My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

13 October 2006

Note to Self

Things I need to remember about preaching, from Jeremiah 23.

First off, the context of this almost-discouraging chapter is the astounding promise of the Branch of the Lord (v. 5-6). It is only through the first and second comings of Christ that Israel will find safety and Judah will be saved. It is only through the confession "Yahweh Tsidkanu" (the Lord is our righteousness) that souls will find life and salvation. So from the very beginning, this isn't about you, it's about Christ. Please take note, mr. preacher-man.

Next, God really, really hates it when you mess this up. Every idle thought, time wasted in the study, every time you preach with impure or prideful motives, every time you pass your own thoughts off as God's, every time the deceit of your own heart seeps out (v. 26) He sees it. It stirs His holy hatred. Jeremiah was so shocked by the vehemence of God against those prophets that he said, "I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of His holy words" - and he wasn't even on the receiving end! God won't (can't!) sit idly by while His preachers lead His people to forgetfulness. (v. 23) His hatred of unfaithful preaching is not because He's mean, but because He is loving. Remember that every inch and ounce of love you have for Christ's bride is a drop in an eternal ocean compared to Christ's love for her.

On top of that, God sees and takes notes. Really. He knows what is said from every pulpit, every Sunday, by every mouth purporting to be the mouthpiece of God. He fills heaven and earth (v. 24) and has heard every word you said (v. 25). More than just your words, though. "But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hand of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorroah." (v. 14) You know James' claim, that "we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (Jas. 3:1) - he probably got that here, where God promises these unfaithful prophets, "I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten." (v. 40) Your sin can overpower the most passionate, Biblically accurate sermon. The Lord is not just after exegetical prowess in His preachers. He's after holiness. As the church goes, so goes the nation. As the preacher walks, so walks the church.

Perhaps it's time to learn to tremble again. To look at the pulpit in holy fear. And then you'll be ready to preach, ready to remember the good and great promises of God. Remember that as much as God is against false prophets, He is with and for you (v. 23). As vicious as He is against His enemies, so powerfully loving is He for His children and their undershepherds. And you have the Word! That word that is like a fire, like a hammer pulverizing rocks (v. 29) - you don't need to add to it. Just swing it. And if you stand in the council of God and proclaim His words to His people, they will turn away from theri sin, from the evil of their deeds (v. 22) and bring much glory to our Savior.

1 comment:

Ellen Olivetti said...

The fact that God looks, not just at what preachers say, but at what their motives are, should cause all undershepherds to tremble at the awesome responsibility and privilege laid at their feet.

For all of us, though, this applies to some measure. Though we may not be called to preach the Word from the pulpit or lead His people in the pastorate, God looks at all of us with eyes that see our motives as well as our actions and words. That causes me to tremble and also to come to Him and ask Him to purify my motives and my thoughts, as well as my words and my deeds.

"Let all the words I speak, and all the thoughts within, come up before thy sight, and thine approval win. O thou, Jehovah, unto thee, my rock and my redeemer be." (Right, Charlie????? My grandson recently taught me those words from the Psalms.)