Over the past few weeks, I’ve been studying the book of Hosea. For those of you who haven’t read the book, the Lord uses Hosea (a prophet to the northern part of Palestine-Israel) and his relationship with his unfaithful spouse (Gomer) to portray the relationship between an unfaithful nation (Israel) and a faithful God.
In Chapter 4, verses 6-9, the Lord talks about the priests straying away from his teachings. The priests were the religious leaders of the people and were supposed to be the ones to keep the people accountable before God. They were the ones offering sacrifices on behalf of the people to pardon them from their sins. YET this is what the Scriptures say:
“My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten the laws of your God, I will forget to bless your children.
7 The more priests there are, the more they sin against me. They have exchanged the glory of God for the shame of idols. 8 When the people bring their sin offerings, the priests get fed. So the priests are glad when the people sin! 9 ‘And what the priests do, the people also do.’ So now I will punish both priests and people for their wicked deeds.”
From this passage, we can see that it didn’t matter how many religious leaders there were; they were still leading the Israelites astray. They were not fulfilling their duties of keeping the people accountable before God. They too were exchanging the glory of God for the temporary satisfaction of the idols of Baal and other pagan Gods.
So how does this translate in today’s time? If this was written around 715 B.C. then there’s no way that this can be applicable to today’s day and age, right?! WRONG! The beautiful part about Scripture is:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
As readers of God’s word, we must first look at the original intended message. If we jump straight into molding the message and meaning to our current day and age, then we begin to twist scripture and use it for our own personal gain.
Bridging the gap between leaders of that time and leaders of churches today, we see similar problems. Too often we hear of pastors and church elders having affairs, laundering money, or falling into other forms of idolatry. It may be nearly 3,000 years following the writing of this passage, but human kind, and leaders, are still prone to having idols, outside of God, in their lives. Leaders and pastors become complacent. They can let their guard down against the ever looming spiritual warfare. They put themselves in compromising situations. They become focused on the wrong things in church gatherings. Whatever the idol is, all leaders in the church face daily decisions on what they’re going to be about and how they are going to lead their congregation. Leaders must never think that they are too “good” to fall into sin. The moment that thought takes over is the moment a leader may find himself in a compromising situation. That could be the moment that you swore to yourself you would never partake in. Nobody is above the temptations of sin, but with Christ, we can be kept grounded as healthy leaders.
I want to encourage church leaders out there this morning. There are many things pulling at our hearts and temptations trying to grab our attention. As leaders, what does it look like for you to stay focused on the task at hand of shepherding a body of people? What does it look like for you to have boundaries in your life to healthily combat these idols that are screaming for our attention every single day? We live in a day and age where we see these things happening more and more frequently–unfortunately, it’s the result of a broken and sinful world. That is why we don’t need more leaders in the churches, we need more healthy leaders. Leaders that admit they are not perfect. Leaders that are willing to daily acknowledge they are in need of God’s grace just as much as anyone else. Leaders that are willing to humbly serve their congregations. Leaders that are willing to use Scripture to be proactive and speak out about things that are tearing our culture apart. Leaders that are willing to have tough conversations in order to steer people in the right direction.
The best and healthiest leaders are the ones who are constantly growing, constantly reading, constantly asking questions, and constantly serving others. As the church, how can we best lead people towards Christ instead of idolatry? It’s a huge responsibility, but the Lord has us in a place of leadership for a reason. We must use it for his glory and point others towards Him in the process.