John Piper on George Herbert

John Piper on George Herbert February 5, 2013

Surgeons can do their works without words. Pastors can’t. But the great aims of our work are not decisively brought about by our word but by God.

But the way we use words matters. The content clarity and spirit in which we use words are critical.

George Herbert emphasised the poetic nature of much of God’s communication in the Bible.

Paul planted. Apollos watered. God gave the growth. The way you plant and water makes a difference.

Herbert chose preaching in a small church rather than an orator. He wrote poems. Three weeks before he died he arranged for his personal poems on his spiritual struggles to be published. Considered one of the greatest religious poets of all time. His poems had the sovereignty of God under them as a solid rock to stand on.

Out of the chaos of experience and the chaos of language he would construct a structure that conveyed the message for the glory of God. It was not technique for techniques sake. All his poems are about God and for God because his life was for God.

He believed God rules all things so all things speak of God. We are the “secretaries of God” whether we write or preach.

He believed that creating his poems brought him to God. Seeking and savouring God was connected directly to the agonising effort of writing well.

He kept his poems hidden till his death but he knew they might do good to others one day and “rhyme them to good.”

As you read these poems you realise “you must change your life.”

We too must make a poetic effort to see and savour the glories of God as he did. Not that we must write poems. Most of us shouldn’t! But we should all spend time in “poetic effort” as a means of meditating on glories of Christ. What do we do?

1. Pray. Plead with him to give our hearts eyes to see.

2. Effort to say freshly is a way of seeing freshly. The effort to say beautifully is a way of seeing beautifully. The effort to say strikingly is a way of saying strikingly. Spontaneity is mostly to be stuck in a rut. Forethought brings wonders to your mind. But if you work really hard to prepare spontaneity may also come and be alive!

3. This effort is for all of us but doesn’t need to lead to poetry. If I give an hour to say something special I feel something special. The effort to say jt surprisingly may open your eyes. There may be other ways like suffering which can also be a window onto glory. God show me the wonder.

Read the full manuscript of this talk, it is one that meditation will increase the impact of.

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