March 27: Tongues, Prophecy, and the Thing We Call Love
Numbers 31:1–54; 1 Corinthians 14:1–25; Psalm 26:1–12
Nearly anything good can become unproductive if it’s abused or misused. Paul is all about embracing the side of spirituality that can seem a bit wacky to us today—gifts of tongues and prophecy, to name a few. But he is fully aware of the problems that can come from these gifts being used in a way that doesn’t fit within God’s will. And Paul’s primary concern is that spiritual gifts are used only within the bounds of love.
Love is what it’s all about. “Pursue love, and strive for spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For the one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, because no one understands, but by the Spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Cor 14:1–2). By tongues, Paul is likely referencing the “tongues of angels”—some angelic language (1 Cor 13:1)—although elsewhere the term is used in reference to people speaking in a language they don’t actually know for the sake of ministering to others in their native tongue (Acts 2:3–4).
Love—as manifested in Christ’s death and resurrection and in our living sacrificially for Him and others—is central, and spiritual gifts should support that cause.
Paul goes on to say: “Now I want you all to speak with tongues, but even more that you may prophesy.… But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with tongues, how do I benefit you, unless I speak to you either with a revelation or with knowledge or with a prophecy or with a teaching?” (1 Cor 14:5–6).
Spiritual gifts are meant to indwell believers. Christians are meant to be driven by God’s Spirit and to do miraculous things in His name. But none of it matters if it’s not for the purpose of showing Christ’s love.
What gifts do you resist using? How can you use the spiritual gifts God has given you to show love to others, and how can you correct your use of them if you’re not currently using them for this purpose?
JOHN D. BARRY
- And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Revenge the children of Israel of the Midianites, and afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. And Moses spake to the people, saying, Harness some of you unto war, and for them go against Midian, to execute the vengeance of the Lord against Midian. A thousand of every tribe throughout all the tribes of Israel shall ye sent to the war. So there were taken out of the thousands of Israel, twelve thousand prepared unto war, of every tribe a thousand. And Moses sent them to the war, even a thousan of every tribe, and sent them with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the Priest to the war: and the holy instruments, that is, the trumpets to blow were in his hand. And they warred against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and slew all the males. They slew also the kings of Midian amongt them that were slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zut, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian, and they slew Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. But the children of Israel took the women of Midian prisoners, and their children, and spoiled all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities, wherein they dwelt, and all their villages with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey both of men and beasts. And they brought the captives and that which they had taken, and the spoil unto Moses and to Eleazar the Priest, and unto the Congregation of the children of Israel, into the camp in the plain of Moab, which was by Jordan toward Jericho. Then Moses and Eleazar the Priest, and all the princes of hte Congregation went out of the camp to meet them. And Moses was angry with the captives of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the war and battle. And Moses said unto them, What have ye saved all the women? Behold, these caused the children of Israel through the counsel of Balaam to commit a trespass against the Lord, as concerning Peor, and there came a plague among the Congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, slay all the males among the children, and kill all the women that have known man by carnal copulation. But all the women-children that have not known carnal copulation, keep alive for yourselves. And ye shall remain without the host seven days, all that have killed any person, and all that have touched any dead, and purify both yourselves and your prisoners the third day and the seventh. Also ye shall purify every garment and all that is mae of skins, and all work of goats’ hair, and all things made of wood. And Eleazar the Priest said unto the men of war, which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses. As for gol, and silver, brass, iron, tin, and lead: Even all that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: yet, it shall be purified with the water of purification: and all that suffereth not the fire, ye shall cause to pass by the water. Ye shall wash also your clothes the seventh day, and ye shall be clean: and afterward ye shall come into the host. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of persons and of cattle, thou and Eleazar the Priest, and the chief fathers of the Congregation. And divide the prey between the soldiers that went to the war, and all the Congregation. And divide the prey between the soldiers that went to the war, and all the Congregation. And thou shalt take a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war, which went out to battle: one person of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep. Ye shall take it of thier half, and give it unto Eleazar the Priest, as an heave offering of the Lord. But of the half of the children of Israel thou shalt take one, taken out of fifty, both of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the sheep, even of all the cattle, and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, which have the charge of the Tabernacle of the Lord. And Moses and Eleazar the Priest did as the Lord had commanded Moses. And the booty, to wit, the rest of the prey which the men of war had spoiled, was six hundred seventy and five thousand sheep. And seventy and two thousand beeves, And threescore and one thousand asses, And two and thirty thousand persons in all, of women that had lain by no man. And the half, to wit, the part of them that went out to war, touching the number of sheep, was three hundred seven and thirty thousand, and five hundred. And the Lord’s tribute of the sheep was six hundred seventy and five. And the beeves were six and thirty thousand, whereof the Lord’s tribute was seventy and two. And the asses were thirty thousand and five hundred, whereof the Lord’s tribute was threescore and one: And of persons sixteen thousand, whereof the Lord’s tribute was two and thirty persons.And Moses gave the tribute of the Lord’s offering unto Eleazar the Priest, as the Lord had commanded Moses. And of the half of the children of Israel, which Moses divided from the men of war. (For the half that pertained unto the congregation, was three hundred thirty and seven thousand sheep and five hundred, And six and thirty thousand beeves. And thirty thousand asses, and four hundred, And sixteen thousand persons.) Moses, I say, took of the half that pertained unto the children of Israel, one taken out of fifty, both of the persons, and of the cattle, and gave them unto the Levites, which have the charge of the Tabernacle of the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. Then the captains which were over thousands of the host, the captains over the thousands, and the captains over the hundreds came unto Moses. And said to Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our authority, and there lacketh not one man of us. We have therefore brought a present unto the Lord, what every man found of Jewels of gold, bracelets, and chains, rings, earrings, and ornaments of the legs, to make an atonement for our souls before the Lord. And Moses and Eleazar the Priest took the gold of them, and all wrought jewels. And all the gold of the offering that they offered up to the Lord (of the captains over thousans an hundreds) was sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels. (For the men of war had spoiled, every man for himself.) And Moses and Eleazar the Priest took the gold of the captains over the thousands, and over the hundreds, and brought it unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation, for a memorial of the children of Israel before the Lord. Numbers 31:1–54
- Follow after love, and cover spiritual gifts, and rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh a strange tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man heareth him: howbeit in the spirit he speaketh secret things. But he that prophesieth, speaketh unto men to edifying, and to exhortation, and to comfort. He that speaketh strange language, edifieth himself: but he that prophesieth, edifieth the Church. I would that ye all spake strange languages, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that propesieth, than he that speaketh diverse tongues, except he expound it, that the Church may receive edification. And now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking diverse tongues, what shall I profit you, except I speak to you, either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? Moreover things without life which give a sound, whether it be a pipe or an harp, except they make a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? And also if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to battle? So likewise you, by the tongue, except ye utter words that have signification, how shall it be understood what is spoken? for ye shall speak in the air. There are so many kinds of voices (as it cometh to pass) in the world, and none of them is dumb. Except I know then the power of the voie, I shall be unto him that speaketh a Barbarian, and he that speaketh, shall be a Barbarian unto me. Even so, forasmuch as ye cover spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel unto the edifying of the Church. Wherefore, let him that speaketh a strange tongue, pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a strange tongue, my spirit prayeth: but mine understanding is without fruit. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit: but I will sin with the understanding also. Else, when thou blessest with the spirit, have shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned, say Amen, at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knowest not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak languages more than ye all. Yet had I rather in the Church to speak five words with mine understanding, that I might also instruct others, than ten thousand words in a strange tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding, but as concerning maliciousness be children, but in understanding be of a ripe age. In the Law it is written, By men of other tongues, and by other languages will I speak unto this people yet so shall they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore strange tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore, when the whole Church is come together in one, and all speak strange tongues, there come in they that are unlearned, or they which believe not, will they not say, that ye are out of your wits? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is rebuked of all men, and is judged of all. And so are the secrets of his heart made manifest, and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, and say plainly that God is in you indeed. What is to be done then, brethren? when ye come together, according as every one of you hath a Psalm, or hath doctrine, or hath a tongue, or hath revelation, or hath interpretation, let all things be done unto edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:1–25
- Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in mine innocency: my trust hath been also in the Lord: therefore shall I not slide. Prove me, O Lord, and try me: examine my reins, and mine heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes, therefore have I walked in thy truth. I have not haunted with vain persons, neither kept company with the dissemblers. I have hated the assembly of the evil, and have not companied with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency, O Lord, and compass thine altar, That I may declare with the voice of thanksgiving, and set forth all thy wondrous works. O Lord, have I loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth. Gather not my soul with the sinners, nor my life with the bloody men: In whose hand is wickedness, and their right hand is full of bribes. But I will walk in mine innocency: redeem me therefore, and be merciful unto me. My foot standeth in uprightness: I will praise thee, O Lord, in the Congregations. Psalm 26:1–12