“For I have heard the slander of many, Terror is on every side; While they took counsel together against me, They schemed to take away my life… Let the lying lips be mute, Which speak arrogantly against the righteous With pride and contempt.” Psalm 31:13; 18 [NASB]
As I was studying Psalm 31, verse 13 jumped out at me. At first glance it seems strange that King David, the mighty warrior, is crying out to God in anguish because of the slander of others. After all, “Is this not David, of whom they sing in the dances, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” (1Sa 29:5). One could easily presume mere words are of no impact against such a valiant man as he.
Yet David, the man after God’s own heart, once again cries out to God in Psalm 64 saying, “Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, From the tumult of those who do iniquity, Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech [as] their arrow, To shoot from concealment at the blameless; Suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear” (Psa 64:2-4). David confirms for us that even the most valiant of warriors is not impervious to the spiteful sting of slanderous speech.
The tongue is deadly
The tremendous power of words is confirmed throughout scripture. The grievous observation of David is echoed nearly identically by Jeremiah, “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; It speaks deceit; With his mouth one speaks peace to his neighbor, But inwardly he sets an ambush for him” (Jer. 9:8). Solomon, from his great wisdom, wrote “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
James describes the power of the tongue as follows:
“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and [yet] it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the [very] world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of [our] life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; [it is] a restless evil [and] full of deadly poison. With it we bless [our] Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come [both] blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:5-10 [NASB]
Satan slanders the afflicted
Satan is the father of all lies and, therefore, the source of all slander (John 8:44). He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). As lions often do, he frequently intensifies his attacks on those already afflicted and wounded. In being aware of the schemes of the enemy we must not fail to recognize he consistently uses slander to attack the afflicted (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11; Isa. 32:7).
“As for a rogue, his weapons are evil; He devises wicked schemes to destroy [the] afflicted with slander, Even though [the] needy one speaks what is right” Isaiah. 32:7 [NASB]
What may initially start out just as curiosity or even genuine concern quickly becomes slanderous when speculation is repeated as fact, and partial truths are intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented as complete truth. Words carelessly spoken and repeated soon become piercing arrows eliciting from their victims the cry of David, “For I have heard the slander of many, Terror is on every side.”
“He who conceals hatred [has] lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool… An evildoer listens to wicked lips; A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Proverbs 10:18; 17:4 [NASB]
When the arrow of slander pierces
It should be of no great surprise that slander almost invariably makes its way to the ears of its often unsuspecting victims. The brilliance of our adversary who has come to steal, kill and destroy is evidenced in the piercing of the flaming arrows of slander, precisely timed and strategically placed to inflict the greatest harm. David heard the slander of many, and his response to it in Psalm 31 provides a worthy example.
David cried out to God
“For I have heard the slander of many, Terror is on every side; While they took counsel together against me, They schemed to take away my life. (v 13)
David trusted God
“But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, ‘You are my God.'” (v. 14)
David waited for God to deliver him
“My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; Save me in Your lovingkindness.” (vv. 15-16)
David had faith in God and His deliverance
“How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” (vv. 19-20)
Cry out to God
“In my distress I called upon the LORD, Yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, And my cry for help [came] into His ears.” 2 Samuel 22:7 [NASB]
We can freely express the anguish of our hearts to Him knowing He loves us and cares deeply for our every need. He already sees and knows every detail of our affliction, but we still must carry it to Him. There is none other who truly knows and fully understands all of our circumstances, and there is none other who can perfectly guide and deliver us. He alone can not be deceived. He always sees, knows and understands the truth. There is no greater listener, counselor, advocate, defender or deliverer. Cry out to Him.
“In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can [mere] man do to me?” Psalm 56:4 [NASB]
We must choose to trust God, and to trust in Him alone (Psalm 62). We are strengthened to do so by meditating on His Word. Dwelling on His truths, His promises and His character are essential to trusting Him. We trust Him because of who He is, regardless of our circumstances. It is only through trusting in Him and the truths of His Word that we are enabled to squelch the fear of man.
Wait for God
“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; [it leads] only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.” Psalm 37:7-9 [NASB]
As we cry out to God and trust Him in the midst of our pain, we are strengthened to wait for Him. We are called to cease from anger and forsake wrath as we wait upon Him. The enemy taunts us, longing for us to respond to slander with anger, wrath and fretting, but God warns that leads only to evildoing. We wait patiently and expectantly for God, knowing He is the God who sustains and preserves the righteous.
Have faith in God, He will deliver and vindicate
“‘No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,’ declares the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17 [NASB]
I love the inspired words of David in verse 20, “You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” God absolutely will deliver and vindicate. Though it may seem for a time that the weapons formed against us are victorious, and the slander spoken against us is painfully successful, in “just a little while” (if not sooner) it will certainly be defeated and exposed (Heb. 10:37). We wait in faith for the One who is coming and “will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of [men’s] hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5).
Persevere in righteousness
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe [them,] glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12 [NASB]
Weary, slandered and afflicted one, cry out to God, trust Him, wait for Him, have faith and believe He will do all He has promised. If we ask Him, He will strengthen us “with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” to persevere in righteousness (Col. 1:11).
Righteousness may require silence rather than answering the slander. Those spreading slander are likely not interested in truth, nor are those entertained by the words of slander. More often than not the wisest choice is to follow the example of our Savior who “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).
I am reminded of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Prince of Preachers, who knew well the sting of slander, writing of it, “Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken…” He rightly advised, “silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.” So I close with his wise counsel and encouragement for those who are slandered:
I cried unto the LORD (or Jehovah). The wisest course that he could follow. It is of little use to appeal to our fellows on the matter of slander, for the more we stir in it the more it spreads; it is of no avail to appeal to the honour of the slanderers, for they have none, and the most piteous demands for justice will only increase their malignity and encourage them to fresh insult. As well plead with panthers and wolves as with black hearted traducers. However, when cries to man would be our weakness, cries to God will be our strength. To whom should children cry but to their father? Does not some good come even out of that vile thing, falsehood, when it drives us to our knees and to our God? – Treasury of David, Psalm 120
Arise, O’ God. Come, Lord Jesus.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening