James 3:11

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? James 3:11

James now turns to a rhetorical question. In the Greek, the question begins with an interrogative particle which implies that a negative response is expected. To get a further sense of the language, he uses a definite article before “spring.” He says, “the spring.” This is given to emphatically generalize the question. Next, the word translated as “send forth” is bruó. It means to gush forth. This is an active spring that is sending forth water in a voluminous amount, and which does not fail. One can think of the words of Isaiah –

“The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

Next, the word translated as “fresh” is glukus. It is a new word to Scripture which will be seen four times, twice here in James 3, and twice in Revelation when referring to honey. It means “sweet.” It is where our modern word “glucose” comes from. And also, the word translated as “bitter” is pikros. It is another new word which will be seen only here and in verse 3:14. It signifies that which is acrid. Finally, the word translated as “opening” is opé. This is the second and last use in Scripture. It is where our modern word “open” is derived from. It is a hole or a crevice.

So, more literally, James asks, “Does the spring gush forth sweet and acrid from the same opening?” The expected answer is, “Obviously not!” Nothing like this is found in nature, and nothing like this should then be found in man.

Here, we have the spring which symbolizes the heart of man, and the opening looks to the mouth of man. A heart that is bitter will put forth bitter, and a heart that is sweet will put forth sweet. But there is confusion in man and we tend to put forth both. It thus confuses that which is found in the natural realm, and we therefore become our own self-contradiction. It is something we need to work on, and it is something that we need to correct.

Life application: There is a problem with the water which flows forth from a crevice. Normally, one cannot tell just by looking at it if it is good or not. Sometimes even a taste can miss harmful impurities.

If one goes to Yellowstone National Park, he can see crystal clear water coming from the earth, but it can’t be consumed. Likewise, if you look at water from a tap in the Philippines which looks clear and fresh, you might assume it is good. In this, you are likely to have bad stomach problems because of the bacteria living in it. So it is with our mouths.

Good speech comes from a good heart and bad speech comes from a bad heart. How can we, saying we have a right heart with God, utter forth profanities and curses? The two are incompatible.

Likewise, preachers may have a message which sounds good, but if it is tainted with bad doctrine his followers will end up in destruction. The message may come from the heart, but it is often hard to tell from mere appearances.

Take time to reflect on both the message and the messenger – and then compare them against the only proper standard – the Holy Bible. Don’t trust any message, messenger, or combination without verifying it with God’s word. Take time to read these two accounts today. They tell of tainted water that was purified by the Lord –

  1. Exodus 15:22-25

  2. 2 Kings 2:19-22

Now think on one more source of Water – the Living Water of Jesus Christ. This gives everlasting life to wells full of impurities, and it cleanses them so that they will never be tainted again. How great is our Lord! Have faith and trust that He can purify your hearts and lips today.

O Lord, we were corrupted wells which put forth bad waters. But, you purified us at the source and have healed us. Help us to now put forth only that which is pure and wholesome. We stand in awe of the work You have done, and are doing, in our lives. Continue to cleanse us daily so that we may be springs of purity, flowing out into a world which needs healing. May Your Spirit overflow from us and lead others to the salvation found in You. Amen.

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