Summary: The Word of God is powerful to accomplish all it proclaims.

First Presbyterian Church

Wichita Falls, Texas

August 25, 2013


Isaac Butterworth

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;

for you shall go to all to whom I send you,

and you shall speak whatever I command you.

8 Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.

10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,

to pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and to overthrow,

to build and to plant.”

The great Lou Holtz remains one of college football’s finest coaches. And so, people listen when he speaks. There’s one of his remarks that I hear a lot. Maybe you do, too. It seems that, on one occasion, Mr. Holtz said, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” It’s clever, isn’t it? And it’s more than that. It’s an unmistakable jab at words. It betrays the broad consensus shared by most Americans: that words are cheap. We walk around with the unquestioned assumption that words are at best powerless and at worst meaningless.

Now, I’m certainly not in any position to contradict someone so celebrated as Lou Holtz or even to dispute the way the majority thinks when it comes to words. But I would remind us that the way we look at things is not always the way God looks at them. And there’s no better evidence for that than what God says about the power of words, especially his words.

For example, in Isaiah, chapter 55, God speaks about the “word…that goes out from [his] mouth.” And what he says about it is: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Do you see the power of God’s word? Do you see how it brings to pass whatever it declares? Start with Genesis, chapter 1, and you will see how God created the whole universe by speaking it into existence. We read, “Then God said…and there was…” (Gen. 1:3). That’s the power of the Word of God. Look ahead to John’s Gospel and see how John introduces us to Jesus. He calls him…what? “the Word.” “In the beginning,” he says, “was the Word,” and he’s talking about Jesus (John 1:1). Our God is a God who speaks, and when he speaks, things happen. So, I would alter Lou Holtz’s aphorism to say something like this: When all is said, all is done, especially when God is the one speaking.

Today, we are looking at Jeremiah, chapter 1. It’s about the call of Jeremiah to be a prophet. And who was it that called him? It was God. And how did he call him? Through his Word. The Word of God, powerful to effect what it declares, came to the prophet, and, as a result, it would come through the prophet. In verse 4, Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me.” But it didn’t just come to him; it overtook him. It entered him. So that, in verse 9, Jeremiah said, “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.’” The Word of God addressed him first; then, afterward, it would be addressed by him.

I am hard pressed to think of any greater need than this. You name the time and the place. Is there any greater need than to be addressed by the Word of God? Not in Jeremiah’s day. The Word that sounded forth from the prophet’s mouth met with a whole society gone bad: systemic evil, on the one hand, and individual complicity, on the other. Times were dark. In Jeremiah, chapter 7, the LORD summarizes the headlines of the day. Injustice was rampant. The powerless were oppressed. The orphan was abandoned. The widow was shamed. And the “stranger…within [the] gates” was betrayed. Life was expendable. The innocent had no one to protect them. And the people were going “after other gods to [their] own hurt” (Jer. 7:6).

That’s the way it always is when people go “after other gods.” Idolatry always brings with it “hurt,” because it deceives us into believing that we can live for self, indulge every whim, seek only pleasure, and still be happy. Pure and simple, that’s a lie – and worse, it is a lie we tell ourselves.

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