII. A very precise and disciplined British surgeon, who founded a ministry in Aden and countries around the Red Sea, sometimes stayed in our home for a week. This tall statesman had to sleep on my brother’s bed, the width of a cot.

On each furlough trip to Canada, this pioneering doctor tried to raise up potential missionaries for that hot and (then) thankless area – perhaps young marrieds, willing to have nothing, to live by faith, and to join a very difficult work. At that time, particularly in Yemen, many woman died in childbirth since fathers did not encourage daughters to leave to study nursing – and female patients were not allowed male medical assistance.

Dr. Lionel Gurney , on his knees, gave my brothers camel rides on his back in front of the big stone fireplace made of round boulders. Still on his knees, he pointed out to me, a teenager, all the Red Sea countries on a large map on the floor, and inspired my prayer. He also gave me Isaiah 50:4 (and later verse 7). In the King James, the verse read

The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned,
that I should know how to speak a word in season
to him that is weary:
he wakeneth morning by morning,
he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

Today through the cyber world, these memories came flooding back. And with them came new insight, as I read the Psalter version Queen Victoria used. God says He will “learn” the meek – i.e., cause them to learn His way, as He teaches them (Ps. 25:9).

All these years, I have thought these verses showed the wise tongue and ear were “learn-èd” in the old, two-syllable pronunciation. In contrast, I suddenly realize that the tongue and the pen belong to the “unlearnèd” one who listens – to the New Testament “disciple” – the follower, and the learner – the one willing to be taught. Today, I choose to put myself back into the role of the pupil, and to hear His voice – and maybe, as I listen, He will give me “A Word in Season” to share.

Psalm 25:9 (New Living Translation)

9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way


Marilyn said...

Thank you for tying these passages together and for the reflection. It is good to start a busy week with a reminder to listen, to pay attention, to be teachable.

Belinda said...

Amen, amen. I appreciated Claire's insight so much. It is the humble listener who hears what God has to say. Thank you Claire!

Joyful Fox said...


Thanks for the 'words in season' that you have shared in this post. Such wise words. May we learn to listen and be willing to be taught.

So blessed to have read this.

Susan said...

This post really stirred my heart. I've been thinking about it all day...