The sound of a siren increased to an ear-piercing level as an emergency vehicle sped by my car. Its flashing lights glared through my windshield, illuminating the words “hazardous materials” printed on the side of the truck. Later, I learned it had been racing to a science laboratory where a 400-gallon container of sulfuric acid had begun to leak. Emergency workers had to contain the substance immediately because of its ability to damage whatever it came in contact with.
As I thought about this news story, I wondered what would happen if sirens blared every time a harsh or critical word “leaked” out of my mouth? Sadly, it might become rather noisy around our house.
The prophet Isaiah shared this sense of awareness about his sin. When he saw God’s glory in a vision, he was overcome by his unworthiness. He recognized that he was “a man of unclean lips” living with people who shared the same problem (Isaiah 6:5). What happened next gives me hope. An angel touched his lips with a red-hot coal, explaining, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).
We have moment-by-moment choices to make with our words—both written and spoken. Will they be “hazardous” material, or will we allow God’s glory to convict us and His grace to heal us so we can honor Him with everything we express?
Why do our words have such a powerful effect on others? How might God want to change your speech?
The book of Isaiah was written by the prophet whose name means “Yahweh is salvation” during a time of almost constant clash with the kingdom of Assyria. Isaiah was the son of Amoz and was married to a woman called “the prophetess” (8:3). They had two sons—Shear-Jashub and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (7:3; 8:3). From the very first verse we know that Isaiah prophesied “during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah,” a period of possibly fifty years.