The person who said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," never read this proverb. We have before us here the full destructive power of someone's words - or at least the intent with which they speak them. But thankfully, we also have the truth that the words of a godly man are also powerful.
Those described as "wicked" in this passage are those who are guilty. The word means someone in the wrong - who is guilty of an criminal offense. In the context of Scripture this word most often refers to one guilty of breaking God's Law - and thus one who has no desire to obey Him or submit to His ways. We read that the words of such a man "lie in wait for blood." A wicked and sinful man's words are harmful to others. It is so important to remember context here because just one verse earlier we were told that the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. They are filled with lies. The wicked seek to destroy people with their words. And their counsel will be harmful if followed, since it is driven by the fallen nature of man.
For just a moment I want to equate the words of the wicked with some more modern things. It is one thing to see a wicked man whose words are like a scorching fire as they are spoken. But it is another to consider the words of the wicked in other forms. Ever consider the words of the wicked that are written down for a book or a script? Far too many do not consider reading and going to see the words of the wicked portrayed on a big screen. They are unaware of the worldview that is being portrayed for them. They are unaware of the danger of this medium and how it lulls us to sleep when we should be alert and awake. Here the words of the wicked do lie in wait for blood. They come upon people unawwares because they do not ever consider how the ungodly seek to influence us through their various mediums of communication. To be perfectly honest, these forms of getting their "words" out are more effective than just speaking because of how ignorant the church is to their real agenda. A movie maker trying to go to a church and tell the people to be sexually immoral would be escorted out of the building quickly, but when he puts those ideas into a romantic comedy starring two unmarried people, the saints pay to go see it. Either way he gets his message out - but how more effective it is when dressed in the garb of modern entertainment. A man or woman would never think of going to a random house to peek through their bedroom window at their sex life, yet they think nothing of watching a love scene through the window of the local movie theater.
The second part of this proverb tells us that the mouth of the upright will deliver them. This could be taken one of two ways. First it can mean that the righteous man - by speaking godly words - by speaking the Word of God - is delivered from the designs of the wicked. It can also refer to others to whom the righteous man speaks. He declares God's Word, and by doing so delivers those who are too easily duped by the words of the wicked. This reminds us of how vital it is for us to "hear God's words" every day. I say this not to encourage us to try to hear God's audible voice - but to remember that He has given us the Word of God - which are His words. If we will take the time to get into the presence of the Lord each and every day - with the purpose of hearing God speak His Word to us as we read the Bible - we will find great deliverance through this. Note here that we read that this is the mouth of the "upright." This word is the Hebrew word "yashar" and it means to be straight, just, and right. It refers to an ethical standard - and that standard is found in God's Word. When we learn to speak the truth to ourselves and to others, we will also see that deliverance is provided as God works in us to remind us of the truth - to warn us of danger - and to call us to holiness of life.
An interesting dichotomy is presented here for us. The wicked want our blood - God our deliverance. The godless have a plot against our lives by their decietful counsel and wicked words. The upright speak what will deliver us. May God give us wisdom to see these things for what they are - a warning to us to hear God's Word - not just once a week, but every day as we meet with the Lord.