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The Word Fitly Spoken

There are those who surmise that the greatest historians were those who possessed the imaginative power to transcend the dead fragments and perceive the whole. Intrigued about the past, their abiding interest in history was foundational in their determination to shape their future. Wordsmiths who searched for just the right vernacular to convey meaning and purpose to past events. Carefully framed and crafted. Searching for the ever elusive phrase in order to impact lives in the present day and for future generations. John Boyle O’Reilly framed it as such.

“The right word fitly spoken is a precious rarity.”

Lincoln would frame the promise of something better as “the word fitly spoken which has proved an apple of gold to us. The Union and the Constitution are the picture of silver subsequently framed around it. The picture was made not to conceal or destroy the apple but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple; not the apple for the picture. So let us act that neither picture nor apple shall ever be blurred or bruised or broken.”

Words so impactful that lives are forever marred if they were to ever become blurred, bruised or broken. Principles defined by “the word fitly spoken.” Which proved to be an apple of gold. But who determines what words are fit to be preserved? Is there any solace to be found in a diversity of opinion? And, more importantly, what is the potential impact of a good word? Will just any word do?

The impact of just the right word or words, fitly spoken, can be profound. It can change the course of a mighty, raging river. It can soothe the soul. It can shape hearts and minds, cultivating a sense of purpose to a life lived well. There is the beauty of literary expression. There is absolute insight as well. At times, the emphasis is on the impact of what may be said; at other times, the focus is on the elegance of expression.

And isn’t that what we find in Scripture?

The Word fitly spoken.


With the uncanny ability to prick the hearts of men for all time. And empower those who are taught so that they “may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” (Isaiah 50.4a)

Truth is truth. Our Sovereign Creator has defined it. By it we are transformed as our minds are renewed (Romans 12.2). And as such, it is committed to memory. Becoming our delight. Calling us to meditate on it. Day. And night (Psalm 1.2). Solomon reminds us of the usefulness and value of being able to speak the right words at the right time. And the word of truth, God’s Word, is a fitly spoken word. The imagery is striking. 

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Proverbs 25.11

The truth is not only what we say, but how we say it. And I would dare argue this: If that is true about your speech and my speech, that if we can be eloquent, then we are better heard. And better listened to.

The same applies to the word of God. We are given the story of Eve and the temptation. We are not simply told about it. But we are allowed to see what actually occurred. And we are allowed to do so in terms that are eloquent and that stand by themselves.

A word fitly spoken…

Literature mimics reality. It simply does not paint us a picture. It talks to us about things that make up life. And that is the magic and power of literature. There are certain texts that echo throughout our language and in the vernacular. These words and phrases are so much part of the ethos that they're rather like oxygen. Shakespeare and Milton, to name a few, have contributed language and imagery and modes of thought that form the infrastructure of how we express ourselves.

But none have the impact in our expressions and in how we live more than the God-breathed inspired words of our Lord. Meticulously crafted, they are more than mere words written on parchment.

“The New Testament documents are like historical photographs of moments in the history of the early church. In these documents we see Christians struggling with the implications of the new faith, dealing with resistance from without and sometimes within, and learning how to put their beliefs in practice — all at the same time …. Of course, anyone who reads the New Testament as a Christian does not read it simply as if it were an old photograph, as if it were just an interesting scene from someone else’s life in another time and place.  We read these documents because we believe they speak across the centuries and through the cultures to address issues that transcend their original contextual confines. We read then because we believe they speak to us today.”

David McClister, Relationships in the Messianic Time: A Commentary on Philemon

And speak to us today they do. It gives our lives direction and meaning. It changes us. It truly is transformative. Acceptable. Delightful.

“The Preacher sought to find delightful words; and what was written was upright – words of truth.”

Ecclesiastes 12.10

There is beauty in expression. There is beauty in a sunset. And I would suggest there is a beauty in the Bible. That just as our God left His imprint in making a sunset or a sunrise, He left His beauty and imprint in His word. And His word is truth.

That, my friends, is the impact of Scripture. It speaks across the centuries.

“These words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 22.6a

Words fitly spoken indeed.