A Pastor’s Heart
“And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray Thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on Thy people, that they should be plagued.” 1 Chronicles 21:17
King David understood what it was to be a shepherd. It was that very reference point by which Nathan brought the judgement of God to David after he had killed Uriah the Hittite and had taken his wife Bath-Sheba. It was his entire childhood as a shepherd that formed him with such a heart. Yet, David, for all the bear fighting, lion smiting, and giant slaying he had done, would often forget the very flock he was to govern. He would become so consumed with his own selfishness and resulting choices, that protecting the flock would be utterly forgotten. So it was when he numbered Israel.
The very first verse leading into this account says that Satan provoked him to do it! David, who had stood before Goliath and proclaimed that he fought in the name of The Lord, would falter before the same enemy. So, even as Joab, not the most godlike servant, warned against it, the numbering was accomplished and it displeased God. It wasn’t just the idea of the numbering, but the fact that it was actually done. It took time between David succumbing to Satan and the counting to be done. It was only after the counting that The Lord was displeased.
This is a secondary thought here, but I cannot go further without mentioning it. Satan will place thoughts in our minds of ungodly behavior. This does not mean we are subject to those thoughts and are unable to stop ourselves from acting them out. We are to submit those thoughts to the obedience of Christ, subjecting them to scrutiny through the lens of the Cross. We have sinned in our hearts when we dwell on them, as many examples given in the New Testament show us. However, going through with them just adds to the problem, and shows a lack of submission to Christ. We should take heed of what happened to David here and surrender the thoughts before we ever act them out.
David was so far from the mind of God at this point that when he was given three choices for punishment, he said this:
“I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of The Lord; for very great are His mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.” 1 Chronicles 21:13
David was concerned only about himself at this point. I and meare the focus. He was so overly confident in The Lord’s mercy that there was no thought for what God actually said for the choices. God gave him the choices of either famine for three years, which would affect the nation beyond David himself, destruction by the hands of the enemies for three months, which would affect the nation beyond David himself, or pestilence, which would affect the nation beyond David himself. Yet, where was the concern for the people then? All David heard was that he was to receive punishment for his sin, yet that wasn’t one of the choices. All of the choices included the flock.
It wasn’t until 70,000 men fell by pestilence, and even then he had to be shown that the destruction would go on as an angel came against Jerusalem, that David turned to God on behalf of the flock he was supposed to be watching over the entire time.
How many leaders this very hour are doing wrong in the eyes of The Lord? Of them, how many seriously consider that their choices affect the flock they have been given to shepherd? Of those who might even consider this, how many continue forward in sin anyway, endangering the spiritual welfare of the congregation?
I am reminded of a pastor from Florida just a few days ago who stepped down from his position of leadership after cheating on his wife. However it came about, he was removed by the hand of God for the protection of the church Body. This pastor led a large church, that, by all appearances, is prosperous spiritually. Yet, how long did this go on before it was exposed? Did he consider the church while he was yet in his sin? God knows. But, let me redirect this to show you a pastor’s heart.
He resigned. He wasn’t excommunicated after a fight to keep his position. He wasn’t smitten by the hand of God in the form of a natural accident. He was taken in a fiery car crash to protect the sheep. God gave him the chance to repent of his sin. And by all accounts, his resignation signifies the desire to do so. That is the heart of a Pastor.
When David finally realized that his actions directly affected the nation, and would continue to do so, he turned to God on their behalf, as their shepherd, to intercede and beg for God’s mercy on them. David literally stopped focusing on and relying on God’s mercy for himself and turned to God to ask Him to be merciful to the nation and let God’s wrath come against him alone for his sins. God accepted this, gave David direction to sacrifice (a typology of Christ for another study), and the hand of the angel of destruction was stayed against the people.
The reason David is known for being a man after God’s own heart is because of his capacity to extend his focus beyond himself and intercede on behalf of the people whom God had given him to shepherd. That is exactly what Jesus did by coming here as a man and walking among us, living perfectly a life of intercession on our behalf. His whole life was intercession. It was the intercession of God. That is how God’s heart functions. He loves us always, and His thoughts are upon us always. He does whatever is necessary for our very best interests, correcting when He must, being merciful, yet always directing us toward greater and greater spiritual truths.
If you are a pastor, I’m asking you this morning to take an honest inventory of your life. Is there something that you have refused to let go? Is there some slightly askew belief that is not Biblical? Is there a temptation you have succumbed to that God has asked you to stop? Will it take the slow spiritual death of those you are over to get you to finally stop? Can you see the pestilence within your congregation spreading even now? Now is the time. Let God awaken that Pastor’s heart within you. Repent. Confess to your brothers, your wife, or your Christ. God may not choose to remove you from your position. David was still king. But, God wants to use you to a greater degree. He asks you to surrender completely, once more.
“…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41b
To place the people before yourself is the heart of a pastor. It is a heart that is after the heart of The Lord. God bless you and be gracious to you.