“Like priests, like people—since the priests are wicked, the people are wicked,too. So now I will punish both priests and people for all their wicked deeds. They are asking a piece of wood to tell them what to do! They think a stick can tell them the future! Longing after idols has made them foolish. Hosea 4: 9, 12a New Living Translation (see Hosea 4:8-14)
One of the most dangerous occurrences in the Christian community is the worship of pastors. Over the years we have seen and heard stories of pastors violating the positions of trust inherent in their place of authority. Before we begin to condemn those who have followed the Call they believed was given to them by God, let’s remember there are also those in the word of God, called by God, who fell when they lost sight of the calling. Whether the stories are those we read in the bible or in the news, it happens when they confuse their calling to minister with a mandate to rule, in essence to become king, when they fail to remember who is the true King.
Jesus put it very nicely through Paul in the New Testament writings, Jesus is the Head of the body, the church and disciples. The pastor, the under-shepherd, fills the role as Servant Manager, never as the Head. As the under-shepherd the pastor fills the unique role of both shepherd and as sheep. We are given excellent advice regarding the responsibility expected of one called into the pastorate. Those whom God has called to be His hands and feet on this planet are held to a higher accountability than anyone else!
Paul writes this warning to inform those who want to be in the position of pastor thinking it is, shall I say, glamorous? Some think that as the pastor “I will be respected, there will be unlimited authority, I will be in control (this is the most dangerous), the people will adore me because God has sent me to them.” God may have called you to pastoral ministry, but that rarely means you will be adored. Anyone spending any time in a church recognizes the truth in these few items of information!
There is another challenge facing pastors. There are many expectations based in fantasy; consider the jobs, the mighty work a pastor is told he will accomplish. At the same time it is often taken for granted he will know without being told all the big and little things for which he is responsible. The lists are usually with very little foundation in reality. Is it any wonder a pastor finds himself either basking in the sun of adoration or slinking in the darkness of shame?
God’s message to Israel is pointedly directed at the priests, the spiritual advisors, leaders, pastors. In the prelude to the book of Hosea, the following explanation has been suggested. “The Levites, (from the Tribe of Levi) served God in the temple. God made provision for the Levites to be cared for by the other tribes through the sin offerings. Therefore if there was more sin there was more and better food on the tables of the priests. The natural response was the priests lead the people in sinning, resulting in a domino effect and providing better offerings, thus priests were able to eat better.”
“… they have deserted the Lord to worship other gods.” Hosea 4:10c
Where do you go for wisdom? When you are faced with an extremely difficult decision who will you seek out? Or do you believe you have enough wisdom in yourself to deal with any issue or circumstance that you will encounter? I have not been very adept at asking for help in most situations, yet in the last several years I have discovered the miracle of wisdom found in the counsel of mentors. I have learned to seek out those who have vastly more knowledge, experience, and wisdom than mine. I have finally accepted there is an amazing amount of treasure in the wisdom of those who have been down these roads before me.
It has become so easy to be caught up in the latest new discovery, the next amazing discovery that will solve everything! Only it won’t, it doesn’t, and we are either right where we started, or more commonly worse off. There is an answer, but most of us don’t like the answer. We don’t like the answer because it means you and I are not the final word. The answer is I have to surrender, to submit, and let go of my fantasy world. I have to give up thinking I’m in control and admit I need Jesus the Messiah, because I have messed life up like you wouldn’t believe! We have to permit God access to every point in our lives and accept the changes He must make in order to save us from ourselves.
“Longing after idols has made them foolish.” Hosea 4:12b
Today we still have our idols. We still find ourselves treasuring possessions, relationships, position, money, opinions of others, etc., much more than we treasure God. We worry about what lies ahead and try our best to forecast the future. Some see the stock market as the answer to everything. They stand and watch seeking answers; too often they are victims of trying to predict a winning outcome for themselves. Only God knows what the future is going to look like, and He is where we must put our trust, hope, and expectations! God’s words regarding the foolishness of idols speak to us today in ringing tones.
Just as God has placed others here for us, He has placed us to be here where He wants to minister through us. We have a responsibility to each other as disciples of Jesus, not to condemn, but to help and to offer our love and support. Everyone has something messing with their life, their walk with God. Perhaps the one we expected to be the helper, the one who has been called to protect, will need help instead. Maybe you are the one who was called to be the protector, but then things went completely out of control!
In either circumstance, someone may have been pulled into a desert of pain, fear, shame, and loneliness, not knowing whom to trust. We have been given a very definite ministry. Every disciple and follower, anyone claiming the title Christian, is to seek to love as Jesus loved. This cannot be accomplished without the Holy Spirit’s intervention. Hosea could not keep retrieving Gomer without the Comforter’s intervention! There is no possible way we can love those whom we have been commanded to love without Him!
We are no different from ancient Israel, those to whom God had sent Hosea to minister. We also are tripped up by our idols, our self-worship, our lust, and self-gratification, but we don’t have to stay there! Even as we experience the words and the actions of a man committed to God and to his wife, we are being changed, transformed, recreated to become all God has always wanted for us.
Grace is such an amazing gift from God. It brings accountability, responsibility, as well as acceptance for our actions, attitudes, our words, and thoughts. Over the years grace has been confused with a get out of jail free card! It is not anything of that nature. It is the gift of Jesus giving to us all that He deserves and taking on Himself all that we deserve. Is someone getting away with something? Maybe it seems so on some level, but that is far from the truth. Remember what a high price was paid so we could be covered by God’s Grace!
“But what about the servant who does not know what his master wants? He also does things that deserve punishment. But he will get less punishment than the servant who knew what he should do. Whoever has been given much will be responsible for much. Much more will be expected from the one who has been given more.” Luke 12:48 Easy-to-Read Version
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