“Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests! Wail, you ministers of the altar. Come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the meal offering and the drink offering are withheld from your God’s house.”
The main burden of the mourning seems to fall on the shoulders of the minsters of the people. The prophet tell them to put on sackcloth, the symbol of deep mourning in death, because the souls of the people are dying. These ministers and priests are to mourn and wail all night in their sackcloth clothes, so that the burden of the people never leaves them.
The people are reduced to live in their sins and the meal and drink offerings are never presented to the work of God. The offerings are actually withheld deliberately. People know what they are doing and are purposefully neglecting the things of God. The work of God languishes undone and no one is challenged about their lifestyle choices. The ministers have ceased from their work of tending the flock of God and now they have all gone astray.
The responsibility seem to be laid at the door of the minsters of the Lord. They are singled out for specific and deeply expressive mourning and they are responsible for letting the people know how deeply God is offended by their recalcitrant behaviour. The priests and ministers model the contrition God requires and the deep humility and pensive repentance that He want to see in his people.
The offerings will never return unless there is repentance again. This is true in our era of history too. How will our country be saved if we do not repent to the Lord our Maker and turn away from our sin? We go on and on and get worse and worse. Sin is our undoing and so the whole land suffers.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine on you.”
The Lord is willing to forgive the humble and repentant heart that turns from its sinful ways and seeks the path of holiness. The only way to repent is before the cross of Christ. Only as we see the man dying on the cruel cross for our sin and feel the full weight of our guilt, will we be made willing to bow our knee and come to Him. Only as we humble our sinful heart and mind, do we find full and free forgiveness and the joy of eternal life in our soul.
Minsters of the gospel carry a heavy burden for the people they serve, and therefore we should be paying for them and upholding them before the Lord. They have grave responsibility and need the constant care of their Saviour and the filling of the Holy Spirit to do their task for the Lord with a true heart and a clear mind.