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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 221: Tent Pitchers, Shepherds and Runners

Today's Reading: Jeremiah 10-13

The poetic form of Jeremiah is unsurpassed in Scripture. Here we find not only prophecy and warning, but symbolism and artistic use of language.

As a pastor, I was particularly struck by the imagery used when talking about the leadership of the spiritual community.

In Jeremiah 10:20, we read these words:
My tent is destroyed;
all its ropes are snapped.
My sons are gone from me and are no more;
no one is left now to pitch my tent
or to set up my shelter.

This is a direct reference to the keepers of the tabernacle, the temple, the house of meeting, God's symbol of God's presence with the people, the place of worship. The priests, referred to here in this passage as "my sons" were the tenders and keepers of the tent, the ones responsible for "pitching the tent," in other words, erecting the call to worship; making sure there was always, at the center of the community, the symbolic presence of God.

As we studied the tabernacle in the Torah, we remember its presence in the center of the encampment, surrounded by the dwelling tents of the 12 tribes. It was pitched first and foremost. It led the way in the wilderness journey. It was the epitome of the sacred and the center of the nation of Israel.

When God's sons (and daughters) who are responsible for the spiritual faithfulness of God's people dessert God and the pitching of the tent, the call to true and holy worship, destruction on every level follows.

The next image is also poignant:
The shepherds are senseless
and do not inquire of the LORD;
so they do not prosper
and all their flock is scattered.
Jeremiah 10:21

The priests and prophets, known as the LORD's shepherds of the people, forget their loyalty to God, their need to "inquire of the LORD," and go off doing "what is right in their own eyes," the people of God fail and are scattered.

Self reliance in ministry is disasterous. Pastors, elders and deacons who believe themselves to be the "lead shepherd" instead of the "servants to The Shepherd," will do the flock no good, only harm.

Later, in Jeremiah 12:5, we hear this warning:
"If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?"

The spiritual leaders of God's people need skill and tenacity, they need to be disciplined and exercised in the ways of the LORD, for they will not just be walking along gentle pastures. Leadership demands competance above and beyond the norm. God's challenge to God's leaders is to be able to run like swift horses and be able to traverse difficult terrain.

These are important passages to ponder for all who are called into leadership.

May God give us the grace to grow into God's plan for us.

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