“Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’”—Exodus 32:30 (NKJV)
Moses played a great many roles in his life—from an infant slave to an Egyptian prince; a deliverer of a nation to a mouthpiece for God. But in between all of those, he spent time as a shepherd, leading his father-in-law’s flock across the rugged Midian terrain. Not the easiest job, but he purposed to lead, feed, and guard his father-in-law's sheep. They were his charge, and his life was devoted to them.
He showed the same selfless dedication when he became the shepherd over a much larger flock—the sheep of his heavenly Father, the young nation of Israel. But sheep go astray. They balk, they bleat, and sometimes they bite. Often, they get themselves into impossibly stupid situations where only a loving shepherd can rescue them. Such was the heart of Moses in today’s Scripture passage. Whatever “atonement” Moses intended, he knew it would have to cover their “great sin.” He knew it would be monumental. He knew, quite possibly, it could require his life.
But that’s what shepherds do, right? They give their lives for their flocks. You might not see pastoral shepherds standing in the line of literal fire for their congregations, but they are in spiritual battles with huge burdens to bear. They . . .
The list goes on.
In between it all, they work on the Sunday message or catch up with their families. They do all of this out of love because “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV). And, just like Moses, they care for those who are hard to love (those grumblers and wayward sheep) and do good to those who don’t do good to them. They lend time and talent without expecting anything back (Luke 6:32–36).
The people Moses led were no worse than people now. But with greater light and understanding, let’s recognize the atonement of selfless dedication our pastors give. Each has his own battle and is a target for warfare of immeasurable cost.
As a church, we can start by esteeming pastors very highly in love for their work’s sake and pray for them (1 Thessalonians 5:13, 25). Value them as the leaders God has appointed and follow their leadership, for they watch out for your souls (Hebrews 13:17). Become involved in the church and lighten the load, express appreciation (don’t forget the pastor’s family), honor their privacy, be gracious of their time . . . simply do what Jesus would do and love them. May the pastoral care we receive be given back in kind.
Pause: Consider the responsibilities you have in your own home and with your own family. Now, multiply that by 100! The physical and emotional responsibilities of ministry can be taxing.
Practice: Get together with a group in church and come up with tangible ways of loving and supporting your church leadership.
Pray: Lord Jesus, I ask that You place my church leadership on my heart each day and show me ways I can help to encourage, love, and support them in their ministry. Lord, for the sacrifices they make, I ask for blessings upon them. Please protect and provide for them and give them margin and balance. Thank You, Lord God. Amen.