Harnessing the Power of the Tongue
For the Glory of God
Key Verses: Proverbs 18:21, Psalm 141:3, Psalm 19:14
Lesson #5 ~ Blessing or Cursing
This is the fifth lesson in the series. Preparing for this lesson I found it going in two directions. The first was more practical and the other more scholarly. The first section is what I taught and the second section was on the back sheet of their paper. We had great discussion and the technical stuff would have bogged that down. I did reference one definition in the second part because there was a question on a translational issue.
In this lesson, I noted that we were turning a corner. The first four lessons were focused on the negative things that we do with our tongues. All of these things are to be avoided, lying, gossiping, complaining. These next four lessons give us choices: blessing or cursing, building up or tearing down, speaking wisdom or speaking foolishness. The last four lessons focus on the higher calling of the tongue. If we are going to harness our tongues for the glory of God, we need to turn that corner.
I opened with a discussion question. I read statements from three pastors, Steven Anderson, Jeremiah Wright, and Fred Phelps. They all believe that they can curse people under the authority of Jesus Christ. Steven Anderson prayed for the death of a president he didn’t like. Fred Phelps led protests of funerals of soldiers saying they were suffering God’s wrath. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Barak Obama, came under scrutiny when it was brought to light that in one of his sermons he said, “God damn America.” I read news articles and quoted them in context so that the class understood the entire story behind why they were saying what they were saying. My question was, if someone were to teach this, that we can curse people in the name of Jesus, “What would be your response based on scripture?”
A. Blessing came first: Genesis 1:26-28, 2:1-3
B. God trusted the priests with blessing: Numbers 6:22-27
C. We are to always bless the LORD: Psalm 34:1-3, I Corinthians 12:3
D. Jesus pronounced blessings upon His followers: Matthew 5:1-12
E. Abraham and David stand out as premier examples of blessing: Genesis 24:1 & II Samuel 5:12
A. Curses came as a result of sin and disobedience: Genesis 3:14-19 and Galatians 3:10 which quotes Deuteronomy 27:26
B. Can be generational: Genesis 9:25, Exodus 34:7
C. Christ redeems us from the curse: Galatians 3:13
D. Jesus pronounced curses: Matthew 23:1-29
E. Cain and Judas Iscariot stand out as premier examples of cursed individuals: Genesis 4:10-16 & Matthew 26:24, 27:3-5, Acts 1:15-20
II. A time to bless and a time to curse?
A. When and who can we bless? This discussion was encouraging. The class had lots of good examples not included here as to how and when we can bless others. Thanks class.
1. Our children and grandchildren: Hebrews 11:20-21
2. Communion: Matthew 26:26, I Corinthians 10:16
3. When we eat: Mark 6:41, 8:7, Luke 24:30
4. When people curse us: Matthew 5:44-45
B. When can we curse? Note: This section was important because it demonstrates that the aforementioned pastors could be right. There are examples in the Bible where people of God rightly cursed others, and not just Jesus.
1. Psalms of imprecation: Psalm 109, see verse 17
2. Elisha cursed youths: II Kings 2:23-24
3. Paul pronounced curses: II Timothy 4:14, Galatians 1:8-9, I Corinthians 16:22
III. Some notable examples of blessing & cursing
A. Genesis 1:26-28, 2:1-3, 3:14-19: Creation and the curse of sin
B. Genesis 12:1-3: The blessings (or curse) of Abraham, see also Galatians 3:8, 14-16
C. Deuteronomy 27-28: The nation of Israel based on obedience or disobedience
D. Luke 6:20-26, Matthew 5:1-12, 23:1-29: Jesus pronounced blessings and curses
IV. As Christians, should our focus be on blessing or cursing? Note: Here are the scriptures that I feel drive this point home. These are the scriptures that should convince Steven Anderson, Fred Phelps, and Jeremiah Wright that they are in the Wrong. We bless, and do not curse.
A. We bless because we will inherit a blessing ~ I Peter 3:9
B. Blessing is a part of loving ~ Luke 6:27-28
C. We are not allowed to curse those who persecute us ~ Romans 12:14
D. We continue to bless while under duress ~ I Corinthians 4:12
V. The Example of David ~ II Samuel 16:5-14, 17:27-29, 19:16-23, 31-40 Note: This is the most powerful example in scripture that I could find. Here is David, the King of Israel. In response to cursing, he only blesses. He does not repay evil for evil. He had every right to do that, but he held control of his tongue. His statement was that “Maybe God told him to curse me. So let him curse me.” But David will not retaliate. He could have put Shimei death and was urged by his men to do so. But he went against popular opinion and let a guilty man live. I left quite a bit of discussion time for this story and it was well worth it. I would rather have practicality in my lessons than technical discussions.
What follows is the second section which could be very helpful for those who want to get into the root words used to translate bless and curse. I tried to pick one or two good examples of the Hebrew and Greek words which are translated bless and curse and demonstrate how that could be useful. This is the section that I encouraged them to learn at home if they were interested.
Definitions of blessing and cursing
A. OT definition
1. Barak means to bless or to kneel. Numbers 6:22-27 provides an excellent extended definition of what blessings include.
2. A less common word translated bless is ‘esher which comes from a root word meaning to walk straight. Psalm 32:1 is one example. In Romans 4:7, Paul quotes this verse and translates the word into the Greek word Makarios.
B. NT definition
1. Makarios seems to be a state of being, blessed or happy. The Beatitudes are filled with qualifications for being Makarios, see Matthew 5:1-12.
2. The verb Eulogeo is a compound word meaning to speak well of something. We get our English word eulogy from this word. Eu means good (or well done) and logos means spoken word (and eventually teaching). The first instance (chronologically) in the NT is at the announcement of the birth of Christ, see Luke 1:28, 39-45. There could be no higher blessing (good words) than on the mother of the Christ.
Note: I thought it was interesting that in both the OT and NT that there were two main words translated as bless, and a host of words translated curse. God’s way of blessing is narrow, but the way of cursing has many, various words to describe since it permeates all creation. Just my take on that.
A. OT definition
1. ‘arar means to execrate and has the idea of cursing and bitterness. Genesis 3:14 is the first curse in the Bible where God cursed the serpent.
2. Qalal/Q@lalah means to bring into contempt or vilification (to make vile). It seems to have the idea of an audible curse, see Leviticus 19:14. An interesting study is Deuteronomy 27:13-26 where Q@lalah is found in 27:13 and ‘arar is found in every other instance in that passage.
3. ‘alah means to adjure or imprecation. Deuteronomy 29:19-21 is a good example where the word seems to be all encompassing.
4. Naqab means to puncture, to blaspheme, to curse, to strike through. In Numbers 23:8, the verse reads, “How shall I Naqab whom God hath not Qabab?”
5. Qabab means to scoop out, to malign, to stab with words. This is used of Balaam and his attempt to curse the children of Israel in Numbers 23:11, 13, 25, 27, 24:10. Numbers 24:9 is ‘arar.
6. Cherem is a net, or something secluded, cursed, or devoted to destruction. Deuteronomy 27:6 shows that it is an accursed thing, see also Joshua 6:17-7:1.
B. NT definition ~ Matthew 26:24, 27:3-5, Acts 1:15-20
1. Katara/Kataraomai seems to be the most common word for cursing and has to do with prayer. Kata (a preposition meaning through or according to) + Ara (prayer). It means imprecation, execration, or to doom. It is used when Jesus cursed the fig tree, Mark 11:21, in James 3:9-10, and in Matthew 25:41 when Christ says, “Depart from Me you cursed into everlasting fire.” Epikataratos is another form of this used in Galatians 3:10, 13 when quoting the law, “Cursed is…” Galatians 3:10 is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 where the Hebrew word is ‘arar while Galatians 3:13 is quoting Deuteronomy 21:23 where the Hebrew word is Q@lalah. Galatians 3:10 reads, “as many as are of the works of the law are under a katara, as it is written, “Epikataratos is every one…”
2. Katanathema/Katanathematizo is a compound word from Kata (a preposition meaning through or according to) + Anathema/Anathematizo, a verb meaning to curse or devote to destruction. This is the word Peter was pronouncing upon himself in Matthew 26:74.
3. Kakologeo is a compound word from Kakos + Logeos, and is basically the exact opposite of Eulogeo. Kakos means worthless or bad and the entire word means to curse or to speak evil of. It is used in Mathew 15:4 and Mark 7:10 which is quoting Leviticus 20:9 where the Hebrew word is Qalal. Don’t speak evil of your parents.
4. Anathema/Anathematizo means cursed or to be under a great curse. It has the idea of excommunication. In Acts 23:12-14 it is translated as curse in KJV, but in Acts 23:21 as oath (see how language can be?) This is the curse that Paul pronounces on people who do not believe the gospel, see Galatians 1:8-9 and I Corinthians 16:22.
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