The Troubled Preacher and the Troublesome Elder
by Joseph Franks
Perhaps there will be some elders who read this blog and do not appreciate it. This should not be surprising, for there have always been officers in the church who do not look kindly upon the message that which comes from the heart of their preachers. Below is one such example:
Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. For thus says the Lord: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. (Jeremiah 20:1-4)
Jeremiah was eternally elect of God, specially called of God, educated by God, to proclaim the Word of God, to the people of God. His duty was not to invent a message, but to pass along the inspired truths given him by Israel’s Wonderful Counselor. Jeremiah’s messages were to include good news, for God was always eager to forgive, instruct, and grace the humble. However, his messages were also to included horrible news, for God often had tough words to say to his errant church. However, regardless of Jeremiah’s pleasure and his congregations preferences, Jeremiah was charged to deliver an unaltered message. He was God’s ambassador. He was God’s postman. He was God’s mouthpiece. He was God’s preacher.
However, Jeremiah was not the only ordained man serving in the house of the Lord. In addition to him as a prophet, around him were Levites, priests, scribes, elders, and other specially called men. And in this particular episode, there was Pashhur. He was the son of a notable priest. He had become a priest. He was the CEO, the chief priest, the chief officer in the Temple, and he did not appreciate the sermons of Jeremiah. In his own opinion, Jeremiah’s preaching was not up to par. His messages were not enjoyable. They were not uplifting. They didn’t promise enough success, and people were not walking out with big smiles on their faces. It could be that giving and attendance had even begun to slide, and adjusting the budget was unthinkable. Therefore, something had to be done before the church fell apart. Someone had to put Israel’s troublesome preacher back in his place.
That is exactly what happened. CEO Pashhur used his position, power, and influence to have Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and incarcerated in the painful stocks for a night. [This was only one example of Jeremiah’s misery.] Pashhur was certain this “encouragement” from church officers would result in Jeremiah’s being more moldable in future days.
But it did not, for Jeremiah was God’s man. He worked for God and not Pashhur. Therefore, in the morning, when Jeremiah received additional revelation, he delivered it without apology. He looked at CEO Pashhur, and with God’s authority and language he called him out. In God’s eyes, Pashhur was a priest who was a terror. In God’s eyes, all that he did in ministry was causing trouble for his friends, his church, and his God. And in God’s eyes, painful discipline was about to fall on Pashhur and the church which he led.
So, what do we do with this passage of Scripture? Here are two thoughts:
First, deacons, elders, and chief officers, why would you continue to harm the man who brings you the message of God? Why would you use your position, power, and influence to discourage the one elected by the Lord and selected by you? Who are you to beat him down because you do not approve of his message or manner of delivery? Oh fellow officers in the church, how much longer will you trouble your preacher, your friends, and yourself?
- Your preacher did not call himself; he was called by God, your congregation, and you.
- Your preacher has not invented his message; he has received it in God’s infallible Word, and he has carefully studied it through the week hoping to interpreted it properly.
- Your preacher has not been slothful; he has studied, prayed, highlighted, organized and written his material in a way he deemed best — and all of this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Your preacher despises you not. He has been moved with compassion for you, his flock, and he has sought the Lord’s face on how to best apply God’s universal message to his particular family.
- Your preacher has not communicated his sermon on his own. He has prayed. You have prayed with him before the service. You have prayed with him in the prayer of illumination before the message. Hopefully, you have prayed with him as he spoke, and the Holy Spirit is surely the one who has providentially governed his tone, vocabulary, omissions, and additions.
No, he is not inerrant and infallible, and no one knows it better than him. No, he is not always “on the top of his game.” He is not always able to deliver a “fantastic message. No, he is not like ________________________________. (Fill in the blank) However, he is God’s man, called into God’s service, called to God’s office, called to God’s Word, gifted with a special gift, and governed by the Holy Spirit. Church CEO, quit persecuting your minister and start praying. Quit harassing him and be more encouraging. Pashhur like friend, why would you continue to trouble God, God’s man, God’s people, and yourself?
Lastly, ministers of the Gospel, be sad, but be not surprised, and be not silenced. Sarah laughed at Abraham’s message. Joseph’s brothers were infuriated with the divine revelation he passed along. Moses’ elders disbelieved his initial sermon, and Joshua and Caleb admonitions were discarded. Elijah was forced to run for his life. Here we see Jeremiah, because he faithfully delivered God’s Word, was forced to languish and lament. In the New Testament, John the Baptist was forced to go to the desert to find humble people willing to hear. Jesus himself – the greatest preacher who ever lived – was debated, disbelieved, mocked, and silenced. Preacher of the Gospel, we could go on and on throughout the New Testament and church history. It is sad. This should not be the case, but it is true: people often trouble, marginalize, excommunicate, and execute the minister telling them the truth. Therefore again brothers, be sad, but be not surprised, and be not silenced. This is our calling. This is our race. This is our lot in life. Enjoy the sweet days. Lament in the sorrowful ones. But never, ever turn back from delivering God’s Word. Be manly like Stephen; preach truth though stones fall on your head. Be manly like Paul; preach truth though those in the Coliseum are calling your name. Be manly like Luther; preach grace though the entire ecclesiastical world stands against you. Preacher, be a manly minister! Let’s stay the course! Go ahead and have a good cry; I know it hurts. Now, get up and stay the course. Your troublesome elders may not appreciate you, but your Heavenly Father says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”