Christianity 201

September 4, 2019

When Leaders Walk Away

My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray” (Jeremiah 50:6).

At Thinking Out Loud we’ve linked to the writing of Dr. Claude Mariottini, but this is his first appearance here at C201. He is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. He has pastored churches in California, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. I have published more than 200 articles and book reviews in English, Spanish, and Russian, and is a contributor to many scholarly works.

He wrote the article — linked in the header below — in the wake of several high profile departures from the faith by key leaders. This piece is a follow-up to a previous essay, Why People Leave the Christian Faith in which he presents three major reasons, but then here he devotes his attention entirely to a fourth reason. Again click the header for the full article.

When Leaders Fail

…Those who leave the Christian faith because they are offended or hurt by church leaders should remember the admonition of God: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).

The decision that [these leaders] made to abandon the faith… is not unique to them. The people of Israel also abandoned God. The Lord said to the people of Judah, “You have abandoned me and turned your back on me, says the Lord. . . . I am tired of always giving you another chance” (Jeremiah 15:6).

Why did Israel abandon God? The prophetic books of the Old Testament give several reasons:

Israel’s prophets were arrogant; they were treacherous men (Zephaniah 3:4).

Israel’s priests profaned what was holy (Zephaniah 3:4).

Israel’s teachers taught lies and falsehoods and thus did not help the people to turn from their evil ways (Jeremiah 23:22).

The shepherds of Israel took care of themselves instead of taking care of their flock (Ezekiel 34:2-5).

But poor leadership was not the only reason the people abandoned God. The people of Israel were destroyed because they did not know the difference between good and evil (Hosea 4:6). They went into exile for lack of understanding of their responsibility before God (Isaiah 5:13).

In addition, the leaders of the nation and the people who followed them would not listen to the call for a change of attitude. The people were as stiff-necked as their ancestors had been. The people did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected God’s teaching and the covenant God had made with their ancestors and the warnings God had given them through the prophets. They followed the work of their hands, worthless idols, and in turn they themselves became as worthless as their idols (2 Kings 17:14-15).

This is what Israel had done. The Lord said: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Notice that God said: “My people.” They were God’s people, but they had abandoned God. They had abandoned God, the fountain of living water in order to satisfy their own desires. They wanted to be satisfied with water from cisterns, the work of their own hands. Instead of trusting in God, the people of Israel decided to go alone, to do what they wanted to do. They decided to be independent of God only to discover that in the hour of their greatest need, they were all alone, deprived of divine help.

The tragic result of living without God is clearly seen in the book of Lamentations: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:1-2).

Jerusalem represents the people of Israel. The people of Israel had gone into an exile of affliction and hard servitude because they had left God in order to go alone. The people left God in order to find solace among the works of their hands only to discover that at the time of their deepest despair, when they were facing the darkest night of their soul, they were all alone, deprived of the God who could help them, with none to comfort them…

[…finish reading the article at this link]

 

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