“A giant striking with a straw cannot put forth his strength with it. So in blessing, no creature nor ordinance can convey all the goodness of God to us.” —Thomas Manton
The best preacher is no better than a straw, in and of himself. God shows his omnipotence by accomplishing anything with such poor tools as we are. Were he not Almighty the infirmities of his servants would cause him to fail in every design in which he employs them. As it is, the fact of our unfitness should greatly enhance our sense of his glory. This feebleness on the part of the fittest instrument makes it imperative that the Lord’s own Spirit should work in men’s hearts over and above his working through the means. New hearts cannot be created by mere human voices: these are more qualified to call beasts to their fodder than dead souls out of their spiritual graves. The Holy Ghost must himself breathe life and infuse strength into men; for his ministers are little better than the staff of Elijah, which was laid upon the dead child, but neither hearing nor answering resulted from it.
The figure of a giant using a straw as a cudgel is not, however, perfect unless we picture him as able to strengthen the straw, till he strikes with it as with a hammer and dashes rocks in pieces; for even thus the Lord doth by his feeble servants. Hath he not said,
“Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel?” (Isaiah 41:14-16)
O thou Almighty One, continue to display thine omnipotence by using me, even me, the least and feeblest of all thine instruments.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden (Passmore & Alabaster, 1883).