““Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.””
Romans 3:13 NLT
Paul continues his Old Testament quotes with verses from Psalms 5 and 140. The first is “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery” (Psalm 5:9). This Psalm was written by David, who was mourning the behaviour of those he regarded as his enemies. He wrote it during his morning prayer time – “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). So, we have the contrast between David, close to God in prayer and presence, and his enemies who are closer to the devil, the father of lies.
The reference to “snake venom” comes from Psalm 140:3, where David wrote, “Their tongues sting like a snake; the venom of a viper drips from their lips”. We of course will immediately remember the snake in the Garden, with his lies that drew the first man and woman into sin. And David viewed the same behaviour in his society, where people continued to speak the lies of the snake. Sinful and lying talk that hurt and poisoned those around him.
But in both Psalms, David found solace in the presence of God. Referring to his enemies, the followers of the father of lies, he finished Psalm 140 with, “But I know the Lord will help those they persecute; He will give justice to the poor. Surely righteous people are praising Your name; the godly will live in Your presence”.
Paul in his letter to the Romans was comparing the behaviour of sinful people in his Roman audience to the same behaviour noted in the Psalms. And he seemed to be saying that some things never change. We pilgrims today can draw the same conclusion, as we look on at the behaviour of our politicians and other leaders. There are even some in our church denominations who would be included within Paul’s accusations.
So we pilgrims read the Book of Romans, sobered by Paul’s warnings, by his accusations, knowing in our hearts of our propensities to sin, included with those he was railing against in Rome. We are grateful for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in allowing these words to be recorded. God, through His Spirit, influenced David to write these verses in the Old Testament, and Paul, to repeat them in the New. A significance that we should not miss. In repentance we bring our own behaviour under God’s spotlight and receive the cleansing through Jesus’ blood, bringing us back on track in our hours of need.
Dear Father. Once again we embrace the entirety of Your Word, omitting nothing, because all Scriptures emanate from You. We are so grateful. Amen.