The preacher’s dilemma (and our danger)

One of the most dangerous things we can do is sit through a sermon week after week.

In his commentary on Isaiah, Alec Motyer begins his discussion of the prophet’s call to ministry (6:9-13) by observing “Isaiah’s message and his task constitute, at first sight, the oddest commission ever given to a prophet: to tell people not to understand and to effect heart-hardening and spiritual blindness!”

After noting that Isaiah was criticized as a man “fit only to conduct a kindergarten” (28:9-10) Motyer goes on to offer this sobering insight:

It is clear that Isaiah did not understand his commission as one to blind people by obscurity of expression or complexity of message. He, in fact, faced the preacher’s dilemma: if hearers are resistant to the truth, the only recourse is to tell them truth yet again, more clearly than before. But to do this is to expose them to the risk of rejecting the truth yet again and, therefore, of increased hardness of heart. It could even be that the next rejection will prove to be the point at which the heart is hardened beyond recovery. The human eye cannot see this point in advance; it comes and goes unnoticed. But the all-sovereign God both knows it and appoints it as he presides in perfect justice over the psychological processes he created.

One of the most dangerous things we can do is sit through a sermon week after week.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS… (Heb 3:7-8a)


Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

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