Tale–bearing, even though the tales be true, is most mischievous. If there be a fault, to lovingly admonish in private, and then conceal from all others, is in accordance with the mind of God: “He that goeth about tale–bearing revealeth secrets; but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Prov. 11: 13).
There is an instructive word in this connection in Exodus 37. Verses 17 to 24 inclusive relate to the making of the candlestick for the tabernacle. Among the accessories to it we read in verse 23 that Bezaleel “made the seven lamps thereof, and the snuffers thereof, and the snuff–trays thereof, of pure gold”. There is that here which is both intensely interesting and precious.
No oil–lamp will burn long without occasional snuffing. Hence God has made provision even for so apparently insignificant a matter as this. To the mind of man it might seem of trifling importance as to how a light was snuffed and what was done with the black snuff afterwards. In God’s eyes, nothing is trivial that concerns the glory of his Son or the welfare of his people.
The snuffers were made of “pure gold”––that which symbolises the divine glory and speaks of divine righteousness. It may often happen that some saint of God is losing his brightness and no longer shining for Him as he once did. It is the priest with the golden tongs to whom is entrusted the delicate task of snuffing. “Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6: 1). Thus will the snuffing be accomplished according to God, and the restored believer’s light burn all the brighter for it.
Then what? Is the evil to be spread abroad and made a matter of common knowledge? Ah, there were not only the snuffers, but the snuff–trays, and they too were of “pure gold”. In these golden receptacles the priest was to carefully put away the black dirty snuff which he had removed from the wick. To have gone about spreading the filth upon the spotless garments of other priests would have been to defile them all. It must be hidden away in the presence of God. Is this not where we often fail?
How much grief and sorrow might have been prevented in many an assembly if the golden snuff–trays had been more often used! On every hand we hear of strife and discord brought about through evil–speaking, and it is remarkable how ready we are to listen to that which we know can only defile. Oh that there might be more angry countenances among us when the backbiter is out seeking to blacken the snowy garments of God’s holy priests! (see Prov. 25: 23).
In the NT the divine way of dealing with a brother’s fault is clearly defined: “But if thy brother sin against thee, go, reprove him between thee and him alone. If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt. 18: 15). If brethren would sternly refuse to listen to complaints against others until this first condition had been complied with it would go a long way in doing away with evil speaking. Many a person would be won if approached in priestly nearness to God by one who carried with him the golden snuffers and the snuff–tray.
But if he refuse to hear? Then “take with thee one or two besides”, and if still wilful, as a last resource, “tell it to the assembly” (vs16, 17––but not till the other means have failed.
By thus acting in accordance with the Word of God much shame and misery might be spared, innocent persons, and many wandering ones recovered who, through backsliding, are driven deeper into the mire. God too will be glorified and the Lord Jesus honoured––for He has said “If I therefore, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet ... If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them” (John 13: 14, 17).