“And I will give you pastors according to my heart” – God’s Promise of Jeremiah 3:15

Jer3-15-pastorsThis morning in Faith PRC our new pastor, Rev.Clayton Spronk (seventh in the congregation’s history), will be installed. And then this evening he will officially begin his ministry in our midst, as he leads our worship service and preaches for the first time for us, after which he and his family will be welcomed into our midst with a special program (our evening service is starting at 5 p.m. today). This is a happy and humbling occasion for us as a congregation, since we waited two years to receive a new under-shepherd from the Lord.

But with regard to the preaching of the gospel, we were well provided for through guest pastors, especially Prof.R.Dykstra (one of our members), who led us through the Heidelberg Catechism and many special services. And with regard to our other spiritual needs, we were well cared for by our faithful elders and deacons, who, no doubt, spent many extra hours fulfilling their offices caring for us sheep. We thank these men for the diligent labors among us.

While we waited for another pastor, we also rested in God’s good promises, including the promise of Jeremiah 3:15 – “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Once more God has shown His faithfulness in fulfilling this promise to us as a church. Our joy is in Him and our gratitude is toward Him.

In connection with this wonderful event today, I quote from John Calvin’s comments on this passage as found in vol.9 of his Commentaries (“On The Prophet Jeremiah and The Lamentations”, Baker, 1979), concluding  with his prayer that closes this lecture. May his words give us fresh gratitude for this office of pastor-teacher in the church, and may it lead us to pray diligently for our new pastor as well as for all our pastors.

We hence learn that the Church cannot continue without having faithful pastors to shew the way of salvation. The wellbeing of the Church then is secured, when God raises up true and faithful teachers to proclaim his truth: but when the Church is deprived of sound teachers, all things soon fall into ruin. For God, no doubt, intimates by this promise that he would not only be the deliverer of his people, so as to restore them from exile, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian after the people had returned to their own country.

It hence follows, that the Church of God is not only begotten by means of holy and godly pastors, but that its life is also cherished, nourished, and confirmed by them to the end. As it is not enough for civil order to be once set up, except the magistrates continue in their office, so nothing is more ruinous to the Church than for God to take away faithful pastors. It cannot indeed be, that people will return to God, unless prophets be first sent: but God speaks here of a continued course of instruction, and of a well regulated government in the Church, as though he had said, ‘I will not only give you prophets to lead you from your wanderings to me, and to restore you to the way of salvation, but I will also continually set over you sound and faithful teachers.’

But we must notice, that those who preside cannot rightly discharge their office unless they are endued with wisdom. God also intimates his paternal love, when he says, that good pastors would be dear to him (181-82).

And this lecture is concluded with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully spared us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.

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