Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I did not enter pastoral ministry out of admiration for the preacher on “Little House on the Prairie.” He, like many pastor figures portrayed on television, was a rather daft, clumsy character who had his fat dragged from the fire many times by the lead character of the show, Pa, who, by the way, had really great hair. We have come to picture the pastor/priest figure as passive, clueless, and misguided.

But there is another picture in the Bible. Whether it be Aaron’s running with his censer, taking his stand between the dead and the living to check the plague (Num 17), or Phinehas’ zeal in turning away God’s wrath by piercing the fornicators with a spear (Num 25), priests could also serve as God’s warriors.

My own definition of the function (don’t confuse this with office) of priest is one who serves by facilitating the relationship between God and man. Christ, as our high priest, is the ultimate fulfilment of this role. He goes to bat for God, speaking and serving honestly and truly, without compromise. And he goes to the mat for man, actually becoming the sacrifice that he offers for man’s atonement. He represents God to men, and he represents men to God. He fiercely battles the stubbornness of men’s hearts against God, and he bravely absorbs the wrath of God poured out against men. This is pictured graphically in Scripture by the sword: one which is thrust to his heart, confirming his death (Jn 19:34), and one which proceeds from his mouth, expressing his life and authority (Rev 1:16).

We, as priests (1 Pet 2:5), would do well to “cowboy-up” (to miserably mix metaphors). Whether we like it or not, we have a role in introducing God to man, and man to God, through the Gospel, that word which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). We need to engage in this activity with ferocity and bravery, even as we seek to serve like Christ, sacrificially.

Suffering Prophet

Classical theology has long referred to Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. This provides a dependable and helpful outline to consider certain roles that Christ fulfilled. It occurred to me recently how strange these pictures are to us – or, how strangely we have come to construe these patterns. If we get these pictures wrong, we will have a faulty view of Christ. But we will also have a faulty view of our own discipleship, since we also are called to a fulfillment of these pictures, not in an ultimate sense, but functionally.

A Suffering Prophet
A prophet is a representative of some authority. He represents both in deed and in word. It would seem that a glorious authority would share his glory with his representative. In like manner, the scorn directed toward a despised despot would also be directed toward his prophet(s). We would have expected heaven’s representative to be highly revered. But because man is in rebellion against God, he actually responds with hostility against the Lord’s Christ, who is the perfect embodiment of the mind of God in both deed and in word, actually called “the Word” by John (1:1,14). We would expect God’s spokesman to have center stage, and to hold all people in rapturous attention. But we find Jesus on the edges of Galilean society, and only occasionally in the Judean Temple. He found little favor among the religious inner circle, though they claimed to know God’s word inside and out. But they proved that they did not when they rejected God’s living Word. Though charactized by surprising kindness and perceptive love, Jesus was hated. He was not what one would expect. He was the Suffering Prophet.

As you and I seek to accurately display the truth of the Gospel in deed and in word, we also should expect the same. People will not thank you when you kindly explain to them that they are sinners, and that they stand under God’s judgment nor when you make clear that they can not earn God’s favor, even though you are simply trying to relate the wonders of God’s grace. When you relate how you yourself have humbled yourself before God to receive the salvation that only he can give, they will often pity you and think you rather foolish. Aren’t we doing them a favor? That is not what we should expect.

Stay tuned for A Warrior Priest, and A Servant King.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Standing Aloof

“On the day that you stood aloof, … You too were as one of them. Obad. 11

Like me, what they did wasn’t all that bad. Though there were “strangers that carried off his wealth,” I didn’t do that. I didn’t steal. I took nothing that was not mine. And though there were “foreigners that entered his gate,” breaking and entering, that wasn’t me. I am not guilty of trespassing, of going where I do not belong. And though there were some who “cast lots for Jerusalem,” don’t lay that on me. I have no interest in them.

But the text is convicting. In standing aloof, “you too were as one of them.” It may not be so much what we do that convicts us. It may be what we don’t do.

One possible, positive response would be to stand up against that which is evil. That would certainly be in contrast to standing aloof. Be willing to protest. Speak up when you see a wrong. But let’s go a little further and examine this from a Gospel point of view.

With regard to wealth, the only real treasure is what God himself gives. The very best treasure is knowing God, a knowledge that God himself shares, and then sharing that knowledge of him. The greatest offense is not in carrying off wealth, but rather in hoarding it for ourselves. Though I do not take people’s money, I steal when I rob them of an opportunity to know God, when I stand aloof, and do not go to them with the Gospel.

With regard to trespassing, the definitions need to be reversed. I am not trespassing when I go visit my neighbor, just as he is not trespassing when he responds to an invitation to come over to my house. But I find myself guilty when I stay home alone, choosing my own isolation rather than interaction with needy neighbors, and when I prefer my own company to theirs. Trespassing is not the issue – but failing to make any kind of neighborly contact certainly is an issue.

Casting lots seems to be an effort to get what you can get. Take a chance. Maybe you will get lucky. But my responsibility is to sow seeds. I have not idea what will take root, what will spring up, or what will result in life that lasts forever. But I am a guilty soul when I fail to give what I can give, just as I would be guilty when I cast lots to get what I can get. And the first offense, having no interest at all, is at least as bad as the second.

I tend to look down on crooks. I think of myself as above them. And then this verse says, “you too (are) as one of them.”