I’m sort of snickering as I write this because I know you probably clicked this link thinking I was going to write a post about why you should wear a suit and tie to preach in. As an aside, I don’t think you should look like you just rolled out of bed when you preach. And I personally like a suit. But that’s another blog post.
For this one, I’m talking about the dress referred to in Jeremiah 1:17 –
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.
That’s from the ESV which sort of loses the luster of ‘gird up thy loins’ as translated in the Authorized Version.
It’s a dangerous method to jump straight from the office of Old Testament prophet to New Testament preacher without any clarifications. The prophets of the Old Testament literally heard the Word of God audibly. Furthermore, the office of prophet in the Old Testament was fulfilled perfectly by Christ who is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Finally, the prophet in the Old Testament is most similar to the New Testament Apostle, the office which is no longer in service to the church.
However, with all of those qualifications aside, I think there are some excellent applications for preachers of the gospel. I’m sure I’m not the first one to use these alliterations, but let’s consider some encouragement from the text for New Testament preachers.
1. Prepare for the Task
Yahweh tells Jeremiah to ‘dress for work.’ In other words, prepare for the task. Preachers need to preach dressed up. And by dressed up, I don’t mean a suit and tie, but from a prepared heart. And not that preparing for sermons is not important, but I don’t think this text means that kind of preparation. I think it means to prepare for the reality of the task. Realize the gravity of what it means to proclaim the Word of the living God. Gird up thy loins!
When we proclaim the word of the living God in its proper context we are saying to the people ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ This isn’t child’s play. This isn’t waking up and fixing a flat tire. This is preaching the truth of God’s Word. Our hearts should tremble at the Word of God (Isaiah 66:2) and at the awesome task we have in preaching the very oracles of the living God. Don’t walk into the pulpit, or street corner, or any other preaching venue jovial. Have a reverence for the task at hand. Dress up and preach.
Preaching the Word is a man’s task. It’s not for boys looking for a quick buck. It’s not for charlatans. Preachers, prepare for the task. Preach dressed up.
2. Preach the Truth
Again, Jeremiah had a direct audible command from the Lord. “Say to them everything I command you.” Not the same for us. However, we do have His infallible, inerrant, all authoritative, all-sufficient Bible. The 66 canonical books of Scripture are the very commands, promises, and descriptions of God from God. You aren’t smarter than God. Preach what He says. You don’t have a better understanding of how to win people to Christ than God. Preach what He says. You don’t know how to grow a church better than God. Preach what He says. Preach the truth. If the Word of God says it, you preach it.
Gentleman, let’s preach the Word. Let us not preach our hobby horse, or ear tickling sermonettes. Let us dress up and proclaim the truth of the Living God. Let us endeavor to preach the full counsel of the Word of God. Let’s preach book by book, verse by verse, and not shy away from any of it. Preach the easy doctrines. Preach the hard doctrines. Preach when you know the people will say ‘amen!’ Preach when you know it might be hard for them to hear. Preach when they pat you on the back and preach when it may cause them to talk behind it. Preach everything.
It is the truth of God that sanctifies His people (John 17:17). It is the Word of God that is a rock and a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29). It is the Word of God that is a sword (Hebrews 4:12). People don’t need our jokes, charisma, hair gel, or eisegesis. They need Scripture. Preach what God says and see Him work.
3. Persevere without Timidity
I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with Jeremiah’s ministry. He saw basically no real fruit in terms of nationwide repentance. But what is his charge? Do not be dismayed! There is nothing more discouraging in preaching than being prepared, giving a solid proclamation, and seeing no visible fruit. But what is our charge? To keep preaching. We aren’t given a pass in being boring, but we do need to remember that the power is not in us, but in the Word. After all, God tells Jeremiah that He is watching over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).
In other words, as we faithfully expound Scripture. God is using it to bring about His sovereign purposes. Trust in that! Do your due diligence in sermon preparation and prayer. But when you preach you must understand that God is bringing about change not because of you, but because His own Holy Word.
The word for ‘dismayed’ in our text carries the connotation of fear or terror. If we are rightly understanding the fear of the Lord, there is no room left for the fear of men. Persevere without timidity. Keep preaching in boldness. I’m not saying ‘yell’ at people. Decibel level doesn’t equal passion. But people can tell whether or not you’ve been gripped by the text or if you’re just another dog and pony show going through the motions for a pay check. No, my brothers! May we not preach that way! Persevere without timidity. Preach with passion for you are God’s herald. What can man do to us if God is for us?
True, they threw Jeremiah down a well. And they threw John Bunyan in a jail. And they threw Adoniram Judson in a Burmese prison. And they killed Nicholas Ridley. But guess what? We won’t answer to men after death, but to our holy and awesome God. Fear Him and preach the Word. Keep laboring brothers. Persevere in the task. Persevere without timidity. God is for us in Christ. Preach the truth.
“I am with you declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:19). And I don’t think its unacceptable to the text to claim this promise for preachers who are faithfully expounding God’s word.
I’m thankful for faithful men of God like Jeremiah. More importantly, I’m thankful for our true Prophet, Jesus Christ who bore the wrath of God in our place. Because of His atoning work we have a right standing with God and truly good news to proclaim to the Nations. Proclaim it all. Preach the Law and the Gospel. Prepare for the task, preach the truth, and persevere without Timidity. Our God is faithful. This is why you should preach dressed up.
Soli Deo Gloria.