Jeremiah had a tough assignment. He was to preach God’s Word to a stubborn and rebellious nation in spite of fierce opposition, abandonment, and the imminent doom of his own people (see? there are tougher jobs than being a pastor!).
In Jeremiah 15:19, God gives Jeremiah a promise of his own salvation and blessedness:
“If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me.”
But then God gives Jeremiah his job description:
“If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that this should be the mandate of every preacher: to “utter what is precious, and not what is worthless”. In other words, to proclaim and teach God’s Word, not our own words or the words of others. When we are faithful, as preachers, to this mandate, it shall be as if God Himself speaks to our people, giving them faith, regenerating them, with all the benefits of salvation. Then they too “shall stand before [God]” and not be cast from His presence forever.
So that’s what a preacher must do–as Jeremiah did. And that’s how we ourselves can stand before God and bring with us a people to stand before Him in the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5). But in this verse, God has more to say about Jeremiah’s task (and that of the preacher as well!). And as I look at this verse I see a theme: turning to God. Jeremiah is called to re-turn to God (so that He will restore him); Jeremiah is told to preach what is precious (which requires continual turning to God does it not?); Jeremiah is told that the people will turn to him (“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Isa 52:7; Rom 10:15), but then he is told that he must not reciprocate:
“They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.”
Doesn’t every preacher love to hear, “Good sermon, Pastor!” Don’t we love to see our pews filling up Sunday to Sunday? Isn’t it delightful to us when people flock to hear us preach? The pastor of a small church is in no less danger here than the pastor of a large church. No matter how few or many flock to hear us preach, we must not turn to hear the flock. We must not desire the praises of our people more than the promise of our God: “You shall be as my mouth.” We must not be influenced in the content of what we preach by the bleatings of the sheep in our charge. Since when do the Lord’s undershepherds get their marching orders from the sheep?
Let’s gaurd our hearts so that our pleasure is found in the Word of God and not in the admiration of His people. As we preach what is precious, God has said that His people will turn to us–but they aren’t merely turning to us: for when they turn in the direction of the one who preaches God’s Word, it is not really us to whom they turn, but God! So brothers, we must not turn from God, waiver from our mandate, or be found speaking “what is worthless”. Here’s that theme I see: preachers who turn to God turn their people to God. Preachers who turn to their people for direction lead their people astray.