Take a moment and think with me about the high priest. The garments that he wore were kadosh (set apart), the items he touched were kadosh. He needed to be blameless each day that he entered into the tabernacle. Do you have the picture in mind? Now think about yourself. What does the scripture say about how we are to be ‘set-apart’? Now the sages teach that the every Israealite should be a human temple. If he (or she) is set-apart , then the temple of his body will be; if he sins, he contaminates it. This is consistent with the teachings of the apostles.
Our problem comes because most of us have too casual a view of sin—something a righteous and set-apart Elohim hates and calls an abomination.
So sin…What is it? Most of us would answer that its transgression of the torah found in 1 John 3:4. I would tell you that you are correct. But I would then follow up with a question “how prevalent is sin in your life?” As you think about this, be brutally honest with yourself. Take some time to reflect on this. Don’t just think about the big things here, but the little subtle things like lying, slander, gossip, manipulation (witchcraft), disobedience, drunkenness, and the list could go on. These, many times, are things we do that we may not even reflect on, the things that we don’t want to recognize in our lives.
Scripture says that unrepentant sin will damn us eternally. Rms 6:23 says “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Elohim is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our master” and Ezekiel 18:20 says “20 The person who sins is the one that will die — a son is not to bear his father’s guilt with him, nor is the father to bear his son’s guilt with him; but the righteousness of the righteous will be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked will be his own.”
Sin equals death. It is our sin that sentenced Yeshua to die that hideous death on the cross. Do we repent? Do we recognize sin in our lives? Do we look for it? Do we ask Yah to search our hearts and to know us just as King David did in the Psalms? Even the uncomfortable things, the things we do so easily, he’s calling us to be righteous before him. I mean if that trumpet sounded to proclaim his coming, would you be ready? Are you ever searching your heart? The Father is calling us to a place of righteousness. If we are to be his kadosh instruments that he uses, then we must be set apart. Now we’ll never be perfect, but we’re called to be blameless before him. It’s about having a heart that is ever searching for the king, ever looking to teshuv (turn or repent) back to him.
Now when I was praying about this teaching and what the Father would have me to share, he led me to ponder on my own life and see what was one of my sins that I don’t realize, that I forget to repent for. And as I pondered and reflected on this, I realized that it’s probably not just me who struggles with this. What is it?, you may ask. Well it’s the sin that comes from our mouths. This is probably the greatest sin the body of Messiah faces. Just go to any Hebrew Roots chat room and you’ll see if for yourself. Our mouths sow discord among brethren, speak vanities, murders and lies. Now Elohim hates these things and calls them an abomination in Proverbs 6:16-19:
“16 There are six things Adonai hates, seven which he detests: 17 a haughty look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet swift in running to do evil, 19 a false witness who lies with every breath, and him who sows strife among brothers.”
The tongue is a world of iniquity, especially behind closed doors where we let down our guard with our family and loved ones. There our tongues rip, slice, slash, murder, and speak vanities and hypocrisy almost without measure.
Now if it’s so detestable to my king, why do I continue the practice? Why do we as a body of Messiah continue? Before we move on, I will borrow the word of the Psalmist: “Selah.” This means to think and ponder what was said.
Now we’re going to spend some time today studying what the scripture says about this, because it’s imperative that we as believers begin to treat each other like Messiah did and stop this silly bickering, gossiping and slandering. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to rub each other the wrong way, but if we do, there is a way to handle it in Matthew 18. That’s our guide for conflict, period!
So to start off let’s go to Genesis 9:20 – 27:
20 Noach, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. 21 He drank so much of the wine that he got drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Kena‘an, saw his father shamefully exposed, went out and told his two brothers. 23 Shem and Yefet took a cloak, put it over both their shoulders, and, walking backward, went in and covered their naked father. Their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father lying there shamefully exposed. 24 When Noach awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 He said, “Cursed be Kena‘an; he will be a servant of servants to his brothers.” 26 Then he said, “Blessed be Adonai, the God of Shem; Kena‘an will be their servant. 27 May God enlarge Yefet; he will live in the tents of Shem, but Kena‘an will be their servant.”
There is much speculation as to what Ham did to his father but I present to you, that Ham’s sin was that he slandered his father by exposing his sin. What is this called? It’s called Lashon Hara (evil tongue).
Let’s look at another example in Numbers 12:1-16:
1 Miryam and Aharon began criticizing Moshe on account of the Ethiopian woman he had married, for he had in fact married an Ethiopian woman. 2 They said, “Is it true that Adonai has spoken only with Moshe? Hasn’t he spoken with us too?” Adonai heard them. 3 Now this man Moshe was very humble, more so than anyone on earth. 4 Suddenly Adonai told Moshe, Aharon and Miryam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” The three of them went out.
5 Adonai came down in a column of cloud and stood at the entrance to the tent. He summoned Aharon and Miryam, and they both went forward. 6 He said, “Listen to what I say: when there is a prophet among you, I, Adonai, make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. 7 But it isn’t that way with my servant Moshe. He is the only one who is faithful in my entire household. 8 With him I speak face to face and clearly, not in riddles; he sees the image of Adonai. So why weren’t you afraid to criticize my servant Moshe?” 9 The anger of Adonai flared up against them, and he left.
10 But when the cloud was removed from above the tent, Miryam had tzara‘at, as white as snow. Aharon looked at Miryam, and she was as white as snow. 11 Aharon said to Moshe, “Oh, my lord, please don’t punish us for this sin we committed so foolishly. 12 Please don’t let her be like a stillborn baby, with its body half eaten away when it comes out of its mother’s womb!” 13 Moshe cried to Adonai, “Oh God, I beg you, please, heal her!” (Maftir) 14 Adonai answered Moshe, “If her father had merely spit in her face, wouldn’t she hide herself in shame for seven days? So let her be shut out of the camp for seven days; after that, she can be brought back in.” 15 Miryam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not travel until she was brought back in. 16 Afterward, the people went on from Hatzerot and camped in the Pa’ran Desert.
The Rabbis will tell you that tsaraot is a direct result of Lashon Hara, and they base that off of these verses about Miryam.
Now where does this term Lashon Hara come from? This mostly is a traditional term used in Judaism, to talk about speech that causes harm. This term is not directly found in the torah, but it is found in Psalm 34:14:
14 [If you do,]keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceiving talk;15 turn from evil, and do good; seek peace, go after it!
In this case it’s Lashon Mara (מֵרָ֑ע לְשׁוֹנְךָ֣ ) Lashon is H3956 – tongue or language, as coming from the movement of the tongue. The root means “the wagging of the tongue when talking or slandering.
ra is H7451 and means bad, evil, adversity; something dysfunctional, wrong or evil.
So Lashon Hara is literally “the evil tongue”. I read an interesting traditional Chasidic tale that shows the danger of this type of speech that I wanted to share:
A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”
It goes onto say:
Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.
How true are these statements? Ponder these things, reflect on these my brothers and sisters.
So what does the Torah say about Lashon Hara? It doesn’t mention this term scenically but it mentions an act of Lashon Hara. Leviticus 19 is where this is found. Now the context of Leviticus 19 is it’s the beginning of the torah portion Kedoshim (holy people). It’s a great source for practical things that if we do them together we will become a holy people.
The specific verse is found in vs 16 of chapter 19 which says:
16 “‘Do not go around spreading slander among your people, but also don’t stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake; I am Adonai.
So what is this word Slander in Hebrew? Its H7400 רָכִיל֙ Rakil: a talebearer, a slanderer
It comes from the word Rakal which is a merchant, one who travels. A talebearer is a traveler selling stories and songs. In essence it’s going about from one place to another spreading slander or gossip. Now we either know someone who does this or have done it ourselves. Don’t go pointing any fingers now; we need to examine our own hearts.
So now that we know what Lashon Hara is and what the torah says, we can’t stop there. Let’s dig into what scripture says about our speech. Let’s let the word of Elohim do the rest of the talking for us, to pierce our hearts:
Exodus 23:1: “You are not to repeat false rumors; do not join hands with the wicked by offering perjured testimony.
Isaiah 32:6: for the mean person will speak meanness, his heart planning evil, so that he can act godlessly, spreading error concerning Adonai, as he lets the hungry go on starving and deprives the thirsty of drink.
Psalm 15: A psalm of David: (1) Adonai, who can rest in your tent? Who can live on your holy mountain?
2 Those who live a blameless life, who behave uprightly, who speak truth from their hearts 3 and keep their tongues from slander; who never do harm to others or seek to discredit neighbors; 4 who look with scorn on the vile, but honor those who fear Adonai; who hold to an oath, no matter the cost; 5 who refuse usury when they lend money and refuse a bribe to damage the innocent. Those who do these things never will be moved.
Ps 101:5: If someone slanders another in secret, I will cut him off. Haughty eyes and proud hearts I cannot abide
Ps 141:3-4: Set a guard, Adonai, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. 4 Don’t let my heart turn to anything evil or allow me to act wickedly with men who are evildoers; keep me from eating their delicacies
Proverbs 10:18-21: He who covers up hate has lips that lie, and anyone who slanders is a fool. 19 When words are many, sin is not lacking; so he who controls his speech is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is like pure silver, but the mind of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:31-32: The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. 32 The lips of the righteous know what is wanted, but the mouth of the wicked [knows] deceit.
Proverbs 12:6: The words of the wicked are a deadly ambush, but the speech of the upright rescues them.
Proverbs 12:17-19: He who tells the truth furthers justice, but a false witness furthers deceit. 18 Idle talk can pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise can heal. 19 Truthful words will stand forever, lying speech but a moment.
Proverbs 12:22: Lying lips are an abomination to Adonai, but those who deal faithfully are his delight.
Proverbs 14:3,5: From the mouth of a fool sprouts pride, but the lips of the wise protect them. An honest witness will not lie, but a false witness lies with every breath.
Proverbs 14:25: A truthful witness saves lives, but a liar misdirects [judgment].
Proverbs 15:1-2,4: A gentle response deflects fury, but a harsh word makes tempers rise. 2 The tongue of the wise presents knowledge well, but the mouth of a fool spews out folly. 4 A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but when it twists things, it breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:28: The mind of the righteous thinks before speaking, but the mouth of the wicked spews out evil stuff.
Proverbs 17:4: An evildoer heeds wicked lips; a liar listens to destructive talk.
Proverbs 17:27-28: 27 A knowledgeable person controls his tongue; a discerning person controls his temper. 28 Even a fool, if he stays silent, is thought wise; he who keeps his mouth shut can pass for smart.
Proverbs 18:6-7: A fool’s words get him into fights; yes, his mouth calls out for a beating. 7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin; his words are a trap for him
Proverbs 19:1: Better to be poor and live one’s life uprightly than engage in crooked speech, for such a one is a fool.
Proverbs 25:9-12: 9 Discuss your dispute with your neighbor, but don’t reveal another person’s secrets. 10 If you do, and he hears of it, he will disgrace you, and your bad reputation will stick. 11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word appropriately spoken. 12 Like a gold earring, like a fine gold necklace is a wise reprover to a receptive ear.
Proverbs 25:18: Like a club, a sword or a sharp arrow is a person who gives false testimony against a neighbor.
Proverbs 26:20-22: If there’s no wood, the fire goes out; if nobody gossips, contention stops.
21 As coals are to embers and wood to fire is a quarrelsome person to kindling strife. 22 A slanderer’s words are tasty morsels; they slide right down into the belly.
Matthew 12:35-37: 35 The good person brings forth good things from his store of good, and the evil person brings forth evil things from his store of evil. 36 Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgment people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; 37 for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned.”
Romans 1:29-31: 29 They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful; they plan evil schemes; they disobey their parents; 31 they are brainless, faithless, heartless and ruthless.
Romans 2:1: Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, passing judgment; for when you judge someone else, you are passing judgment against yourself; since you who are judging do the same things he does.
2 Corinthians 12:20: For I am afraid of coming and finding you not the way I want you to be, and also of not being found the way you want me to be. I am afraid of finding quarreling and jealousy, anger and rivalry, slander and gossip, arrogance and disorder.
Ephesians 4:25-31: 25 Therefore, stripping off falsehood, let everyone speak truth with his neighbor, because we are intimately related to each other as parts of a body. 26 Be angry, but don’t sin — don’t let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger; 27 otherwise you leave room for the Adversary. 28 The thief must stop stealing; instead, he should make an honest living by his own efforts. This way he will be able to share with those in need. 29 Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them. 30 Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violent assertiveness and slander, along with all spitefulness. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you.
Ephesians 5:4: Also out of place are obscenity and stupid talk or coarse language; instead, you should be giving thanks.
Colossians 4:6: let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual.
1 Timothy 5:13: Besides that, they learn to be idle, going around from house to house; and not only idle, but gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t.
Titus 3:1-6: Remind people to submit to the government and its officials, to obey them, to be ready to do any honorable kind of work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be friendly, and to behave gently towards everyone. 3 For at one time, we too were foolish and disobedient, deceived and enslaved by a variety of passions and pleasures. We spent our lives in evil and envy; people hated us, and we hated each other. 4 But when the kindness and love for mankind of God our Deliverer was revealed, 5 he delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of his own mercy. He did it by means of the mikveh of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Yeshua the Messiah, our Deliverer.
James 3: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely. 2 For we all stumble in many ways; if someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who can bridle his whole body. 3 If we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey us, we control its whole body as well. 4 And think of a ship — although it is huge and is driven by strong winds, yet the pilot can steer it wherever he wants with just a small rudder. 5 So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how a little fire sets a whole forest ablaze! 6 Yes, the tongue is a fire, a world of wickedness. The tongue is so placed in our body that it defiles every part of it, setting ablaze the whole of our life; and it is set on fire by Gei-Hinnom itself. 7 For people have tamed and continue to tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures; 8 but the tongue no one can tame — it is an unstable and evil thing, full of death-dealing poison! 9 With it we bless Adonai, the Father; and with it we curse people, who were made in the image of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing! Brothers, it isn’t right for things to be this way. 11 A spring doesn’t send both fresh and bitter water from the same opening, does it? 12 Can a fig tree yield olives, my brothers? or a grapevine, figs? Neither does salt water produce fresh. 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him demonstrate it by his good way of life, by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom. 14 But if you harbor in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don’t boast and attack the truth with lies! 15 This wisdom is not the kind that comes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there will be disharmony and every foul practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 And peacemakers who sow seed in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
James 4:11-12: 11 Brothers, stop speaking against each other! Whoever speaks against a brother or judges a brother is speaking against Torah and judging Torah. And if you judge Torah, you are not a doer of what Torah says, but a judge. 12 There is but one Giver of Torah; he is also the Judge, with the power to deliver and to destroy. Who do you think you are, judging your fellow human being?
1 Peter 2:1: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, of all deceit, hypocrisy and envy, and of all the ways there are of speaking against people;
1 Peter 3:8-12: 8 Finally, all of you, be one in mind and feeling; love as brothers; and be compassionate and humble-minded, 9 not repaying evil with evil or insult with insult, but, on the contrary, with blessing. For it is to this that you have been called, so that you may receive a blessing. 10 For “Whoever wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11 turn from evil and do good, seek peace and chase after it. 12 For Adonai keeps his eyes on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of Adonai is against those who do evil things.”
My brothers and sisters, please know I have brought forth these things not to chastise you, but to encourage you. It hurt when I read this, it hurts to know I have done these things in the past. It hurts to know that this happens among the body. It hurts me to know that I have to be ever diligent to make sure that I do NOT fall back into this. It is so easy.
Father expose us. Expose our sin. We long to be righteous before you.
Want to know how to combat this? Do the opposite of what these scriptures are warning. We can, as it says in Ps 119:172: Let my tongue sing of your promise, because all your mitzvot are righteous.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:7, there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. Father, teach us to learn to be silent. May we not slander each other, but uplift and encourage. Be blessed my brothers and sisters.