Relevant Preaching

2 Kings 22:13-14 “The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.’ But Micaiah said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”

The Prophet Micaiah was summoned by Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat to advise them on their prospects for going to war. Unlike the other prophets who were busy buttering them up, Micaiah understood the true source of preaching: “…only what the LORD tells me.” That is LORD spelled in all capital letters. That is the God of free and faithful grace. That is the only God who actually exists, the only God who actually has anything to say about a matter. If the message isn’t from him, it doesn’t matter if the word appears to be relevant or appealing. Nothing stands behind it except so much hot air.

It is still true that the only safe and reliable interpreter of Scripture is a man who knows the LORD himself. Many preachers earn their reputation on their speaking ability. They can grab hold of your heart strings. They make you laugh and make you cry. They can impress you with their scholarship and make you feel as though you are learning something new every time. They can mesmerize you with their eloquence. You find yourself hanging on every word, even if the sermon went on for hours.

But what good is all of that if the man doesn’t know the LORD, if he isn’t a man of personal faith? All that ability to win your heart, stimulate your mind, or hold your attention is only going to be used to deceive. Then where will we be? Do you suppose that Ahab found the message of his favorite prophets relevant, the ones telling him to go to war, when he was bleeding to death in his chariot a few days later? Is it relevant to live your life and base your heavenly hope on lies? The preacher’s first task involves knowing the Lord for whom he speaks.

Then the preacher needs to limit himself to what the LORD has said. “I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.” As little as lies fit the pulpit, speculations don’t belong there, either. The message needs to be based on words the Lord himself has spoken to us. We find those words in his Holy Scriptures.

Only that kind of preacher, the one who knows the Lord personally and preaches his word, understands the central place of the gospel. Micaiah never got that far in his message for Ahab because of the king’s hard heart. Micaiah wanted to do the king a favor, and spare him from injury and death. But Ahab was bent on defying the prophet and defying God. Thus, he never got to hear a word of grace.

For you and me, there is not a more important word than “the Lord has forgiven your sins.” There is not a more important story than the one about Jesus dying as our substitute on the cross, and rising from the dead to promise us life that never ends. There is not a more important message for us to learn than God’s grace covering all sin, including yours and mine.

The Gospel may not be trendy. It isn’t new. It has never been the opinion of the majority. It’s not even what some people want to hear. But preaching it is always the preacher’s task. And it is always relevant to the people who hear it preached.

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