Many have wrongly assumed that God speaks the clearest through the most eloquent speakers.
But God actively warns against such nonsense through his servant Paul: “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom…I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, SO THAT YOUR FAITH MIGHT NOT REST IN THE WISDOM OF MEN BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Did you catch that? If not, I made it all uppercase so you might 😉
Paul was well trained to speak eloquently, but recognized that this was a barrier, not a help. Why? Because God wants you to know Him and the gospel, instead of getting caught up in the messenger.
Of course we see this in Moses, too, who was a man of a stumbling tongue who God used to free his entire nation.
We also see this in Peter. Peter, as we know, was constantly saying the wrong thing. You can see it, for instance, during Jesus washing the disciples feet. There Peter proudly protests that he won’t get his feet washed. Then Jesus explains that He must cleanse them. So Peter says, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9). See, Peter verbally went from one ditch to another. And this isn’t the only time he tripped over his tongue. In fact, he has the distinct privilege of needing to be interrupted by all 3 Persons of the Trinity to correct him in various verbal blunders (Father – Matt. 17:4-5; Son – Matt. 17:25; Holy Spirit – Acts 10:44).
Yet, when God needed a “human microphone” to speak to Cornelius about the gospel, He chose Peter. And notice how God arranged this:
- God speaks to Peter in a vision (Acts 10:9-16),
- then by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:19)
- while also speaking to Cornelius by an angel (Acts 10:30-33)
God had all sorts of ways to speak – a vision, by the Holy Spirit, through an angel, you get the picture. But when He wanted to say something really important, He told them to listen to Peter. Peter!? The one who blundered all the time. God’s ways are truly above ours!
The key, I believe, is that Peter (and others) knew he blundered. They wouldn’t get confused who was truly speaking. Peter was the one who denied Jesus to a 12-year old servant girl. But then the Spirit came upon him with a tongue of fire (Acts 2), and God got control of his tongue.
And here in Acts 10, the same thing. Peter begins to speak (as best he knew how), and then the Holy Spirit essentially said, “I’ll take it from here” (see Acts 10:44).
It reminds me of a story where the famous Bible teacher, Philip Mauro, was ministering the gospel to people in Italy. He had a translator ready to help him speak to them. And he started speaking a few rehearsed phrases, but then a miracle happened. God started giving him words–in Italian!–and he ended up never needing the translator. In other words, he was willing to bumble along with a few words, and God took it from there.
Now open to Psalm 8. I believe it all comes full circle here.
- verse 1a – God is so majestic
- verse 1b – God’s glory is in the heavens
- verse 3 – God made the moon and stars
- verse 5 – God made people in His image
- verses 6-8 – God made creatures for people to rule over
All is amazing to reflect on!
But in the middle of all that, we have this intriguing passage: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (8:2). Consider that! When God wanted to really show off his strength against his enemies, He looked over all His vast universe…and He found children and infants.
But…even further…look now at Matt. 21:16. There, Jesus quotes the same passage, but with a twist: “From the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise.” Notice what part of the body God is using in the infants and babes? “The lips”
So this God who makes everything so glorious–the sun, moon, stars, universe, people, animals–shows off his strength the most through mouths that aren’t even able to talk well at all. How about that?!
The truth is, that God wants to show off. And if you’re a good speaker, it can distract people from the Message and the ultimate Speaker. He just wants bumbling, fumbling speakers to offer his lips to Him in service. To say what you know to say. And if you are willing to do that, then revival will begin around you (see 1 Cor. 2:1-5 again).
And if you don’t even have the boldness to bumble through a few words spoken to others about Jesus, then you’re in good company… For that same Paul who was a mighty leader and wrote much of the New Testament, also said: “and also [pray] for me, that WORDS may be given to me in OPENING MY MOUTH BOLDLY to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” (Eph. 6:19).