O Pastor, Where Art Thou?

Title: O Pastor, Where Art Thou?
Category: Pastoral Issues
Subject: Pastor
O Pastor, Where Art Thou?
Jeremiah 50:6
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey

Dr. Steve Andrews shares in Surge Beyond Setbacks: Survival Strategies for Life’s Struggles, “A stressed-out pastor took a drive in the country seeking some peace and quiet. When he came to a sheep farm, he was reminded of the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. The farmer saw the pastor standing at the fence; and the two talked a while. Then, the pastor said, ‘I know that this is an unusual request, but if I can guess how many sheep you have in your herd, would you give me one to take home?’ The farmer agreed. ‘It looks like you have 238 sheep,’ said the pastor with amazing accuracy. After the pastor chose his sheep, the farmer asked if he guessed the pastor’s vocation could he have the sheep back. Although the two had not discussed the subject, the farmer said, ‘You must be a Baptist preacher. Impressed by the farmers’ insight, the pastor asked the farmer how he knew what vocation to guess. The wise farmer said, ‘Well, put down my dog, and we will have to talk about it.’”1

Dr. Charles E. Jefferson (1860-1937), pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle in New York City, shares the following in his lecture series in 1912, "Early in Hebrew history, the word shepherd had become a metaphor. The keeper of sheep was so prominent a character in those early days that he became a type of the highest servant of Jehovah, a symbol for the expression of lofty ideals of service. Fragrant memories gathered round the word, and men associated with it rare and precious meanings. A priest was called a shepherd, and so also was a prophet, and so also later on was a prince or king. Every man in an exalted place, entrusted with public responsibilities, was crowned with the title 'shepherd'. So beautiful was the figure and so rich its content, that by and by somebody applied it even to God. Kings and princes, priests and prophets here on earth were under-shepherds, and in the heavens there was a shepherd over all -- Jehovah. A poetic genius taught all his countrymen to sing: 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want'. When the nation fell into difficulties and calamities overtook it, the saints cried out: 'Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock'. Before men dared to think of God as their Father, they called him their Shepherd. Divine shepherdhood was one of the steps in the shining stairway up which the world climbed to the idea of divine fatherhood."2

Pastors and shepherds serve a similar function. God refers to people as sheep in passages throughout the Bible like Isaiah chapter 53:6, where we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray; / We have turned, every one, to his own way; / And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Pastors are actually “undershepherds” of the Lord, the Great Shepherd (Psalm 22), the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23) and the Glorious Shepherd (Psalm 24). We have inspired letters called “Pastoral Epistles” written by the Apostle Paul to pastors named Timothy and Titus. Spiritually, we must ask, “O Pastor, Where Art Thou?” Pastor/Shepherds sometimes wander like the sheep they are to shepherd, as we read in Jeremiah 50:6, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.”

We find the context in Jeremiah 50:4-10. This passage reveals the self interest of their focus. Dr. Charles E. Jefferson explains, “But while there was a good shepherd in the skies, there were no good shepherds on the earth. All the shepherds of Israel, one after another, proved disappointing. They did not do their duty. They failed to feed the flock. They did not wisely guide it. They could not save it.”3

Much like the shepherds mentioned in Ezekiel 34:1-10, where we read, “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them’ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock’— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.’” Dr. Jefferson reminds us “Jesus has a name for the covetous preacher. He calls him a hireling. ‘A hireling,’ he says, ‘is not a shepherd at all’. He lacks the shepherd’s heart, and cannot do the shepherd’s work. A hireling is a man who works exclusively for pay, his eyes are ever on his wages, his deepest motive is gain. He is always counting up his profits. His god is self.”4 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:11-13). Peter instructs pastors, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2). Paul the apostle confesses, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel” (Acts 20:33).

From Luke 10:7 we read, “the laborer is worthy of his [hire, KJV] wages”. Paul writes Timothy, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17). Paul also writes in Romans 15:27b, “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”

Regrettably some pastors want to be a “hail-fellow well met” defined as “a spiritedly sociable person; jolly companion”5 or a “good-time Joe” or a “good-time Charlie”. Dr. Hezekiah Harvey warns, “The minister who passes from house to house conversing only on topics of more secular interest neglects the great business of his life, and in the eye of the Master fails in the care of souls committed to his charge.”6

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:14-18, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.” Later Paul warns, “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26). Later in the same book Paul writes, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Someone said the best place for some pastors to hide would be in their study because no one would ever expect to find them there.

Luke records in Acts 6:1-4, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’”

In Ephesians 4:11-12 we read, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Paul asks in Galatians 4:16, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Obviously the godly pastor can not be everybody’s friend.

To the detriment of the church, some pastors would rather be a humorist than a homilist or an entertainer rather than an expositor. Dr. Raymond W. Barber said, “The pastor’s calling is not to entertain the goats but to feed the sheep.” Some pastors fill their sermons with a chain of humorous stories to the exclusion of Holy Scripture. It makes people feel good. They say, “After all, laughter is the best medicine.” They are quick to remind us that Solomon writes in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, / But a broken spirit dries the bones.” They also mention the second half of Ecclesiastes 3:4, which reads, “There is “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” We must remember that laughter will not cure every ill and it certainly will not save your soul. As the saying goes, “You can laugh your way into hell, but you can’t laugh your way out.” We read in part from William Cowper’s (1731-1800) masterpiece titled “The Task” (1785), “He that negotiates between God and man, / As God’s ambassador, the grand concern / Of judgment and of mercy should beware / Of the lightness in his speech. Tis pitiful / To court a grin when you should woo a soul; / To break a jest when pity would inspire / Pathetic exhortation; and t’ address / The skittish fancy with pathetic tales / When sent with God’s commission to the heart.”7 Preaching is serious business and the destination of your eternal soul is a matter of utmost importance. While there is nothing wrong with being jovial and joyful, many in the pulpit cross the line and bring reproach to the name of Christ they seek to proclaim. It amazes me how many pastors allow, “coarse jesting” in their sermons, a practice clearly condemned in Scripture. In Ephesians 5:1-7 we read, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. / And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. / But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

Jeremiah points out the sinful influence of their faith. Dr. Adam Clarke (1762-1832) explains the phrase, “They have gone from mountain to hill” (v. 6), means, “In all high places they have practiced idolatry.”8 All faith is not the same. The object of faith distinguishes one from another. Some people have faith in themselves or faith in faith, still others have the faith of demons, as we read in the book of James. Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). When someone refers to other religions as “faiths” they are correct. Jude warns us “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 4b).

Jeremiah shares that these pastors practiced idolatry, a flagrant violation of the first two of the Ten Commandments. The Lord through Moses writes, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). He further writes, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6). The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:5-7, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” He also writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” Tragically “not all [pastor/shepherds] have faith” as in the case of those mentioned in Jeremiah 50:6.

In 1912, Dr. Charles E. Jefferson lamented, “The young men now coming from our universities are as much in need of pastoral guidance as any man in the world. Thousands of them are confused in their religious thinking, not able yet to reconcile the teachings of Christ with what they have learned from their professors. The traditional faith is no longer tenable, and they have not gained another to take its place. Does anybody suppose that a college diploma renders a man immune to all diseases, so that he is no longer in need of a physician? Why should it be imagined that a college course lifts a man above the need of the healing power of a physician sent by the Son of God?”9

From this verse we understand the solemn indictment of their fellowship.
Jeremiah spells out the Lord’s indictment when he writes, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place” (Jeremiah 50:6). Remember that fellowship and faith can be corrupt and depraved. Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the renowned Bible commentator, explains, "Their present case is lamented as very sad, and as having been long so, v. 6. And what aggravated their misery, was, they were led astray by their own shepherds, their own princes and priests; and in their wanderings lay exposed to the beasts of prey, who thought they were entitled to them, as waifs and strays that have no owner, v. 7. It is with them as with wandering sheep, all that found them have devoured them; and when they did them the greatest injuries, they laughed at them, telling them it was what their own prophets had many a time told them they deserved: which was far from justifying those who did them wrong. See what notion they had of the Lord they had sinned against, not as the only true and living God, but only as the Habitation of justice, and the Hope of their fathers; they had put a contempt on the temple, and on the tradition of their ancestors, and therefore deserved to suffer these hard things."10

As we shared earlier from Dr. Charles E. Jefferson, “But while there was a good shepherd in the skies, there was no good shepherd on the earth. All the shepherds of Israel, one after another, proved disappointing. They did not do their duty. They failed to feed the flock. They did not wisely guide it. They could not save it.” Dr. Jefferson continues, “But the Hebrew heart did not despair. It dared to dream of an ideal shepherd who would surely come. A Messiah had been promised, and he would be a shepherd. He would guide and feed and save the sheep. Through many generations this figure of the Shepherd-Messiah flitted before the minds of the seers of Israel. They painted him in colors which at last burned themselves into the retina of the nation’s eyes. When they painted pictures of bad shepherds, they always hung up another picture, the picture of the shepherd who was good.”11

According to Stoddart's Encyclopedia Americana, “Hamilton Theological Seminary is the oldest Baptist theological school in the United States. It is under the control of the Baptist Education Society of the State of New York, organized in 1817 for the promotion of ministerial education.”12

Dr. Hezekiah Harvey (1821-1893), the noted Baptist pastor and professor of New Testament exegesis and pastoral theology at Hamilton Theological Seminary, shares the following, “The care of souls is the radical idea of the pastor’s office. He is a shepherd to whom a flock has been committed to guide, to feed, to defend; and the divine command enjoins: ‘Take heed to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers’ (Acts 20:28) he is to be the personal religious guide, the confidential Christian friend, of his charge. Our Lord, in his description of the Good Shepherd, said, ‘The sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before the, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice’ (John 10: 3-4) Each member of his flock is a soul entrusted to his care by the Lord; and if true to his trust, he is one of those who ‘watch for souls as they must give account.’ Paul, when in Ephesus, taught not only publicly, but ‘from house to house;’ and in his farewell charge to the elders of that city he said, ‘Watch, and remember that, by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every man night and day with tears’ (Acts 20:31).”13


After Simon Peter denied the Lord before a young girl, he wept bitterly and the Lord tenderly restored him as we read in John 21:15-17, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’
He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’
He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’” Simon Peter later writes 1 Peter 5:1-5, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” From Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24a we read, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. . . . Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. . . . Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints.”

Dr. Hezekiah Harvey also shares the following in his book titled The Pastor: his qualifications and duties, “Pastoral responsibility, however, has its limitation. Christ does not require of his servants impossible labor; but as they have received their talents, so they are to use them, each ‘according to his several ability.’ If faithful to his trust, the pastor is ‘unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish’ (2 Cor. ii. 15-17), and it is his right to feel he has ‘delivered his soul’ and is ‘pure from the blood of all men’ (Acts xx. 26-27). Such was the ministry of Paul, a mere man, aided by this only by such divine help as is promised to every other servant of God. It is fidelity, not success, which constitutes the limit of responsibility. Success belongs to God. Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase. Jeremiah spoke with the earnestness and tenderness of lips inspired, but he was unpopular, and, as man would measure, unsuccessful; nevertheless, his name stands high among the ancient worthies, because in that degenerate age he was faithful to his trust and work. Besides, a minister’s power is not measured by the immediate, outward results. The powerful revival in which hundreds are gathered into the church finds its occasion, indeed, in the peculiar gifts of some popular preacher, but its real causes often lie his in the quiet, patient toil of other men differently gifted.

Every man has his special adaptation and work one sows and another reaps—and only in the great harvest at the end of the world, will the actual results of each man’s work appear. Hence, Christ says to every servant of his: ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life’ (Rev. ii. 10). Fidelity, then, is the limits of responsibility; and the earnest pastor who, with heartfelt loyalty to Christ, has to the extent of his ability and opportunity faithfully fulfilled his calling, may know assuredly that he has the approval of the Master, and that awaiting him at the end is the sure reward of the faithful.”14

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explained, "If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to be unpopular, preach holiness." The choice of every God-called pastor is to preach the truth of the Word of God even when it hurts. The preaching of Jeremiah clearly calls for holiness, as we read in Jeremiah 3:6-15, “The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,’ says the LORD. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; / ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; / ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, / That you have transgressed against the LORD your God, / And have scattered your charms / To alien deities under every green tree, / And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD. ‘Return, O backsliding children,’ says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.’”

The next time you hear a pastor preaching it might be helpful to know “O Pastor, Where Art Thou?”

1Steve Andrews, Surge Beyond Setbacks: Survival Strategies for Life’s Struggles (Rome, GA: LifeSurge Books, 2001), pp. 21-22

2Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd (Hong Kong: Living Books for All, 1991), pp. 14-15

3Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd , pp. 15

4Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd , p. 110

5Available from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hail-fellow+well+met Accessed: 11/03/09

6H. [Hezekiah] Harvey, The Pastor: His Qualifications and Duties (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1879), p. 84

7The Works of William Cowper: His Life, Letters, and Poems: Now First Completed by the Introduction of Cowper's Private Correspondence, Edited by the Rev. T. S. Grimshawe, With Illustrations [ William Cowper, “The Task from Book II: The Time-Piece” line 463 (1785) ] (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), p. 573

8Available from: http://www.preceptaustin.org/jeremiah_commentaries.htm Accessed: 10/23/09

9Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd , p. 70

10The Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible; Containing the Text According to the Authorized Version; Scott's Marginal References; Matthew Henry's Commentary, Condensed, The Practical Observations of Rev. Thomas Scott, D.D. with Extensive Explanatory, Critical, and Philological Notes, edited by Rev. William Jenks, Volume 3, (Brattleboro, VT: The Brattleboro Typographic Company, 1837), p. 631

11Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd , p. 15

12Stoddart's Encyclopedia Americana: Supplement to Encyclopedia Britannica, Ninth Edition, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, Illustrated, Volume III. (New York/Philadelphia/London: J.M. Stoddart, 1886) 

13H. [Hezekiah] Harvey, The Pastor: His Qualifications and Duties (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1879), p. 78.

14H. [Hezekiah] Harvey, The Pastor: His Qualifications and Duties (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1879), pp. 152-153

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
http://www.webspawner.com/users/franklinlkirksey / fkirksey@bellsouth.net / (251) 626-6210
© November 8, 2009 All Rights Reserved