At the End of Your Rope

My Dear Shepherds

Some congregations are tough—really tough. But no shepherd ever had a worse flock than Pastor Moses. God himself threatened to give up on them!

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Num. 14:11)

Moses tried to do what we shepherds still do. He literally carried God’s engraved word to them but despite their hand-on-the-heart promises they broke it to smithereens. He led them to worship where the ground itself trembled with the presence of God yet before the week was out they carped under God’s testing. On one hand, Moses faced down Pharaoh and his sorcerers for Israel and on the other, he entered into the glory of God where they feared to tread, yet when he tried to lead the nation into God’s promises they threatened to kill him! Moses’ dearest dream of the Promised Land shattered when his frustration with them finally got the best of him. And he was the humblest man on earth!

Of all the things Pastor Moses did for the Israelites nothing mattered so much as his prayers for them. Actually, the word prayer seems too tame for what Moses did. He faced into the fierce fire of God’s anger over their sin and pleaded with Yahweh for their lives, even offering his own life in their place. When the golden calf debacle inflamed the Lord the text says,

But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. … “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out? … Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel to whom you swore by your own self …’” (Ex. 32:11-13)

I’ve said before that probably every pastor could have a discrete little plaque quoting Moses: “What am I to do with these people?”

Here’s what to do: pray for them.

Most of us have never served people whose destiny hung in the balance like Israel’s did yet surely all our churches have run cold; or worse, lukewarm. Had we prayed with faith and fervency we might have lifted the whole spiritual life of our church the way a tide lifts a ship.

As one example, during the pandemic pastors despaired to see sins surface among their people that lay undetected, like Achan’s forbidden stash uncovered from beneath his carpets. At the beginning, I think some pastors feared their people would abandon their faith under that pressure but as it turned out, the greater threat was brazen lovelessness.

Of all the things shepherds can do about that or other entrenched sins, nothing would accomplish more than concerted, determined, persistent prayer. Pray together. Sculpt your prayers from the promises and expectations of Scripture. Pray as if your congregation’s lives depend on it. Could there be any prayer for your people that God would be more eager to answer?

If only we had a pray-er like Moses among us! Ah, but of course we have One who is far better, the Lord Jesus who by his Spirit intercedes for us and our people, who has given his own life for his sheep, and whose own undeniable prayer was “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” So join him in prayer.

Be ye glad!

Pastor Lee

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