Hebrew Highlights 130 - Minister
Shalom! This is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
PSA 101:6, “My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.”
What exactly does it mean to “minister” to the Lord? Today, in it’s noun form; a minister can be many things. Obviously, we use the word minister to describe a pastor of a congregation. In many countries, like Israel for instance, political offices are called ministries. We have for instance the minister of education, the minister of defense, and so on.
In Hebrew, the verb form of the word is “sharet”, or “serve”. Likewise, the noun “mesharet” is servant. Therefore, the last sentence of the passage I began with should say, “He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will serve me.”
There is not really a mistake in translation here. There is only a misunderstanding in our times of what a minister actually does. He serves. This is still apparent when we see a pastor visiting the sick, or performing a burial service, or giving a helping hand to the needy.
What tends to throw us off from the real meaning of the word is the glorified meaning of the office one holds. Today’s salaries, life style, expectations, and grandeur attached to pastors, and indeed government ministers make the word “servant” seem grossly inappropriate.
Let’s look at another passage containing the word “sharet”, or “serve”. ISA 56:6-7, "Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
In this case we are reminded that the servants, or ministers of the Lord are to lead a holy life. It is only those who meet this criterion who are privileged to be counted as servants.
This idea is carried on in the New Testament, as we see in 1TI 3:8-13, “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
Just as in Hebrew, the word “diakonos” in Greek simply means “servant”. The Hebrew New Testament uses both the noun “shamash” and the verb “mesharet” in this passage. Both mean servant, or to serve.
To me, this is one of those unfortunate Anglicanizations of a Greek word, which causes misunderstanding. Others include disciple and bishop, but I won’t go into that now. We will leave those for future studies.
The point again, is that the “deacons”, or servants, should be holy men. To serve is a privilege, and the office should be attained by example of service, and not by any other means.
By the way, here is a free thought for contemplation. When we read here, “Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households,” in both Hebrew and Greek, it should probably be translated as, “Let deacons be “ones” who are the “husband of a wife”, and good managers of their children and their own households.”
By the context of this and other passages, the writer was most likely saying that deacons and elders should be married, and have successful experience as fathers. How can a single person “minister” to families going through problems they have never experienced?
Unfortunately in today’s modern world, many “ministers” get stuck either behind a desk, or in front of a TV camera, and leave the “serving” to other people. I don’t think most of them intend for this to happen, it’s just a pitiful consequence of contemporary church structure.
The apostle Paul was certainly a magnificent role model for any of us who would like to restore the Biblical meaning to the word “minister”. Let’s read what he said in ROM 15:15-16. “But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
Do you aspire to the office of elder or deacon? This is a good thing. Here are a few helpful suggestions. Try visiting the sick in hospital, or taking an older person grocery shopping, or getting on your knees and fixing someone’s leaking toilet. Offer to baby-sit for some overwhelmed young couple that hasn’t had a night out for a long time. Or maybe just sit patiently and listen to someone’s sad story, without jumping in with a quick fix.
When you are serving, if someone sticks a TV camera in you face, appeal to others to “join” you, not to “replace” you.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem