Cowards Need Not Apply
Cowards Need Not Apply
But you, dress yourself for work, arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.
Jeremiah 1:17 (ESV)
As intimidating as his listeners may be, the pastor must beware lest he jump from the frying pan of their opposition into the fire of God’s humiliation. When a preacher seeks peace with man, he can find himself at war with God.
When the Lord first called Jeremiah as His servant, he was not yet a fire-breather. Jeremiah’s initial reaction to God’s call was cowardly. Protesting that he was only a youth, Jeremiah tried, like Moses, to decline his divine commission (1:6). Yahweh gave him a devastating message, and as a respected member of the priestly clan (1:1), Jeremiah must have shuddered at the thought of telling his countrymen and fellow priests that everything they cherished—the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, even the temple of Yahweh itself—was about to be judged and destroyed.
In spite of the young man’s fears, God pressed His demand—“Dress yourself for work” (the modern rendering of “Gird up your loins,” the practice of tying up one’s long, flowing robes to free the legs for swift, decisive action.) The life of priestly ease was over; Jeremiah was now a prophet of God with one mandate: “Say to them everything that I command you” (v. 17b).
Jeremiah had every reason to be afraid; all the great men of Israel would stand against him (vv. 18-19). God commanded him, “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.” The Hebrew word “dismayed” (hatat) also means “broken” or “cracked.” If Jeremiah abandoned his confidence in the Lord and cowered before men, then God would break him.
The Old Testament office of prophet found its highest expression in Christ, who Himself empowers pastors for the prophetic task of proclaiming God’s Word to His people. He gives them Jeremiah’s charge: “Tell them everything I command you.” Paul would later say it no less solemnly: “Preach the Word,” not merely the parts of it men will hear without offense, but “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
The faithful pastor will offend—not out of any love for controversy, but because preaching Christ crucified is an offense (1 Cor. 1:23 and 1 Pet. 2:8). Yet how many pastors are determined to avoid “controversial issues?” How many have measured their success by how few people they have offended with their preaching, as if it were a virtue to be more conciliatory than Jesus? Pastors who ignore biblical truth on “controversial issues” may think they serve kindness and unity, but fear may be their lord.
God’s man encourages where the Word encourages, teaches where it teaches, and rebukes where it rebukes, even if the whole world takes offense. It is a joy to preach the Word—all of it—without dismay. By God’s grace, the preacher’s chains of fear drop away.