Exodus 32:30-32 – “On the next day Moses said to the people, ” You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin — and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” NASU
A true shepherd is willing to give his life for the sheep and in many ways, that is exactly what pastors do. The Bible speaks of good leaders and bad and good shepherds and bad, so I am not suggesting that simply because a person carries the title or position of Pastor they are saints. Sadly, some are self-serving and why they entered the ministry is a mystery but the sheep’s welfare is not a primary focus of their hearts or lives. Some are lazy and do not fight the good fight of faith in the trenches of their prayer closets as well as in the community in which they serve. But, some are faithful servants who spend virtually every waking moment thinking of and praying for the sheep they have been charged with giving spiritual oversight.
Moses demonstrated the heart of a Pastor on many occasions and this is one of the most prolific, in my view. He did not sugarcoat the sin of the people and challenged them to acknowledge their error and repent. He, like the Shepherds described in the Bible, set himself at the door of the sheepfold and as he stood before God he spoke with a genuine heart of concern for both the sheep and God. I do not believe this was an attempt of Moses to manipulate God. That would have been futile and the response of God would have been much different with Israel being smashed like bugs and Moses along with them. God extended mercy, not because Moses manipulated Him but because He responds to a heart that is broken and contrite that comes in genuine humility and repentance before Him.
A true pastor knows that God judges sin and that there are penalties for sin and forgiveness does not always negate the reaping of what has been sown. It restores fellowship but the chastisement of God, though painful for a season, is redemptive in the view of eternity. Like a parent, a pastor understands that he cannot protect his flock from the ills of seeds sown in sin, but he can intercede for them that they receive forgiveness and mercy. The Bible says that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends and that is what Moses comes before God to do. He is offering himself, taking ownership for the condition of the people. No, he did not commit their sin, but he recognized that as their leader and human spiritual head he is accountable for them. How many of us who have served as shepherds of God’s sheep have interceded before God to that degree? Not to be judgmental or condemnatory, I would say few, if any. Most would say, “Well, I can’t control them and I tried to teach them the right way but they chose to go into sin.” That may well be true on all counts and it is equally true that the fathers do not die for the sin of the sons nor the sons for the sin of the fathers. However, Hebrews 13:17 offers some insight as to the responsibility of the sheep and the shepherd, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Let that soak in and digest it for a while. It just might change your attitude toward the pastor and the attitude of the pastor toward the sheep.
A pastor, who loves the sheep sacrifices without complaint because it is more than a job or vocation it is a calling and a life. Sadly, some pastor’s focus so much on the flock they forget their responsibilities to their own families. If I win the church and lose my family have I fulfilled my call and purpose in God? If I devote hours on end to the congregation and give scraps to my family am I truly serving well? That is why I believe that the pastoral ministry must be more than an individualized ministry it must be a Team and a Family affair. Moses was wearing himself out by trying to be all things to all people all the time. He was the classic pastor wearing all kinds of hats. His father in law saw the problem and gave him wise counsel and that counsel helped Moses understand and develop a Pastor’s heart to a greater measure than before. He was fully responsible and/or accountable for the flock and yet he understood that they were individuals with minds of their own. He also understood the Ways of God not just the Acts of God. He had learned the Heart of God and although it is said of David not Moses that he was a man after God’s own heart, I am quite sure God viewed Moses in that light as well.
It was out of his great love that Moses stood before God and said, “If you will forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written.” Moses did not desire to be blotted out but he honestly expressed to God that he could not bear life if those he was charged to care for were rejected. He also was acknowledging his accountability for them. He loved his people that much and he respected and feared God to the point that he truly believed that God would respond to honesty, humility, and repentance. A Pastor demonstrates that spirit he does not just proclaim it.
God, bless you as you walk this walk in Jesus!