"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Preaching (Page 1 of 12)

Unfolded Words

“The unfolding of your words gives light”

(Psalm 119:130a)

Unfolded words, bearing light,

Held before us in darkest night.

Unseeing eyes can’t find their way,

Until unfolded they break like day.


Holy words, written down,

Breathed out to be our crown.

Spoken now for all to hear,

They offer life, destroy our fear.


Sacred words, spoken out,

Not with scream nor with shout.

Reasoned words, savory as salt,

Tell how to escape our faults.


Wisdom’s words pointing up,

Cool water from His cup.

Prudent words to guide the way,

Of all who come and stay.


Unfolded words, bearing light,

Held before us in darkest night.

Unseeing eyes won’t find their way,

Unless unfolded they break like day.

Speechmaking & Preaching

“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (John 7:18)

There is all the difference in the world between one who speaks on the authority of another who has sent them and the one who speaks on his own authority.

On the surface you have two speakers. Two people are putting out words. To the undiscerning they appear the same. But they are different. The difference is found in the authority base for their words.

One speaks because he thinks he has a great idea, maybe a great idea, perhaps even the great answer or idea that will solve a problem. The other speaks because God has sent him with a message.

One “seeks his own glory.” The other seeks “the glory of him who sent him.”

The only one we may have confidence “is true” and without “falsehood” is the latter. He has no stake in the game personally, for these are not his own ideas but God’s. He is not seeking to prove himself correct or right. He is not seeking personal acceptance. He is making a declaration on the authority of another. The acceptance or non-acceptance of the message does not change its truthfulness. But the acceptance or non-acceptance of the message does bear consequences. They are not established by the speaker and cannot be changed by him.

Herein lies the fundamental difference between speech-making and preaching.

A man sent from God with the Bible and its gospel as his message is not a speechmaker. He is a herald.

Listen if you will. Like it or not. Rebuff it all. Embrace everything he says.

In the end he is neither your problem nor your Savior. The One who sent him and gave him these words is. The words He has sent through His messenger bear His authority and each one’s response brings necessary consequences, for good or ill.

Technically faithful; Actually unfaithful

“If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak” (Numbers 24:13).

Balak, king of the Amalekites, hired Balaam to curse Israel. But three times Balaam blessed them instead. Predictably, Balak was angry. But Balaam had warned him repeatedly that he would only speak what the Lord spoke to him. Balaam seems to have done this faithfully. He refused to curse those God blessed.

Though Balaam refused to curse Israel he showed Balak a way to get Israel to curse themselves.

“… the women … on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD …” (Numbers 31:15-16).

“Balaam … taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14).

“Balaam … loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15).

There is a way to remain technically obedient yet to do evil. We may “preach” faithfully but fail utterly. We must guard our preaching but also our hearts.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16a). It is both “yourself” and your “teaching.” You may remain technically correct in the latter and fail utterly in the former.

“Above all else, guard your heart for from it flows the well spring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Six Final Questions

I think my sermon is complete. I’m ready to pack up and head home to rest before tomorrow comes and I must open my Bible and speak.

Not so fast! Here are six final questions to ask myself before I’m truly done with my sermon preparation.

Question #1 — What is the problem I raise?

Every sermon should pose a question, surface a problem, set out an issue that demands an answer. What is mine? Is it the same as the one the Scripture passage raises?

Question #2 — How is Jesus the answer?

No matter which Testament I am preaching from, Jesus is the ultimate answer to the problem that has been raised. How do I set this forth?

Question #3 — Where is the cross/gospel?

As I set out the question and ultimately point to Jesus as its answer, where and how do I hold forth work of the cross and the call of the gospel?

Question #4 — What am I calling/asking for?

What response am I asking for from the listeners? Is it realistic? Is it inviting?

Question #5 — Can I say this more simply?

The path of profundity is marked by the sign of simplicity. Am I following the signs?

Question #6 — Can I say this more succinctly?

“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Eccl. 6:11, NIV)

The Pursuit of Preaching

The pursuit of preaching is not preaching. That is idolatry.

The pursuit of preaching is not response or results. That is not only idolatry, but a fool’s errand.

Faithfulness? Yes, but not quite.

Anointing? Yes, but not quite.

What then?

The pursuit of preaching is God.

When God is our pursuit in preaching, He will see that we have whom we seek.

Only then will we be in a position for Him to give Himself through us.

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