Full on Empty

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Daily Reformation, Isaiah 50:4-9a

From the Reformer

“Hath given me the tongue of the learned.” He says that the Lord hath given him a “tongue,” that the promises by which he cheers the people may have greater weight. Our faith wavers, if we suspect that a man speaks from himself; and the condition of that people was so wretched that no human arguments could induce them to entertain the hope of deliverance. It amounts to this, that the message of approaching salvation is brought to them from heaven; and if any person do not receive it, he must prove himself to be rebellious and disobedient. Although these words are literally intended by the Prophet to secure the belief of his statements, yet we may infer from them generally, that no man is fit to teach who has not first been qualified by God. This reminds all godly teachers to ask from the Spirit of God what otherwise they could not at all possess. They must indeed study diligently, so as not to ascend the pulpit till they have been fully prepared; but they must hold by this principle, that all things necessary for discharging their office are gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, indeed, if they were not organs of the Holy Spirit, it would be extreme rashness to come forth publicly in the name of God.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah

Pulling It Together

The week had been difficult for the preacher. So many people in the hospital meant extra time away from the study. Then there was the couple wanting marital counsel and another couple getting ready for marriage, who had his time. The church lawn needed cutting and the man who did so had pneumonia. Nevertheless, he made the time each morning to spend with God in prayerful reflection on the Word.

When Sunday morning arrived, he could have felt like he had not done his job, by not spending enough time or as much time in study as he should have or as usual. The preacher might have felt like he had nothing to say to the congregation. Still, the Lord had called him to “preach the word…in season and out of season” (2Tim 4:2) every bit as much as he had called him to the hospital bed and the church lawn. Indeed, he heard that the message that morning was more encouraging and inspiring than was typical. Perhaps it was because the Holy Spirit had moved the preacher out of the way, making room for God in the pulpit. That Sunday, it seemed God gave the empty preacher “the tongue of the learned.” The little bit he fed on each day became an abundance for others that Lord’s Day because God was full in his emptiness.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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