Summary: Preachers don’t want to ruffle feathers, lest folks fly away, startled, and go to a church down the street. And so we preachers often preach anything but God’s Word. But God uses real preachers, not pale, second-rate imitations.
Today, the Church finds herself wandering on dangerous terrain, for she no longer wants to listen to her preachers. Even worse, preachers don’t want to preach. They don’t want to ruffle feathers, lest folks fly away, startled, and go to a church down the street. And so we preachers often preach anything but God’s Word.
But then, how many congregations want a pastor who calls the religious a brood of vipers like John the Baptizer did? Who wants a pastor who will tell us to repent from our comfortable sins? Who wants a pastor to confront someone and tell him to bear the fruits of repentance? When you called me to be your shepherd, your pastor, did you say, “We want a man who will call us a ‘brood of vipers?’” I didn’t think so.
Today, we’ve made an idol of church-attendance figures instead of letting the Word of God decide matters. It has led to the Church lacking in prophetic preachers. We are scarce in preachers who speak the Word of God, for fear of offending and calling people out of the comfort of their sins. If I have been such a false preacher, then I repent.
For God uses real preachers, not pale, second-rate imitations. That’s how He works. He sent prophets. He sent apostles. And today, He sends pastors “to prepare the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Through the preached Word, the Church is to grow in the maturity of Christ, and not be blown by courses of every foolish wind and doctrine that whisper sweet poison into her ears. That’s why God sent the prophet Isaiah. That’s why He sent John the Baptizer. That’s why He sent His Apostles. And that’s why today, He sends His preachers.
And when God’s preachers have preached God’s Word, it is the Lord’s mouth that has spoken. And that’s the Word that Isaiah is sticking into our ears today. “The Lord’s mouth has spoken.” And where the Lord’s mouth has spoken, there God’s Word is bristling with His power, bringing to us His life and salvation. For to truly live, we can only do so by every Word that goes forth from the mouth of God.
God speaks from His mouth, both sides. He speaks His shrapnel Word of Law and He speaks His healing Word of Gospel. He speaks His wrath and mercy, all in one breath, all by the same Spirit, sometimes even in the same verse. Today we have that from the Prophet Isaiah: The Law sandwiched between two slices of Gospel.
From the Lord’s mouth comes a comforting Word. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. Speak from a heart of love, speak to the heart of My Bride, and speak consoling words to her. Comfort her, but don’t make her comfortable. And remember, pronounce My forgiveness upon her.
Yes, God sends His preachers to preach a comforting Word. He wants to woo His Bride, His Church, with tender words. For if Christ has died, if He has paid the punishments of our sin under Law, then the Law can no longer condemn us. We have received from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins. Not just enough to get the job done, but double forgiveness, overflowing forgiveness, a life-giving flood of forgiveness.
That’s how it is with the Gospel--more forgiveness than we have sin to forgive. Imagine that! No sin is so great that Jesus didn’t atone for it on the cross. No life is so wretched that God could not redeem it.
What then are your sins? Have you routinely put yourself first, even above God? Do you despise His Word, only getting around to receiving it when it fits your schedule? Do you disrespect authority? Are you a murderer, adulterer, cheat, and liar? Are you greedy and envious? The Law says we are guilty of all these sins, each in our own, perverse, and singular way.
God’s comforting Word to you through Jesus Christ is that for all your sins, you have received double from the Lord’s hand. Jesus has more than enough forgiveness to cover them all, even your most secret, shameful, and face-blushing sins!
Comfort my people, God says to His preachers. Bring them comfort. Tell them, “Your servitude is over and your iniquity atoned. For you have received from the Lord’s hand double for all your sins.” Can it be so? Can you be sure of it? Yes, for “the Lord’s mouth has spoken.”
God’s Word is a preparing Word. It is the voice of one calling out: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the wild a highway for our God.” The voice’s identity is unknown, anonymous. I suppose that’s good, for it’s the Word of the Lord that matters. God’s delivery boy is secondary.