Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where [is] their God?
What is the charge placed by God before Clergy? How serious is God to holding those with the Sacred Honor of tending to the Father’s Flock accountable? What is the role of the Church in civil discourse and what is the responsibility of its leadership to its members? Shepard’s are to tend to their Flock but does this mean only to certain segments of a Sheep’s life? How does one define “Feed my Sheep”? The first keeper of sheep in the Bible was Adam’s son Abel ( ). Shepherding was the chief occupation of the Israelite’s in the early days of the patriarchs: Abraham ( ); Rachel ( ); Jacob ( ); Moses (Exodus ). As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings, and slaves (compare David in ). Farmers such as in Egypt even hated shepherds ( ).
The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. However, the Hebrew word for shepherding is often translated, “feeding.” Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water ( ) and protected them from wild animals ( ). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open ( ) or in sheepfolds ( ) where they counted the sheep as they entered ( ). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms ( ). Shepherd came to designate not only persons who herded sheep but also kings ( ) and God Himself (; ). Later prophets referred to Israel’s leaders as shepherds (; ).
In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food ( ), milk to drink ( ), wool for clothing ( ), hides for rough clothing ( ), and leather for tents ( ). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system ( ). They were offered as burnt offerings ( ), sin offerings ( ), guilt offerings () and peace offerings ( ). The New Testament mentions shepherds 16 times. They were among the first to visit Jesus at His birth ( ). Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ’s relationship to His followers who referred to Him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” ( ). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them ( ). Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep ( ). Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds ( ). The Latin word transliterated “pastor” means shepherd. – (Elmer Gray)
In the Book of Titus we find this: For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. And we find that those in positions of leadership in the church are cautioned: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. So then we do find criterion set forth by scripture ascribing to those known as clergy to be under a set of guidelines and accountable to God. Do all persons in the avocation of Shepherding provide the kind of spiritual oversight thus far outlined? Of course not, but the charge to them from On High does.
The question of how inclusive this responsibility of watching over the flock is, becomes another question. What portion of the laity’s life are exclusive to a Shepard’s role of oversight? Certainly, some things remain private and not under the purveyance of Clergy but what of civil matters and the law? In 2 Timothy we find that No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. But we find submission to civil rulers is not the totality of the biblical teaching on the state. It is always dangerous to take a single text and make it the whole biblical teaching on a subject. It is rare that the Scripture speaks only once on any major matter. It is thus the task of the interpreter to collect and harmonize everything that the Bible has to say on civil government. When one follows this process, it is clear that Christians are not automatically to give absolute, unconditional, and unthinking obedience to their government. From direct statements in Scripture and biblical examples, it is clear that it is sometimes necessary to disobey civil rulers. Norman L. Geisler has compiled a list of these exceptional circumstances: When the government prohibits the worship of God. – Is this happening?
- When it requires the taking of innocent life. – Is this happening?
- When it demands killing of God’s servants. – Is this happening?
- When it requires the worship of idols. – Is it coming to this? (Sports figures, Celebrities, etc)
- When it commands prayer to a man. – Is prayer to God in civil meetings now restricted?
- When it prohibits the propagation of the gospel. – Are there now restrictions on where the gospel may be preached?
- When it demands the worship of a man as God. – Perhaps not yet.
There are also indications throughout the Romans’ text that obedience, while universally required, is not absolute or unlimited. The government has delegated authority which comes from God. It is not to usurp the place of God. The believer has an obligation to the state, but is also under a higher obligation to God (cf. ). This text makes it clear that the duty of the ruler is to punish evil and reward good. When the state prohibits good and demands evil, it is no longer performing its God-ordained task. Christians are told to obey for conscience’s sake. When the state demands what conscience it will not condone, by biblical standards, then Christians must disobey. Balance is needed. We should not empty the meaning of with a thousand qualifications. So I ask, is there something to be done here Pastors?
There are hundreds of outstanding members of the Clergy in America who are sincerely doing their best to fulfill their obligation to their congregations and their communities but we also have the glorious mega churches with certain personnel who comply with the advocates of religion becoming a part of the state. They even misinterpret the Constitution by using reverse order of the separation intent of the Founders. A problem as I see as a lay person, is that the Body of Christ is not afforded opportunity of knowing of these outstanding men and women of God who are truly exemplary in their commitment to God and their responsibility. I believe there needs to be a platform for these Servants to bring their wisdom to the Seeker in some form of a coordinated “Information and Referral” system that crosses over denominational turfs without regard to the fleshly issues of Notoriety. I believe the Church needs to step forward and be counted as a viable interface with society beyond some nice edifice positioned on the corner of Maple and Main or some re-purposed athletic dome. Click on below for a case in point. Where are you Pastor’s?