A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but Tom told me…”
“I’m not supposed to say anything, but I thought you should know…”
“I wonder why Sally was going into…”
And the beat goes on. Note that the proverb says slandering reveals secrets. The viciousness of slander lies in that it spreads half-truths, the half that puts the person in a bad light. I hear half-truths often when a spouse comes to me to share about the unjust behavior of the other spouse; or when anyone comes to present their “concerns” about someone else. But the slander here is not the half-truth spoken in a private counseling session, but that which is spread publicly (and privately when shared with someone who has no business in knowing or the slanderer has no business in telling anyone.)
When a baseball pitcher was caught on camera responding badly to a cameraman, a sports writer wrote an article recalling instances when athletes had not treated him well. He named each athlete and described the confrontation. He seemed oblivious to the issue that really is at the heart of athletes’ frustration with the media, which is the media’s power to affect how they are perceived publicly. In this article, we were given a detailed description of the athlete’s bad behavior and a sympathetic picture of the writer. His one article of these instances will color how most of the readers will always view these athletes.
We can do the same with other people’s reputations. A single remark of questioning a person’s actions, especially questioning his motives, will prejudice the hearers, so that, despite what the truth is or what the person does for good, the doubt remains in the hearers minds. Slander is ruthless because it has to prove nothing, merely suggest.
The one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps secrets told him. And when he sees something which does not involve him, he is slow to reveal it. He either goes to the person who has done something questionable, or he keeps it covered, trusting God to bring to light what needs to be. He does this for several reasons. One, he knows that he can ruin a good person’s reputation, and for love of his neighbor he will keep silent. Two, he knows the injunction that if he sees his brother in sin, he is to go to that person instead of spreading the news to others. Three, he knows that he can stir up strife, creating greater trouble than the one he supposedly sees. Four, he knows his limits. He knows that he may not know the whole story, and thus will not take the chance of spreading half-truths. Five, he knows that there are limits to his responsibility. He is not to be the judge or take responsibility of everyone he sees doing something he questions. He entrusts them in God’s hands and in the hands of others who do have responsibility.
Keep this proverb in mind today as you hear and see what goes on around you.
1 Samuel 7-8
7 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time – twenty years in all.
Samuel subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
5 Then Samuel said, ‘Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.’ 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.’ 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’
13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighbouring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
Israel asks for a king
8 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’
6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’
Then Samuel said to the Israelites, ‘Everyone go back to your own town.’