Psalm 119:43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
This is the prayer of an honest preacher. Seminaries teach classes in preaching, and some people spend hours honing their messages to meet the tenets of speechcraft, but ultimately, if it isn’t God’s Word it accomplishes nothing good. We do have the Bible of course, but we can craft messages from it that still have no life, because if that truth isn’t alive in us, it isn’t going to transmit to our hearers. This Psalm uses a number of different synonyms, which can make it awkward to translate, but I like the choice the Japanese translators made here: “I wait in hope for Your words.” God is faithful to speak through His servants, so this isn’t a vain hope, but we’ve got to be careful not to supply words for God, trying to make Him say what we want said. Many sermons have been preached that weren’t God’s Word at all, even though they quoted the Bible. The one who speaks for God has got to be careful first of all to listen to God. Only then will God’s truth transmit through human vessels.
This is something I have been increasingly aware of through my years of ministry. I’ve never been afraid to get up and speak in front of a group, but that’s just my Teacher gifting. I realize what a gift it is when I see how some people really struggle with it. However, the big danger for me is that since it comes easily, I’m tempted to take it lightly and be presumptuous. If I were simply a public speaker that wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but I am a minister of the Gospel, and people desire and expect to hear God through me. The moment I forget my total dependence on God and just rely on a gift that I consider mine, I have lost the meaning that it all had in the first place. My sermon preparation tends to be brief, shockingly so to some people, because I don’t want to say anything in the name of the Lord that He isn’t saying, or that He hasn’t said to my heart first. Like all preachers, I think, I am tempted to think the messages I preach are for my hearers, when often I am the one most in need of them! Most often my messages arise from my morning devotions, as the Lord shows me that what He has just said to me needs to be heard by the congregation as well. I realize that my delivery can make a huge difference, but the key, there, is to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [me] richly.” (Colossians 3:16) If it is alive in me, then not only my words but my voice itself, my whole body, will express it to my hearers, transforming them as it has transformed me.
Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of speaking, acting, as Your agent. Thank You for the gifts You have placed in me, but keep me from relying on the gifts rather than on You. May I receive and apply Your Word so that my hearers may do so as well, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!