This morning a colleague of mine, Dr.Sam Hamstra, greeted me as I parked and went into my seminary office. "I was thinking of you during my quiet time this morning" he said. "You were?," I responded, surprised by his obvious enthusiasm. "Yes," he replied," I was reading Ezekiel 3: 10,11, and I said to myself, that's exactly what Michael Quicke teaches his preachers." "Oh, what does it say?" I asked, struggling to remember the early part of Ezekiel.
"It's about how the prophet first has to take to heart God's words to himself before he can go and speak with his people. Isn't that exactly what you teach students? You have to take to heart what God is saying personally before you can speak out!"
Of course, I had to look it up. "And God said to me: 'Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says' whether they listen or fail to listen.'"
I was so glad to be reminded of this basic principle. First listen to what God is saying to you (completely immerse in the text) before you dare speak God's word to others. For us, as Christian preachers, this means listening to Scripture with heads and hearts for God to reveal his truth and then, and how vital this is, to check our listening with commentaries. I have to keep stressing to my students that preaching involves both personal engagement with Scripture and then humble research of commentaries.
I shall look forward to telling my students of Sam Hamstra's insight when I teach tomorrow. Good old Ezekiel!