This morning, at Panera Bread Company in Greenville, South Carolina, a group of men met together for coffee, bible study, conversation, encouragement, and prayer. The text we focused upon was the 5th chapter of Nehemiah. We were all reminded of the manly minister — the one who boldly proclaims God’s Word before his friends and charitably demands the proper response to God’s sacred will.
Here is a portion of the text we focused upon:
Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.
I took counsel with myself,
And I brought charges against the nobles and the officials … And I held a great assembly against them … They were silent and could not find a word to say. So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God … Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.”
Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.”
And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised.
I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.”
And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord.
And the people did as they had promised …
Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.
A word to Christian ministers
Pastors and elders, are we bold and manly?
Have we spent sufficient time in prayer and Bible study so that we know exactly that which God requires?
Have we also studied our people’s lives so we know how to best apply God’s Word to the particular life-situation of our parishoners?
Are we then, after faithful study and prayer, single-minded in our devotion to our Lord? After taking counsel from the Lord, have we “taken counsel with ourselves?” Regardless of peer-pressure and peer-approval, are we ready to indiscriminately present God’s decrees to commoners and nobility, to the not-so-wealthy and the very wealthy, to unordained laity and those in ordained leadership?
Are we filled with righteous indignation at the sin and abuse in our midst, and also fervent compassion for those walking in sin who need to repent?
Are we bold in calling our people to worship? Do we call people to respond with obedience?
Can we get to the end of every sermon and “shake out our garment,” “wipe the dust from our feet,” or “wash our hands” knowing we have laid it all out there in the name of Christ?
And can we pray at the end of our Lord’s Day, “Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people?”
Fellow ministers, let us be gracious. Let us be kind. It is true that we do not always have to be pounding the pulpit and pointing our finger at our friends. Yes, let us always be humbly mindful of the log in our own eye and our need of Christ’s all-sufficient grace. Let us be proclaimers of God’s Gospel. However, let us also proclaim God’s good Law, and in doing so, let us be kind, serious, bold, and manly.
A word to Christian parishioners
Congregants, is this the sort of man you desire, pray for, and support? Do you want someone who tickles your ears? Are you looking for someone who only strokes your ego? Can you handle it when God’s loving shepherd exposes your lawlessness and need for the Gospel? Consider, how are you going to respond when your minister refuses to preach in the manner you prefer? My friends, I hope you are not hankering for a hireling.
May God give you that which you need — a manly minister boldly proclaiming the whole counsel of God’s Word.
And may you praise the Lord when your minister man’s up.
And may you respond as did those under Nehemiah’s ministry, “And all the assembly said ‘Amen’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised. (Neh. 5:13)