The ability to keep silent is not a virtue that all of us always possess. Though we may not be trained as public speakers, we have no difficulty in talking when given the right circumstances. But what we say is not always helpful to us or to others. Thus the Bible speaks again and again about loose tongues and sharp words. On the other hand, the Bible also indicates again and again the times when something should be said. Indeed, the Bible is itself a testimony that those who live in fellowship with God have something to say.

Consider some critical periods in the Old Testament. God called Abraham to come apart and be the beginning of the covenant relation established with him and his people and through them with all people. Abraham’s family was hardly settled in Palestine before forced to go to Egypt. After long years of slavery there was the Exodus and establishment in the Land of Promise. God’s chosen people became a nation. But this nation, through which all nations were to be blessed, was itself torn apart by internal strife, spiritually smothered by pagan enticements, threatened with conquest by powerful neighbors. This was the period of great prophets, men who were called to speak for God, to summon the people to repentance and warn them of impending judgment; men like Amos, who said, “The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?… You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.… I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.… Take away from me the noise of your songs.… But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Or consider the New Testament. The nation of God’s people was gone, but ...

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