Silence! Come Out!

4 Epiphany

Moses reminds the people, “This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die’” (Deut. 18:16). The people want a mediator, one who would stand in the breach and bear for them the full force of a thunderous God, a burning fire, the sound of many waters. God gives as they desire. “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who will speak to them everything that I command” (Deut. 18:18). While this gives safety to the people, it is a trial to the prophet. If the prophet speaks in the name of other gods, if the prophet utters a word not commanded, the prophet shall die (Deut. 18:20).

Deut. 18:15-20Ps. 111
1 Cor. 8:1-13Mark 1:21-28

A preacher won’t tremble at this point, knowing about the love of God in Christ Jesus, but quite possibly, the preacher is partly wrong. Love is the lion that tears the seven seals (Rev. 5:5). Love is “worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (verse 12). It would not harm the preacher to fall down and worship, to feel the full weight of responsibility, to ask humbly for divine help, and to apply all the energy of mind and emotion before ever daring to step into the pulpit. The people of God have every right to expect that the preacher is the steward of love and glory, all sweetness and blazing heat, a warm consolation and transforming power.

Still, in the chain of prophetic being, the preacher is far below Moses and the one like him who is to come. Indeed, often the preacher is, in the pulpit, and in the nave, and in the streets, given to the hard but necessary work of preserving bonds of peace, healing hurts, and holding a frail household together. Blessed are the peacemakers! Whatever knowledge the preacher has and all the good gifts given to the laity are for naught if a brother is puffed up or a sister counts herself the most serious student. Take care of your gift; be cautious! Build up the body. Do not wound the conscience of the weak. Learn to give in and lose often.

Blessed are the peacemakers, indeed. The soft voice, the gentle word, prudence and wisdom are the needed balm — but not always. Now look at the prophet, the one like Moses. He is, first of all, Love Divine. How does he behave? “He entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded by his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). His love, his word, and his authority might not have offended, but for this: “and not as the scribes.” Then a man enters the synagogue, possessed and unclean. He asks, “Have you come to destroy us?” He knows; he knows perfectly well that Jesus has a destructive work to do against a plurality of destroying demons. There is a time to concede and compromise. There is a time to rebuke and command. “Be silent!” Jesus says. He commands again, “Come out of him.” This too is love divine, all love excelling.

Back to the preacher, or, for that matter, anyone who must exercise authority. Give in often for the sake of love, but not always.

Look It Up
Read Ps. 111:2. Study the deeds of the Lord.

Think About It
At least ten scoops of loving kindness, maybe a hundred, for every biting truth. Raise your voice only when absolutely necessary.

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