God cares about what we say; He’s paying attention to and recording every idle word. (Re 20:12) The LORD will require every one of us to give an explanation to Him before the universe for each and every word we’ve ever spoken, all of them, why we said what we said, what our motivation was. (Mt 12:36) We’ll be judged, justified or condemned, based on what we’ve uttered. (vs 37)
This is because our speech reveals our inmost nature, what we’re thinking and feeling is eventually expressed with our tongues. (vss 34-35) Most mere behavior is not necessarily good or bad, in and of itself: what gives an action its moral nature is why it’s done. What we say reveals our intent.
And our tongue, the enabler of speech, is a fire, a veritable world of iniquity, because it’s inextricably linked to our hearts, which are set on fire of Hell itself. (Ja 3:6) As we think in our hearts, so we are (Pr 23:7), and so we speak.
In light of this, we should be very careful with our hearts, continually examining ourselves for selfish, prideful motivations, constantly seeking God for a clean heart (Ps 51:10), that He would help us think, feel and speak rightly. (Ps 19:14)
We should measure our words and be precise in our speech, purifying our promises, only speaking what we fully intend to do. (Nu 30:2) We guard our mouths as with a bridle (Ps 39:1b) and think carefully before we speak. (Ja 1:19) We should always say what we mean and mean what we say, needing no oath to mark our sincerity. (Ja 5:12)
Our words are so powerful that God provides a remedy to correct commitments we happen make thoughtlessly, under duress, when we’re pressured in the heat of the moment to vow without proper time to examine our motives and consider the implications of what we’re saying. (Le 5:4)
In such cases, when we come to ourselves and realize what we’ve done, that we’ve committed ourselves in a manner that’s contrary to Love (Le 19:18), we promptly confess our sin, repent, and reconcile with God. (vs 5) God mercifully allows us to bring a sacrifice to Him to atone for our ways: it costs a life, one offered up in our stead (vs 6); it’s no light thing.
We can thus give account for careless words, spoken hastily and thoughtlessly, in advance, and address them now so we won’t be held accountable on Judgement Day. But words spoken under normal circumstances, with our wits about us, are etched into eternity for all to ponder. (Lk 12:3)
To think we can say whatever we like to get our way, to claim our lips are our own, that no one’s Lord over us (Ps 12:4), is to reveal a true enmity against Heaven. God’s people do not live like this. (Ps 39:1a)
As God did in Creation, it is through the spoken word that we who are made in His image bring forth metaphysical reality into existence from the chaos of the void before us; with our speech we create the present from the future to be eternally preserved in the past. We wound, we heal, we encourage and exhort, engaging in spiritual conflict for good or for evil. (Pr 12:18) Let us create soberly, fearfully, wisely.
3 thoughts on “By Thy Words”
In the tradition of Kol Nidre, practiced by God’s people now for over a millennia on the eve of Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year, the congregation makes the following declaration:
“All vows, renunciations, bans, oaths, formulas of obligation, pledges, and promises that we vow or promise to ourselves and to G-d from this Yom Kippur to the next – may it approach us for good – we hereby retract. May they all be undone, repealed, cancelled, voided, annulled, and regarded as neither valid nor binding. Our vows shall not be considered vows; our renunciations shall not be considered renunciations; and our promises shall not be considered promises.”
Following this are declarations presuming God has forgiven all participants, releasing all from their promises and obligations.
What do we make of this? Is anyone aware of any proposed justification for this ritual?
I cannot see it, nor have I any idea how one might do so.
This tradition of Kol Nidre appears to promote  an unholy laxity in one’s intent to keep spiritual commitments and obligations, disannulling them before they are even made, and  the lie that one may be released from obligations made thoughtfully, soberly, deliberately and willfully.
Consider something as straightforward as praying Ps 119:8: “I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.” This inspired prayer expresses a commitment of intent to obey God’s laws, as much as is within our power. God commands us to sing these kinds of promises (Ja 5:13), so we should do so joyfully and sincerely.
If God intends for us to make such promises to Him and to ourselves, and to do so routinely in our devotion to Him, how can He be pleased with Kol Nidre, which seems to make a mockery of such commitments, abandoning them as harmful before we even get started?
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.