Saturday, October 14, 2006

A word from the Lord?

Last night I went to a seminar called "How to Teach Dynamically and Effectively," where the speaker didn't say anything about technique at all. He listed several questions to ask before getting up to preach -- "Who am I trying to impress?" and "Do I really love these people?" -- this sort of thing. Then he asked: "Am I accurately presenting this passage?"

He referred to Jeremiah 23, which "coincidentally" is in this morning's reading:
"Therefore," declares the Lord, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes," declares the Lord, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The Lord declares.'"
Jeremiah 23.30-31
This makes it a scary thing to teach the Bible, and it's the reason I tend to say things like "My take on it is..." or "Apparently it's saying..." unless I'm really certain that I have the correct understanding of a passage.

This is related to one of my concerns when I hear people say, "The Lord told me" or "I have a word from the Lord for you." That sort of comment tends to cut off all discussion and makes me wonder if maybe they're more certain than they should be. I feel a lot better when someone says, "I had a sense of being directed toward..." or something like this.

Which I hope I say myself when talking about these things.

By the way, what's the "therefore" there for?

The part just before that is talking about dreams, and the difference between dreams and a declaration of prophecy.
"The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has my word speak my word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?" declares the Lord. "Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock?"
Jeremiah 23.28-29
So that's why he's against them -- it's because
they say "The Lord declares" or "Thus says the Lord" when they ought to be saying at most "I had a dream where..." or "I wonder if this might be from the Lord..."

Not that we should never ever say the former, just that we do well to be careful when making pronouncements like that.

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