Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pastor is a verb

"and I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jer 3:15, JPS)

I came across this verse and thought about the word 'pastor'. Of all the English translations, only the KJV uses the word 'pastor'. Most of the other popular ones uses the word 'shepherds' (NIV, NASB, MSG, NRSV)

Interestingly, the Hebrew text only mentions TWO nouns, and they are "heart" and "knowledge". You may ask: What about shepherds? Aren't they nouns? The 'shepherds' in the JPS version is actually a verb (active participle) which corresponds to the meaning TO BE SHEPHERDING! This is indeed very strange. However, when we recognize that this verb-participle is actually behaving like a noun, we will understand why the English translations puts it as a noun. There are some implications for us.

1) Become not a noun but a VERB
Becoming a pastor is actually more 'pastoral' than being called a pastor. It is very easy to call one a pastor. When it comes to recognizing a pastoral behaviour, it is a different thing altogether. The objective is not to become a static monument with a pastor-label, but to become a growing person who cares and continually cares. The only way to do so, is to not to think of the pastoral vocation as an end in itself.
- Verb behaviour reflects growth, like a fountain of living water. Noun behaviour resembles stagnant water.
- Verb attitudes is constantly seeking improvement. Noun behaviour seeks to protect one's limited turf.

2) After God's heart
It is because God is perfect, only God's heart can be absolute, and deservedly called a noun. It is like the sun which supplies heat to all the planets in the Solar System. All we are to be seeking after God's heart, like plants growing towards the sun. True growth must be growth towards God.

3) Then comes the Feeding of the sheep
Like a jug which can only fill cups when it has enough water, the pastor/shepherd can only feed others, after he/she has been fed, or better still, constantly feeding. What do they feed the flock with? We come now to the second noun of the entire verse, KNOWLEDGE. This knowledge will lead to greater understanding.

I think this is a beautiful verse. God takes the initiative to give people with pastor-shepherd desires to pursue after God, so that they can take care of the flock. It teaches us our current position in life has to be lived like a VERB, where our living is aimed towards GOD's HEART, and subsequently, we FEED the hungry around us, with knowledge and spiritual wisdom. What's the purpose in life? I dare say that everyone of us, need to grow this pastoral heart inside us. Not all of us will be labelled a pastor, but most certainly all of us are to cultivate this desire of panting after God's heart. With this, it brings whole new meaning to another of my favourite verse,
Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

Let me be the verb God wants me to be.


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