For Come Follow Me Study Week #14, I read Matthew 14–15; Mark 6–7; and John 5–6. The story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes is in these scriptures, shown in the video above, and Jesus and Peter walking on water, shown below. I love these stories. They are incredible! We can all benefit from exercising faith that our humble offerings of time and effort, will be multiplied by God just as the loaves and fishes were. I totally rely on this thought in my homeschooling and mothering efforts. We can also all benefit from thinking of Peter trusting in Jesus in order to walk on water.
You can watch the video at the very end of this blog post to hear some questions about how to relate those stories to your own life from my new YouTube friends, David and Emily. (I don’t know them in person, I just watch their videos every week for Come Follow Me so I feel like they are old friends now.)
For today’s post, I am focusing on a lesser known story in these verses. I am focusing on the story where Jesus tells the multitude that it’s not what goes in the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out. Then his disciples reported to Jesus that the Pharisees were offended by this. These verses in these scriptures about the heart and mouth fascinate me! Here is the response from Jesus, from Matthew 15:17-20:
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
So the heart and mouth are connected according to Jesus. How so? Let’s talk about the mouth first. Jesus says that what comes out of the mouth is more important than what goes into the mouth. I looked up “mouth” in Hebrew. (I do this often with my word studies, because the ancient Hebrew pictograms have keywords that uncover deep layers of meanings of words.) Here is mouth in Hebrew:
pronounced as “peh”
These characters, from right to left (since Hebrew is read from right to left) are “peh” and “hey.” So, the word for mouth sounds the same as the name of the beginning letter of the word.
Here are the ancient Hebrew pictograms for the above Hebrew letters.
ה=hey=stick figure man with arms held up by head
Here are the keywords for those pictograms:
(פ=peh=open, scatter, edge, blow)
(ה=hey=behold, reveal, breath, covenant, look)
So after analyzing these keywords, I decided on using the two keywords of “open” and “reveal” to synthesize the two letters’ meanings into one meaning. So here we go for the meaning for mouth: “Open up to reveal.”
Ok, now how about the heart? In Hebrew, heart is this:
which is pronounced as “lev”
These characters are, from right to left, “lamed” and “bet.” Here are the pictograms that go with them:
ל=lamed = shepherd’s staff
ב=bet = tent floor plan
Here are the keywords to go with the letters:
ל=lamed=teach, yoke, authority, bind
ב=bet=tent, home, house, family
So here is the meaning of “love/lev” in Hebrew: “The thing, that like a shepherd’s staff, leads one into or binds one to the house/home.” The house/home of who? God! I love that! When something resonates with our hearts, it is because it is something that leads us back to God, our Heavenly Father, and our heavenly home and eternal family.
So…now combine these meanings of the two words of mouth and heart. The things that come out of our mouth, come from the heart and attract either light or darkness. The mouth shows what is in the heart. If we speak God’s words, if we speak positively, if we speak truth, especially prayers to Him, praising Him and pleading for help, we can change our hearts to be like His, and we can change what happens in our environment too. Opening up our mouth with positive words, may feel like a literal stretch of the heart and the lips, but it allows for revealing, both for man to reveal what is in heart, and for God to reveal to us His works and love.
Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, is such a powerful example of this. On the ship crossing the ocean, Nephi was tied up in cords by his brothers. Did he complain? No. Did he use his mouth to be negative? No. He used his mouth to open up and allow positivity to come forth. He praised God all the day, while bound in cords. As it says in 1 Nephi 18:16, “Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” Nephi was bound for at least four days. I assume he kept up the praise. Then what happened? God revealed to Nephi His work. God used His power, which was the only power which could soften the brothers’ hearts, to cause a storm and rough ocean, to terrify the brothers, threatening them of death. 1 Nephi 18:20 says:
And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts; wherefore, when they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me..
God is definitely in the business of making us more than we are. That is why He sent His son to redeem us. He wants to tame us, to open us, to stretch us so that we are able to receive all that He has, as joint heirs with Christ. Our first step to doing this is to open up our mouths and stretch our spirits to say what He wants us to say, which may not exactly match reality at the moment. He wants us to say not the negative that is, but what can be, to praise Him even in adversity. This is what Nephi did.
I’ve been working on this a lot lately. Of course it’s easier said than done. It’s so easy to whine and complain and be negative. I feel so justified when I have been hurt, offended, or in bad circumstances. I feel like I have a right to complain! That is the easy, tight, closed way. I commit to open my heart and mouth to God and praise instead of complain.
In our home, we have “do-overs”, which I learned from author Nicholeen Peck, when I catch the kids being sassy or impolite or downright rude. I say my words to them politely, and then I have them practice talking politely back to me. We do it until they get it. (If they won’t obey to have a “do-over” they get a strike. Three strikes means they are “out of instructional control” which means they earn an extra job. They don’t get any free time, play, or fun, until that extra job is done. That’s my modified version of Nicholeen’s Teaching Self Government child discipline.)
I’ve noticed sometimes I need “do-overs” too. So I do them. It feels great to speak more positively and work on having soft words so we will have soft hearts and open up to God’s words and works. I invite you to do it too!