In every age, God has needed prophets: His men, called by Him and equipped by Him to speak His words to His people.
Jeremiah was such a man. And the reason he successfully did his job (and the way we should do ours), is found in the opening chapter of the book of Jeremiah.
The word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5 NASB).
Jeremiah’s calling was not his idea. It was not, “I wonder what I could do for a living?” He was set apart.
In fact, from heaven’s perspective, this happened while he was still in the womb. Long before the need was known for a man who would boldly proclaim God’s words, there was provision. In time, Jeremiah simply heard and cooperated with God’s calling.
Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth” (v. 6).
Every preacher worth his salt is a man who lives with a continuing sense of his own inadequacy. The man who gets in trouble is the arrogant pastor who doesn’t see his constant need of God.
Only God can equip us for this task. Like Paul, we must come to our calling with “weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). It is not a cowering fear, but the holy realization that “unless the LORD builds the house, [we] labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
A true man of God realizes he cannot rely on his persuasive speech and clever words. Unless God comes, we have nothing to give people.
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD (vv. 7-8).
The reassurance for the prophet is this: Where there is a calling from God, there is an equipping. And, most importantly, there is God’s presence. Everything flows from the presence of the Lord. Everything. If we have Him, we have all we need. Without Him, we have nothing.
The singular task of the man of God, therefore, is to walk with God: hearing Him, loving Him, following Him, surrendering to Him. God’s Word, on any given day, must first come TO the preacher before it can come THROUGH the preacher.
Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (v. 9).
There is no substitute for this mystical, undefinable experience. Years ago, as a young preacher, I was stumped. I had studied the text carefully, but Sunday was coming and I had nothing. Finally, in desperation, I prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, what do YOU want to say to Your people?” The Lord opened up the heavens and gave me His unique and needed words for His flock.
I have a simple sheet of paper with those words on it taped right before my eyes in my study. It has been there for 35 years. And God has been faithful to answer that prayer again and again.
Preaching is from the Word of God, rightly divided. But preaching that matters and lasts is from heaven—when God takes His Word and ignites THE words He desires to communicate to the sheep He loves. And He is good at it.
Wise is the pastor who simply, faithfully, diligently, prayerfully studies and listens and waits for that igniting Word from above. Our opinion is no more valuable than any others. But God’s Word is the defining difference.
“See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (v. 10).
It is a two-fold task. We are to go hard against that which is not of God. Idols must be torn down, sin exposed, strongholds destroyed. This is hard work, but we must not be afraid of any man’s face. We have an audience of One when we preach. And preaching that pleases Him is the communication of what He wants to say on any given day.
But that is only the first part of our task. The rest is “to build and to plant.” You cannot do the second without the first. But the first is incomplete without the second.
The true man of God who has been called by God, who relies on God and brings words from God, is a powerful and incredibly needed instrument in God’s hands. God has carried His kingdom along by such men. And privileged are the ones who have this holy calling.