Jeremiah 1:4: " Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.' " Then he says in verse Jeremiah 1:9: " Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms " (nkjv). God says: I formed you, I sanctified you, I ordained you, and I set you over the nations. But before all of that, I knew you.
And then God says five words that will change your life: I put my words in your mouth.
God says to the prophet: I knew you before you got here. Before I formed you, I knew you. Ephesians 1 says God chose us before the foundation of the world. The word means " to speak out. " God says: I spoke you out before the foundation of the world. He says: I knew you. The word implies an intimate relationship: I knew you intimately. I knew you before you were formed in the womb of your mother. And then I set you in place. I sanctified you, called you aside unto myself. And I ordained you.
You are where you are on purpose. God does not move by accidents. He moves by providence. And he has providentially ordained and assigned you where you are today. You are not there by accident. You are not there because some committee voted on you. You are not there because denominational strings were pulled. You are there because God has set you in place, and he set you there that he might be glorified in and through you. And one of the ways he does that is to place his words in your mouth.
God is the God who speaks. He is not a silent God, as the idol gods were. God spoke to Abraham: Get out of here and go to a land I will show you. He spoke to Moses: Go and tell Pharaoh I said, " Let my people go. " When Jesus spoke, it was said of him that never a man spake as he spake. The Holy Spirit spoke and told the young church to separate Paul and Barnabas and send them out. The Bible says: Let he who has ears hear what the Spirit says. And God says that you as pastor, you as shepherd stand before the people of God with his words in your mouth.
The Bible says of Elijah: He was a man of God. Elijah said: Thus saith the Lord. So he was a man of God with the word of God, and he stood before the people of God. So you stand as one with the word of God in your mouth for the people of God. And you stand in the world created by God. God says he has placed his word in your mouth. He says to Jeremiah: I touched your mouth, and I put my words in your mouth.
God entrusts his word to my mouth
Several revelations come forth from that declaration. When God says he put his words in my mouth, it suggests, first of all, that God entrusts his word to my mouth. Jeremiah realized being one who speaks the word of God is an awesome task, so Jeremiah, as many of us do, resisted and began to wrestle with God. He talked about how unqualified he was. Moses did the same thing. Moses was used mightily by God and only had two things — a stutter and a stick. But that which he spoke from his mouth were the very words of God.
God says to you, pastor, that he has placed his words in your mouth. Not his voice, but his words in your mouth through your voice. So when you stand to speak the word of God, you speak not your words but his word, because he places his word in your mouth. It's his word, your mouth, through your voice. So when you stand on Sunday, when you stand on Wednesday, when you stand to minister, you speak with your voice, his words. When you stand to speak his words with your mouth in that house at that time, God sounds like you.
He does not say he puts his thoughts in my mouth. He's already settled that. He says: My thoughts are not your thoughts. I'm not asking you to handle my thoughts. Your motherboard does not have enough memory space to hold all that I would speak to you. You'd blow a fuse, and your mind would automatically delete some stuff. So I'm not trying to help you to think my thoughts. If you can just speak my words. I speak my words through you, because I entrust my words into your mouth.
Have you realized how much God must love you that he would use you as a vessel and a vehicle for his word? Do we ever stop as pastors to consider the awesome task we have? God does not call you to stand on Sunday morning and shoot from the hip. He does not ask you to spend all week thinking of stuff to say. He says: I'll place my words in your mouth; you just speak it. Have you thought about the awesome task we've been given: to stand as men and women of God with the word of God in our mouths? God entrusts his word in my mouth.
God endangers his word to my mouth
Not only does he entrust his word to my mouth; he endangers his word to my mouth. God takes a risk when he puts his word in my mouth. He's gambling when he puts his word in my mouth.
God risks that I will taint his word with my weakness. First of all, he takes the risk that his word will be tainted when it comes through my life. He takes the risk that it will be tainted by my weaknesses, by the residue of sin in my life. He risks that his word would be tempered by my weaknesses, that I would not speak words of compassion through the bitterness of my experience. He risks that his word might not come through because of my fear. When I become obsessed and concerned and consumed by how the sheep will receive the word, I might back off and back up and not declare totally what God has given me. He takes a risk that I might see their faces and back up with fear. He takes a risk when he puts it in my life because of the weaknesses and the finitude of my humanity. He takes a risk that I will compromise his word. He takes a risk that I will be intimidated by those who would hear his word.
And yet, he says: I put my word in your mouth.
God risks that I will claim his words are my words. He takes a risk that once he puts his word in my mouth, the arrogance of my humanity would claim that his words are my words. That I would become the focal point. That I would imply that I'm the source. And yet he says it's his word in my mouth.
God risks that I will claim my words are his words. Flip side. He takes a risk that I will make my word his word. God puts his word in my mouth, and he takes a risk that when I have been established as one with his word in my mouth, when I am recognized and affirmed as one who has his word in my mouth, I will then make my words his word.
His word never returns void but will always accomplish that for which it has been sent forth. His word never fails. The heavens may pass away and the mountains crumble, but his word will never pass away. His word is never wrong. So when I stand with his words in my mouth, when I speak his words through my mouth with my voice, then that which his word declares must be true. If I speak his word and declare that you are healed, if it's his word, you better be healed. When we imply our words are God's words and they do not come true, we leave behind a battlefield of broken and scarred people.
My son's godmother, Jean, several years ago had cancer. She had been in and out of the hospital, and after being very sick, she came to church one Sunday morning. And when Jean came to the service, there was a high time. The Spirit of the Lord was there. The anointing of the Lord was there. People were celebrating. They were rejoicing. Everyone was so glad to see Jean back.
And I stood in the midst of that celebration and that high, heavy anointing of the presence of God and I said, " Oh, praise the Lord that Jean is back today. Praise God. " Everybody celebrated. And I said, " Jean, thus saith the Lord: God would have you know that your sickness is not unto death. " All the saints celebrated. They rejoiced — Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! — because the word of the Lord had come forth. And God had said: Your sickness is not unto death.
Three weeks later Jean died. My daughter came to me with tears in her eyes and said, " Daddy, what happened? You said that God told the church Auntie Jean wouldn't die. Daddy, what happened? " With tears in my eyes, I held my daughter and said, " Baby, Daddy was wrong. "
When God puts his word in my mouth, he takes a risk that I will say my words and declare they are his words. How many times have we as pastors spoken out of the sincere desire to encourage, and yet we've made our words appear to be God's word? The body of Christ is in danger today, because words God has never spoken are being declared. And men and women's lives are being broken and crushed and disillusioned, because we're speaking our words and claiming them as his words.
God entrusts his word to your mouth, pastor. God sovereignly chose you as his holy mouthpiece. For reasons known only unto him, he chose you. And you stand before the people of God with his word in your mouth. You must never stand with intimidation. You must never back off of it. You must never twist it and turn it. You must never compromise it. You declare it, and you declare it with boldness, because when God puts his word in your mouth, he not only entrusts his word to you, he not only endangers his word, but he empowers his word. It's not you. It's the power of his word. He is looking for a mouthpiece, one who will submit to him and allow the power of his words to come forth. He is looking for someone who will speak the anointed word of God. God has loved you that much and chosen you that much that he would put his words in your mouth. Don't forget that.
It is a high and holy trust. It is a challenging trust. It is sometimes a frightful trust. But it is a demonstration of the very power of God, because when he speaks, things happen. When he speaks, sick folk get well, depressed folk get encouraged. When he speaks, salvation goes forth. There is power in his word.
God promises to bless his word. He never promised to bless my word about his word. For the degree to which I stand with his word in my mouth, I stand with the very creative and delivering and salvific power of God. You don't have to spend all week thinking of stuff to say; if you stay in the word of God, you won't have enough time to say it all. His word is what changes lives. His word is what brings forth deliverance. His word is what lifts up bowed down heads. His word is what dries tearstained eyes. His word is what saves families. His word is what brings back wayward children. His word is what encourages us as we walk along the way. It is the power of his word.
For God's word to be in your mouth, your life must be in his hand
So watch what God says: I place my word in your mouth. If you place your life in my hand, we can do something. By my sovereign will I have placed you. I may have set you before thirty. I may have set you before thousands. I may have set you before a Sunday school class. I may have set you in a one-on-one discipleship. But I have set you there because I put my words in your mouth. I have put my words in your mouth to touch and change lives. And you cannot change lives until you've been changed yourself by the power of the living God.
So, pastors, go forth realizing that you have his word in your mouth, and his word in your mouth can touch and change lives if your life is in his hand. His word, my mouth; my life, his hand. It's his word in my mouth, and my life in his hand. That's what makes the difference. It all depends on whose hand it's in. The difference in your life and my life depends on whose hand it's in. The difference in your ministry and the ministry that is ineffective is whose hand it's in. It's not about the numbers; it's about the anointing. It's not about the size; it's about the sovereign power of God. Because the thing that makes the difference is that you will speak his word in your mouth, and you will live your life in his hand, because it all depends on whose hand it's in.
A violin in my hand will get you some squeaky noise; but a violin in Itzhak Perlman's hand will get you the music of the masters. Marble in my hand is just a piece of ugly, dirt-covered stone; but marble in Michelangelo's hand will get you a magnificent David. A peanut in my hand is just a small snack; but a peanut in George Washington Carver's hand is peanut butter and shoe polish. A basketball in my hand is worth about $29.95; but a basketball in Shaquille O'Neal's hand and in Kobe's hand and in Michael's hand with hang time is worth about $30 million. A tennis racquet in my hand is a dangerous weapon; but a tennis racquet in the Williams sisters' hands is a tennis champion. A golf club in my hand means " look out, there's trouble coming " ; but a golf club in Tiger Woods's hand is a Masters champion, because it all depends on whose hand it's in.
A rod in my hand may beat off the dogs; but a rod in Moses' hand will part the Red Seas of your life. The jawbone of an ass in my hand is the remains of a dead donkey; but a jawbone in Samson's hands will destroy the Philistines. A slingshot in my hand is a kids' toy; but a slingshot in David's hand will drop the Goliaths in your life, because it all depends on whose hand it's in.
Spit and clay in my hand will get you a little mud cake; but spit and clay in Jesus' hand will open blinded eyes. Two fish and five loaves of bread will get you a couple of fish sandwiches in my hand; but in Jesus' hand it will feed the five thousand. Nails in my hand might get you a little birdhouse; but nails in Jesus' hand hanging on the cross between two thieves on a hill called Calvary is salvation for the world, because it all depends on whose hand it's in.
You ought to take those hands and put them together and bless the Lord. Thank him that he's called you to be a pastor. Thank him that he's put his words in your mouth. Thank him that the anointing of God rests in your life. Thank him that he's picked you up and turned you around. Thank him that he's placed you before his people with his word in your mouth.
Ken Ulmer is pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Ingelwood, California, and author of The Anatomy of God (Whitaker House).