“My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.” (Zachariah 10:3)
The mention of such men who are shepherds in name only and not in practice, made me think of James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
I know that there are those within the flock of Christ who have been “afflicted for lack of a shepherd” (Zach. 10:2)…afflicted by “shepherds”, those men, who are deceivers, violent (by proxy or otherwise), and greedy for gain (see Titus 1:6-16).
It is indeed sobering to consider that judgment under “greater strictness” in store for such men on account of their grievous abuses. I pray that they and their supporters might repent. This is not to say that I disapprove of the response of righteous wrath against these men. To the contrary, I believe that more Christians, and especially those equals to whom such elders are supposedly accountable, should experience that state which the psalmist describes in the words, “Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.” (Psalm 119:53) I notice in this verse that it does not seem to speak of those who are ignorant, those who do not know God’s law, but of those who DO know it, and who forsake it in order to further their own purposes, instead of His.
If more Christians were zealous for the purity of God’s law, and if dedicated elders used their God given authority to keep in check those who rise up and oppose or falsely interpret His law, either by word or deed, I believe that the modern Church would be far less splintered and oppressed with apostasy. It seems that elders of the Church are afraid of confrontation. They seek “peace with all men” to the degree that they accept compromise, and turn a blind eye to injustice. I once heard it said that, “The Cross will offend!”, and so it will and does.
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33)
“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.’” (Matthew 21:42-44)
So why do so many in authority within the Church seem to apologize for this, by their unwillingness to be “seized by hot indignation” of righteous anger on account of seeking to maintain the purity of the absolute standard of God’s law, and the principles which are derived from it? “It seems today the Scandalon offends no one at all/The image we present can be stepped over/Could it be that we are like the others long ago/Will we ever learn that all who come must stumble?” (Michael Card’s song, Scandalon)
It seems to me that many Christian ministers of our day do not take seriously the authority that is theirs. Some abuse their power, while others seem to under use it by doing little or nothing to restrain, reprimand, and hold those “shepherds of affliction” accountable, not just before their fellow men, but before God. By so shirking the duty which their authority as shepherds of the flock of Christ has given to them, such ministers are wittingly or not, being party to the injustices done unto members of the body of Christ, and are therefore, not without guilt concerning such cases.
The distinction between righteous wrath and sinful malice can only be defined by the Word of God and investigated by the individual conscience. Those therefore, who are responding with indignation against “shepherds of affliction” for the breaking of God’s law, for forsaking His righteous mercy, and for the greed of self-righteousness, must I would think be on their guard. They must be zealously taken hold of by righteous anger, but watchful at the same time lest the sin of malice slip in and use what is good, to in the end, work evil.
None of us are perfect. Far from it. Therefore, “Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget you commandments.” (Psalm 119:175-176)
There is glorious comfort for those who are faithful to the LORD, and yet who are afflicted by their fellow men, be those men ministers with authority within the Church or otherwise (see Matthew 5:2-12).
“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.” (Psalm 140:12-13)
“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1)