Summary: God calls his people to return and reward through prophetic preaching.
Throughout the story of redemption, one of the key characters is the prophet—one who tells God’s people who God is, and what he expects from them.
That reminds me: did you know that Atheism is a non-prophet religion? I have one more: who was the greatest female financier in the Bible? Answer: Pharaoh’s daughter—she went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.
Moses was a prophet, and like all Old Testament prophets, he preached. Certainly, on occasion, prophets predicted future events, but they mainly revealed God’s word and related it to God’s people. Like the New Testament pastor, they were not priests, but preachers or teachers. And Jeremiah 18 is a grand example of this work.
As we seek revival and reformation in our church, our in community, and in our country, I think we do well to refresh our thoughts about the ministry of preaching. Since I will be out of the pulpit the next three Sundays, this seemed to me a good place to drive our stakes and make sure that our desires are for what God promises to give.
[Read Jeremiah 18.1-18. Pray.]
J. I. Packer wrote the introductory essay in the book, The Preacher and Preaching. Entitled, “Why Preach?” Packer says there is “honest uncertainty as to whether there is a viable rationale for pulpit work in our time.” He then defends this ministry “because preaching is of the very essence of the corporate phenomenon called Christianity as I understand it. By that I mean that Christianity, on earth as in heaven, is fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and the preaching of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit is the activity that brings the Father and the Son down from heaven to dwell with men” (p. 1).
After that exalted description, Packer readily admits that not all preaching is good, and that over the years he has “heard as much bad preaching as the next man and probably done as much [him]self as any clergyman you would like to name. Nonetheless [Packer continues] having observed how preaching is conceived in Scripture, and having experienced preaching of a very high order, I continue to believe in preaching and to maintain that there is no substitute for it, and no power or stature or sustained vision or close fellowship with God in the church without it. Also, I constantly maintain that if today’s quest for renewal is not, along with its other concerns, a quest for true preaching, it will prove shallow and barren” (p. 3).
It is that goal—renewal and fellowship with God—that prompts me to turn to Jeremiah 18 and consider the ministry of the prophet and the response of the people in the advancement of God’s kingdom. With Jeremiah as a primary model for Biblical and prophetic preaching which God blesses to his people, please note five important applications:
1. We Must Understand the Prophet’s Ministry
It seems to me that there are at least six characteristics of faithful preaching we must appreciate and love in order to receive the blessing of God.
1.1. Prophetic Preaching is Radically God-Centered
Politicians are concerned with people’s perceptions. Opinion polls determine their speeches and direct their behaviors. They survive and thrive when the constituency feels that their politicians vote their views.
The prophet, in contradistinction, must cater to what God thinks. He cares about people deeply, but he cares about them for God, not for themselves. His ministry focuses on what God is doing, what God requires, what God wants, what God expects. He aims to expose how our thoughts about God need correcting, and to explain God’s views. God is the central character of prophetic preaching. Explain Main Idea.
1.2. Prophetic Preaching is Realistic about Evil
Some of you will remember Mr. Clinton’s testimony under oath: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the—if he—if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement…. Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”
The prophet does not carefully parse sin to get us off the hook. He does not call breaking of the 7th commandment “having an affair,” the first four definitions of which have to do with business. The prophet uses words for sin which shock us even in our coarse world: “adultery, prostitution, whoring, harlotry.” He boldly names evil because he knows what we have either forgotten or refuse to admit—sin destroys people, churches and nations.