The first part of James chapter 3 talks about taming the tongue. He tells us the tongue is small, but it makes great boasts. It can corrupt the whole body, set the course of one’s life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. The small organ in our mouths can do a great deal of damage.
In James 3:3-4 NIV, the author wrote, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.”
The small bit in the horse's mouth and the compact rudder on the ship have the power to turn these large objects around. The horse and ship are going in one direction, but when employed, the bit and rudder turn them around.
James spoke about the tongue in a negative light. But there is a positive aspect of the tongue. We can take that small instrument in our mouths, speak the Word of God into whatever situation we are facing, and no matter how big it is, the Word of God will turn it around. God’s Word turns things around, no matter the size.
An interesting example of this is found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. In 2 Samuel 11, we read of David committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah killed in battle. Verse 27 says, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
We don’t know how much time passed between chapters 11 and 12. There is no account of David’s conscience smiting him, or of him repenting of his sin. All is silent. Then God sends the prophet Nathan to speak to David. Nathan tells David of a case that needs to be decided.
Two men lived in a certain town, one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had many sheep and cattle, but the poor man only had one ewe lamb, which he treated as a loved pet. A traveller came to the rich man, who wanted to provide a meal for his guest. But instead of taking a sheep from his own herd, he took the ewe lamb from the poor man.
David is incensed at Nathan’s words. His verdict is harsh. The man must pay for the lamb four times over and be killed. Then Nathan speaks the Word of God to David. He says:
“…You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes...” (2 Samuel 12:7-9 NIV).
In verse 13, David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Psalm 32 and 51 record David’s repentance. Psalm 32:5 NIV says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.’”
The Word of God from Nathan went into the core of David’s being. Of course, he had a choice – to continue to hide his sin, or to repent. He chose to repent.
I used this example to show the power of God’s Word. With it, God turned around a grave situation. Biblical history would have been different if David had not repented. He would not have been a man after God’s heart.
Dear friend, whatever you are facing in your life, no matter how big it is, like the rudder of the ship, and the bit in the horse’s mouth, the Word of God has the power to turn it around.