Biblical Evidence for a Call to Ministry Leadership in the Old Testament

We continue our series of posts on the understanding of the call to Christian ministry leadership by looking at the biblical evidence for such a call.

The consistent theme in the Old Testament concerning the work of the priests and prophets is that they were appointed (called) by God. The Scripture proclaims in Jeremiah that such a prophet, one not called of God, would be useless to the people. “‘I am against those who prophesy false dreams’—the Lord’s declaration—‘telling them and leading My people astray with their falsehoods and their boasting. It was not I who sent or commanded them, and they are of no benefit at all to these people’—this is the Lord’s declaration.” (Jer 23:32).[1] In Numbers 18, when God establishes the line of the priesthood, it was made clear anyone who was not authorized who even came near the sanctuary should be put to death. (Num 18:7) Bridges writes, “Under the old dispensation, intrusion into the priestly office was marked as the most dangerous presumption.”[2]  Such a mistake would prove very costly to anyone that made it (2 Chron. 26:16–20).

The prophets never assumed a personal mandate to proclaim thus says the Lord, but rather responded, often times reluctantly, to the personal call of God. Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6 gives an example of such an encounter with God. For Isaiah the only right response was surrender, only then did God give the specific assignment. Jeremiah was rather reluctant when God called him to prophesy. Jeremiah protested over his age and ability to speak but God had already appointed him a prophet and set him apart for a specific task. Over and over again in the prophets there is language that points to a personal call:

Ezek 2:2–3 “As He (God) spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I listened to the One who was speaking to me. He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites .

Amos 7:14-15“So Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was not a prophet or the son of a prophet; rather, I was a herdsman, and I took care of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’’”

Jonah 1:1-2 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted  Me.”

Jonah 3:1-3 “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command.”

Over the next several posts we will view New Testament evidence for a call to ministry leadership and then finally there will be a couple posts on how to discern the legitimacy of one’s call.


[1] All scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

 [2] Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (London: Seeley, Burnside, and Seeley, 1844), 90

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