Remembering Those Who Proclaim the Word of God
by Rev. David T. Myers
On this day in Presbyterian History, we emphasize a general encouragement to honor the Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, faithful pastors who feed you the Word of God weekly in Presbyterian and Reformed congregations all over our United States. This month of October has been designated “Pastor Appreciation Month” with the second Sunday, October 11th, having a “Clergy Appreciation Day” attached to it.
There is biblical exhortation to appreciate our pastor-teachers. Hebrews 13:7 states “Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” (NASB)
This challenge is seen in an incident which happened to a long ago Presbyterian pastor as he happened to run into a friend who was a neighbor of his. The pastor was the Rev. Robert Smith, ministering to the Scot-Irish members of Pequea Presbyterian Church in Pequea, Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. On returning home after an exhausting trip to visit far-flung members of the church, he happened to meet his neighbor whom he regarded as an excellent Christian.
So this Presbyterian pastor said to his neighbor, “Friend, we have long been good neighbors and friends, but you have never come into our church.”
Brother Haines replied, “Robert, while I greatly esteem thee to be a friend and neighbor, I cannot conscientiously hear thee preach. Thou knows our society condemns a hireling ministry, We believe only in those who preach by the Spirit.”
“Well,” said Dr. Smith, “I think I can say that we, too, follow the teachings of the Spirit.”
“Oh, no, friend Robert, thee knows that thee prepares thy discourses before thee enters the pulpit.”
“That is true,” said Dr. Smith, “but I can preach without any preparation.”
“Well then,” said Friend Haines, “I will try thee. Next first day, I will go to thy meeting house and will send up to thee thy text after thee has thee long prayer which I hear is thy custom.”
“I accept the condition,” answered Dr Smith, “and will expect to see you next Lord’s Day morning in church.”
Dr. Smith entered the pulpit the next Sunday, noted that his neighbor was present, and commenced the service as usual. Just before the sermon, a sexton handed a slip of paper to Dr. Smith in the pulpit with the words of Ezra 1:9 and the phrase “nine and twenty knives” written on it. From the context, this was part of the treasures which Cyrus, king of Persia, returned to Jerusalem after the seventy years of captivity.
Dr. Smith announced the title of the sermon as “nine and twenty knives.” Then with great solemnity, he began by giving a brief sketch of the Babylonian captivity. God had chosen the Jews, he said, as his peculiar people, given them his laws by which to rule their lives, but when they became rich and powerful, they rebelled against God and did evil in the sight of the Lord. In judgment, Jerusalem was taken to Babylon as captives. But the righteous in captivity longed for Jerusalem and their beloved temple. God accepted their repentance besides the rivers of Babylon and put it into the heart of Cyrus to return them to the land. Among the sacred utensils returned with them were “nine and twenty knives,” no doubt sacrificial knives for use in the temple worship.
From this, Dr. Smith drew the doctrine of special providence under trial—sin will surely bring punishment and misery but God is always ready to accept genuine repentance. He then made a personal application to his congregation: God knows those who are in his service; they surely will be raised to adore the temple above when time shall give place to eternity. The friend was edified by the Word preached.
Every teaching elder has been challenged in similar ways. This author remembers a time when he was a pastor. Entering the pulpit one Sunday, a note revealed a plea by a member of the church which said, “I have invited my next door neighbor to hear you preach. This had better be good!” Whether it was or not, I never heard, but there are many challenges and trials in being a faithful pastor.
Words to Live By:
Readers and members of our Presbyterian congregations, pray much for your pastor-teachers. They would appreciate it. But do more than that. Let them this month know that you are praying for them all throughout the year, that you love them in the Lord, and that you support them in their work. Do all this by speaking to them at the door or church office, or a card in the mail, or an email over the web, or a special gift card at a favorite restaurant in the area. Let them know that you are their friend and fellow worker in the Lord’s congregation, using your spiritual gifts for the glory of God and the edification of the church.