Sacredness of Ministering
Jesus gave His precious blood to save every single soul on this planet. The prince of this world has thousands of snares to keep souls in his hands. There is a great need of really consecrated people who have experienced salvation, who are dressed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness, who know the enemy and his shrewdness and are alert and watchful at all times, who are not prejudiced and can understand the value of a soul because they know how precious they themselves are in the eyes of their Saviour.
Many souls are perishing daily without the knowledge of their Redeemer, many others are waiting for someone to approach them and bring them some word of comfort and hope, and many are calling and pleading to be visited and led to the truth.
Our responsibility and duty towards God and our fellowmen is proportionate to our personal experience with the God of love and mercy. It is not an office in the church or a manual with certain instructions on how to fulfill that office what triggers us to be of service and minister to others, but a call that comes from above, a flame that burns in our heart, an inner need to share the light that has dissipated the darkness that surrounded our own life and kept us in bondage.
A SOLEMN CALL
“God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thy standest is holy ground.” Exodus 3:4, 5.
There is a close relation between the divine call for service and the sacredness of the work. Actually, the work is sacred because there has been a divine call. Therefore, whoever has not heard the voice of the Lord calling him, cannot really understand the sacredness of his mission. He who has, will walk in the fear of the Lord and look for an even closer relation with His Master.
One of the examples that better illustrates the sacredness of the call to minister is the case of Moses. The moment one hears God’s voice and answers positively to His call, one enters into holy ground. Not even a grain of sand from the outside world may be brought to His holy presence. Moses approached the burning bush with awe.
MAN’S ANSWER TO THE CALL
What was Moses’ reaction once he heard his commission? “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11), he asked. Is God really interested in answering that question? No, He does not care who we are, He knows quite well we are just dust, but He knows what He can make out of us and through us if we become empty of self. As the answer to Moses’ question He just gives His servant a promise: “Certainly, I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12).
The Lord explains his mission in full detail but his servant has many objections: “they will not believe me” (Exodus 4:1); “I am not eloquent.” (Exodus 4:11) Do we also present excuses when the Lord calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him, to become His spokesmen, His priests, even the leaders of His people?
The Lord does not call us so that we work for Him, as we may believe and do, but to work in us and through us. He wants to sanctify the talents He gave us and use them for the construction of His kingdom. He remains the Leader, the Architect, the Shepherd, the King, the Head of the church and of His people.
MEN CHOOSING MEN
There is a wonderful allegory in the Bible that refers to the choice of someone to occupy a position of leadership. It is found in Judges 9: 8-15. The trees gathered to anoint a king and their first choice fell upon the olive tree that refused the honor because he did not want to lose his fatness – the wonderful fruit that produces the best oil, and besides he could not conceive the idea that he would have to rule over the other trees. The fig tree was the next one to be invited to take such an honorable position, but he refused alleging he did not want to lose his sweetness and be promoted over the other trees. Finally the vine was asked to be king but his answer was similar to the one of his friends; he was not ready to leave his wine that gave joy to God and man and to be promoted over the other trees. All of them, fruitful plants, with the most delicious fruits, all of them not willing to be put above their fellowmen and at the same time afraid of the trials that might spoil their good fruit. Finally, the trees turned to the bramble, a thorny bush, that not only accepted but asked them to put their trust in his shadow and threatened to devour with fire those who would not do so, even the cedars of Lebanon, the most prominent trees!
What was the criteria used by those who had the right and privilege to choose? They judged from the fruits. Why did all those fruitful plants refuse the privilege of the position offered them? They thought they had to rule over their brethren and they were afraid of not being fruitful any longer. Carrying a responsibility is a burden that no man can do alone, “Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5.
What is our attitude when chosen for a position of leadership? Do we feel unable as Moses did? Do we say, who am I to be promoted above my fellowmen? Are we afraid our good fruit will be spoilt and our production will diminish? Are we afraid of trials? Do we avoid responsibilities and contribute to the fact that a bramble has to be chosen due to the scarcity of brave men dependent on God and ready for sacrifice? Are we maybe like the bramble, thirsty for power and completely unaware of our shortcomings, offering people to abide under our shadow when we do not even have foliage?
One of the greatest gifts God has given man, besides the gift of life, is to be able to live that life freely by exercising his right of choice.
Our attitude may provoke the anger of the Lord, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses” (Exodus 4:14), but His love is mightier than all our fears and objections; and if He has chosen us from the womb of our mother, as He did with Jeremiah, He will fulfill His plan with us in spite of ourselves and our weaknesses (Sampson’s case). The Lord does not impose His ways on us; He gave us free will to exercise it in all circumstances, but He who can read the heart of man knows very well whether we want to serve Him or just to get some glory for ourselves. If we do want to serve Him with our whole heart, He will not allow our insecurity, due to our lack of faith, to get in the way. To look at self is no help, on the contrary, it is discouraging. Our motto should at all times be, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
GUIDED BY THE LORD
God instructs the leader of His people step by step. First, Moses is sent to deliver God’s people from bondage and then he is given the tables of the law. This sequence is very important when working with souls; first they have to be shown the way to freedom from the bondage of sin (Jesus Christ – the blood of the Lamb on the post of their doors) and only after can the law be presented to them as a fence, a protection, an assertion of their freedom in Christ.
Moses becomes an instrument of God; he is the Lord’s spokesman. What is the reaction of the people when they see that Moses is appointed by the Lord? “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All the Lord hath spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:7, 8) When people see that their leader is a man of God, they trust him and follow his instructions.
A holy call and a sacred mission go hand in hand. Did Moses ever forget that he was constantly in the presence of the Lord? “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27).
Here we are given two elements that are needed in the sacred work of dealing with souls: faith and endurance. Why faith? Because “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and also because without faith we shall not allow God to work miracles; we shall be an obstacle to His plans; we shall be doing things our own way.
Why is endurance important? Because “he who endures until the end will be saved.” Every person who consecrates his life to the Lord and enters into His service will have to face hard trials since the enemy of souls will make out of him the target of his poisonous darts. But the Lord allows these trials because they have a purpose in the formation of man’s character, “… the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:3, 4). Every one who enters this sacred work has to be an example in faith and endurance and walk as Moses did, like in the presence of the Lord at all times.
A CONSECRATED MINISTER
God always made a special distinction between His consecrated men and those who were not. His priests were not common men; they could not behave like ordinary men and they had to minister unto the Lord in an acceptable way. “But let none come into the house of the Lord, save the priests, and they that minister of the Levites; they shall go in, for they are holy; but all the people shall keep the watch of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 23:6).
Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, dared offer strange fire before the Lord and were devoured by the flames. (Leviticus 10:1). “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29).
In Psalm 2:11, we find how we should serve the Lord, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Why with fear? Because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and wisdom is better than rubies. (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 8:11).
The prophets were holy and wise men; people knew they were appointed by God and went to consult them. God’s priests have to be more knowledgeable than common people; they should know the Lord and be anointed with His Spirit, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2). They are messengers of God and people expect to hear the truth from their lips. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth.” (Malachi 2:7). The law of God is just, holy and good (Romans 7:12), an expression of God’s character. When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in His throne, he was in dismay and exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). It was necessary for a seraphim to clean his lips with a burning coal from the altar. How important the words of a man consecrated to God are!
The Psalms tell us to rejoice with trembling. The fear of the Lord never abandons His servant. Being aware that he is at all times in the presence of the Lord and conscious of the sacredness of his mission, he carries the souls entrusted to him on his chest, as precious stones, into the sanctuary. There is no room for idleness, laughter, jokes or light talking.
A sacred work can only be performed by sacred and fully consecrated people. The priests had to be always purifying themselves, “And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall” (Nehemiah 12:30). Before they entered the tabernacle they had to wash their hands and feet in the laver, they had to sacrifice a victim for their own sins because only the blood of Jesus could atone for their sins.
The work of a minister does not end when he steps off from the pulpit, on the contrary, what he preaches will be corroborated by his attitude and conduct. The eyes of the people are always fixed on him, attentive to his words and deeds. He has to testify with his life that he believes what he preaches. Usually, the test comes as soon as the minister finishes his sermon, the reason why he has to be always vigilant. A priest from whose lips the people receive the law, should have the law written in his heart, should have experienced the new birth; he should not be asking for a new heart in his prayers but rather praying in the Spirit.
The priests were the ones in charge of carrying the ark of the covenant, specifically the Levites, and more specifically the Kohathites. They carried the ark, the table of shewbread, the candlestick and the altars; in other words: the law, the word, the light, prayer and sacrifice. It was a very solemn duty!
There must be solemnity in all the conduct of a minister and that is only possible if he has had a close encounter with the Lord, if he has heard His voice calling him, if he is newly born, if he is aware of the sacredness of his mission. If that is the case:
a.) He is distrustful of self
b.) He knows the value of a soul
c.) He walks in the Spirit
d.) His speech is with authority (the one given by the Spirit)
In God’s eyes we are all ambassadors of His kingdom. We do not belong to this world; we are aliens down here; we are representatives of a country beyond the skies. An embassy is considered a piece of the territory it represents in a foreign country. Thus, the church of God and His people should be ruled by the principles of heaven and represent God’s heavenly kingdom on earth. We have a citizenship that is not of this world, “for our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20). Our language is foreign to the inhabitants of this planet whose voices have become as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 1:13). God’s children speak the language of love which many times has no words, only gestures that express kindness, tenderness, mercy, sympathy.
The citizens of heaven on earth have their own constitution, they are ruled by the divine moral law, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and they have a national holiday, which they keep, independent of the fact that they are in foreign territory, as all earthly embassies do. This day is the Sabbath day of which our Lord and King says, “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” (Ezekiel 20:12). All transactions in this kingdom, all exchanges are done in one currency, “ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Among those who are one in Christ there are no Greeks or Jews, they do not identify themselves with a nation, but nevertheless they have a flag, “his banner over me was love.” (Songs 2:4) and they also have a national anthem, that as most anthems depicts the trials and ordeals their Hero went through to finally set them free, “And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” (Revelation 15:3) All nations and even all regions in a country have a national costume and the citizens of heaven, God’s representatives on earth, do not fall short of it. “… he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10).
The priests were anointed with the purpose of being sanctified. “And Moses took the anointing oil… and he poured the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.” (Leviticus 8:10, 12). Every minister of the kingdom above, every ambassador of God on earth should be able to say together with our Lord Jesus Christ, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).
In Deuteronomy 10:8 are pointed three things the priests were exclusively to do, “to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister unto him and to bless in his name…” Was this only valid for that time, for the tribe of Levi? The verse answers this question, “unto this day.”
Apostle Paul, that man chosen by God to preach the gospel of salvation to the gentiles, was well aware he had been called and separated for a special solemn mission and in the introduction of many of his epistles he mentions this fact, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1); “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1); “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1)
It is of fundamental importance to have been called by God to the ministry, to have been separated, elected, and anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word “ierapostolos”
(ierapostolos) specifies that the mission is sacred, thus clearly establishing the kind of work involved in dealing with souls.
The young Samuel who had been consecrated to the Lord by his mother from his early years, slept by the ark of the covenant.
When the Lord called him personally, he arose and went to Eli, the high priest; he did not recognize the voice of his Lord calling him. Why? “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.” (1 Samuel 3:7). This can be the case of some people still today. How important it is to know the Lord before we even attempt to introduce Him to others, to have a revelation of His word and not just an intellectual knowledge of it. On the other hand, the sons of Eli, who also served in the sanctuary, “were sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12) (and did not care to know Him), therefore they blasphemed His name and defiled the temple.
Today, when the message of salvation has to reach “every nation, kindred and tongue and people” (Revelation 14:6), the Lord needs men who are fully consecrated and able to declare, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34).
May the Lord Himself choose, separate and anoint His servants with His Spirit so that His work may soon be finished and we may go home for life and eternity.