Friday, December 5, 2014

The Temptation in Pastoral Ministry

"Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king.  Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably."  1 Kings 22:13
These are the words that the messenger spoke to Micaiah, the prophet of the LORD, as he fetched him to appear before the king.  All the other prophets were saying the same thing 'Go up oh king, and the Lord will give you success.'  In this account, king Ahab was seeking counsel on whether or not he should go up and fight against the king of Aram. Four hundred 'prophets' were giving him identical counsel, and even invoking the name of the Lord in doing so.  When this messenger came to fetch Micaiah, he told him which way the wind was blowing: "Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king.  Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably."   As the story continues, Micaiah refuses to be blown about by the wind of the so-called prophets and he tells the king that certain judgment is coming if he goes to battle.  The king doesn't listen, and his blood is washed out of the bottom of his chariot near the pool of Samaria the next day.  

This story is recapitulated over and again down to this very day (although admittedly the details are different).  There is a wave of 'prophets' claiming that the Lord is speaking to them, and telling us to take some action, to try some new scheme, to test out some new method.   Whether it be the 'prophets' of the papacy in the 16th century, or the 'prophets' of the social gospel in our times.  The pressure is always on the 'prophet' behind the pulpit to tow the line.  'Come on, this is what all these other 'godly' men are doing, let your words be like their words.'  Now don't get me wrong, there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors-Proverbs 15:22. God has not left his church with out a witness. There is a remnant of Godly men whose voices very often are in agreement.  However in this account of Micaiah, there were four hundred men who spoke in the name of the LORD, and all of them were deceived.   All of them were more motivated to speak what the king wanted to hear rather than what the KING wanted them to say. This is always the temptation in pastoral ministry.  We can crown our congregants and begin to speak in ways that we know will please them, as opposed to speaking in a way that we know will please HIM.  Paul tells us there there is a whole group of prophets who do this very thing.   "...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3  Mark this beloved: these teachers will deceive in the name of the Lord.  Joel Osteen speaks in the name of the Lord.  Social gospel proponents speak in the name of the Lord.  Prosperity gospel preachers speak in the name of the Lord.  Legalists speak in the name of the Lord.  Liberals speak in the name of the Lord.  

What is the antidote for this mass confusion?  How do we know whether or not we are listening to Micaiah or to one of the four hundred?  The answer is so simple that we can despise it: the Scripture.  We must become people who not only own a Bible, but actually read it, meditate on it, pray through it, be convicted by it, and be transformed because of it.  We have the greatest weapon against those four hundred false prophets, and it can never be defeated.  The question is, do we use it?  It's so frustrating to watch those super hero movies where the hero chooses not to use His super power at some decisive moment and as a result the enemy gains a foothold.  We see that and scoff at the lack of wisdom the hero displayed, realizing that more evil was perpetuated because of it.  How much more so is this true in reality?  We have the greatest weapon against the kingdom of darkness in the Scriptures.  He knows this, and so he sends his messengers against us to speak in the name of the Lord.  How do we combat this?  By testing what they say against what God says--2 Thes. 5:21.  Even the Holy Spirit tells us to test Him, because not all spirits are from God--1 John 4:1  We must become people who know and love and treasure God's Word.  We must become people like Charles Spurgeon who if you pricked him anywhere, he would bleed bibline.  His very soul was intoxicated with God's Word, and as a result He stood against the four hundred prophets of his day who were all speaking what the 'king' wanted to hear.  Can anyone recall the names of those false prophets?  No. These are the men that history forgets-Ecc. 9:5.  Just like the false prophets of Micaiah's day.  Just like the false prophets of our day.  They may strut around with all their pomp and their following, but they will go to the grave and not be remembered.  

So here is the challenge for all of us:  Will we listen to the the messenger sent to Micaiah? Will we be blown about by the wind of the majority?  Will have itchy ears and scratchy pulpits?  Or will we listen to the messenger sent from His Word, and say "thus says the Lord" no matter what it costs us? 

1 comment:

  1. Amen brother. It is sad that in this country we have so many bibles and so few people who read and live by them.