The Lord Sends Us To Speak
It’s your turn to speak. When I was a child we had “show and tell” in school. Just like you would expect, we would take something that was very important to us and precious to school. Then, one by one, each of us would show what we liked. Then we would tell our classmates what we liked. And the teacher would says those words, “It’s your turn to speak.’” And when the teacher said those words, there was nothing holding us back. But then what happened? We got a little older and, sadly, we realized that not everyone likes the same toys we like. And they aren’t afraid to let us know. For us as Christians, our Lord has invited us to show and tell this great gift, this great treasure of God’s word with those in our lives. But we soon learn the powerful lesson that that invitation is easier said than done. There is nothing new under the sun. In God’s word this morning we see that it was the same in Jeremiah’s time. In Jeremiah 1, we read: “4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” (Jeremiah 1:4–5 NIV11-GKE)
In these words the Lord approaches Jeremiah and gives him an amazing invitation. He invites him to speak God’s word. But even more than that, he invites him to speak God’s word as a full-time work and calling as a prophet. But, instead of the pure joy we might expect, we find a different reaction in Jeremiah: ““Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV11-GKE)
Jeremiah responds to this joyous invitation with an objection. He says that he is too young.1(Jeremiah 1:6 BHS-T)}} It’s easy to look at Jeremiah and say, “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you see the great calling the Lord is offering you?” But my friends in Christ, there’s a little more that you need to learn. Jeremiah would be sent to share God’s word with God’s people. The problem was that some of God’s people hated God’s word and the messengers who shared God’s word. Later on in this book Jeremiah is thrown into a muddy cistern with slimy walls so that they get rid of him and put him to death.2(Jeremiah 38:6 BHS-T)}} The sort of opposition we face today is not the same. But yet we still throw up objections for not speaking God’s word, don’t we? Who will listen to me? I am too young. Who will listen to me? I am too old. Who will listen to me? I don’t know enough of God’s word. Or, if you’re in my shoes: Who will listen to me? I know too much. How many times have I had to answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people? Will my answer come across as something more than memorized, treating the person as a person? And, if given more time, we could come up with even more objections, couldn’t we? But what does the Lord do with these excuses? We read: “But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7 NIV11-GKE)
Notice how there were no excuses for Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a teenager when he was sent to be a prophet. Yet the Lord still sent him. And today the Lord has sent us too, as a congregation, and also individually, as Christians to speak God’s word. Your situation is a little different than Jeremiah’s. He was sent officially as a prophet of God. Your situation is more personal and private. You and Jeremiah each have different calls. But both you and Jeremiah have the same invitation to speak and share God’s word. So the Lord speaks law to Jeremiah, letting him know that his excuses don’t hold any weight. And he does the same with us. But then where does the Lord go? We read: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8 NIV11-GKE)
The Lord sends Jeremiah out to speak with real promises. And what are these real promises? He gives Jeremiah a real promise of real protection. Now, step back and think about this a moment. Our promises of protection are always conditional and temporary. For there are elements of this world that are out of our control. But this is not the case with our Lord. He can protect us from harm. And whatever harm he does allow to come to us, he allows to come into our lives for our good. So the Lord gives him a real promise of real protection. But the Lord has even more promises to give: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 NIV11-GKE)
After a real promise of real protection, the Lord gives Jeremiah a real promise of his real presence. The Lord reaches out and physically and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. It would have been enough to say, “you have my word.” But the Lord goes the extra step. He reaches out and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. Why does he do this? He does this because Jeremiah is flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair. And aren’t we the same? Aren’t we flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair? So the Lord reaches out to us with his own body and blood, along with that bread and wine, and touches us too. He forgives our sins. He covers up and atones for our excuses and objections. He covers up all our objections to speaking God’s word with all the perfect examples of Jesus going out and reaching out so that he could tirelessly speak the gospel. So the Lord sends us out to speak. He sends us out to speak with real promises: Real protection and Real presence. But he sends us out with one more gift. We read: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV11-GKE)
How sad it is that we face the temptation to be not just afraid of people, but also of God’s word itself. The Lord sends us out to speak with power. There is power in God’s word. Our role is not to apologize for it or protect it. Our role is to speak it. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous revivalist preacher once said that you don’t need to treat the gospel like it’s a pet in a cage, as if you need to protect it. No, instead, the gospel is like a lion. It can defend itself just fine. You just let it out of the cage.3 And yet, what do we do? We apologize for the gospel and guard it. When our friend at work our child riding with us in the car asks us a theological question, what do we say. We say, “I think…” We say, “I feel that…” Instead, let us say what the bible says. Let us say, “God’s word says.’” The lion needs no defender. The Holy Spirit needs no nanny. Such power the Holy Spirit gives his word. God’s word alone can create life. God’s word alone can create faith. God’s word alone can deliver forgiveness. God’s word alone can strengthen our faith and give us freedom from our fears of other people and fear of God’s word itself.
So my friends in Christ, the Lord sends you out to speak. Do just that. But speak with the entire context and encouragement found here in these words. Speak God’s word with God’s promises of real protection and real presence. Speak God’s word with all the power contained in it. And after that, leave all the results in God’s lap. Amen.
1 ”כִּי־נַ֖עַר אָנֹֽכִי“
2 ”יְשַׁלְּח֥וּ אֶֽת־יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ בַּחֲבָלִ֑ים וּבַבּ֤וֹר“
3 Spurgeon said this at the British and Foreign Bible Society meeting, 5 May 1875.