Pillars Among Us
A pillar is simply a single column that provides structure and helps support the weight of the overall structure. Often times one structure is made up of many pillars that all provide support and help carry the weight. They not only provide strength but also character.
It’s interesting how objects take on symbolic meanings in different ways. I’d suggest that pillars are symbolic of leadership in many ways. In Exodus 13 when the Pharaoh of Moses’s day finally decided to let the people go the Lord led them out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I know it’s overly simple but the cloud and fire wasn’t in the shape of a ball, square, rectangle, triangle, but rather a pillar. How large were these two pillars? Well I don’t know but large enough that all the Israelites could see it and follow it. Some have even suggested that while in the wilderness, as part of God’s providence for His people, that this pillar of cloud gave them relief from the intense sun by day and the pillar of fire warmth and security from the cold temperatures at night.
Throughout Israel’s history pillars of different sizes were set up to symbolize different things. For example in Genesis 28 when Jacob has that famous dream of the angels ascending and descending into heaven on the ladder, afterwards he takes the stone and sets it up as a pillar (Gen. 28:18, 22). As Joshua led the people into the land of Canaan after crossing the Jordan they set up stones in the form of a pillar (Jos. 3-4). At other times they set up other stones as memorial’s in the form of pillars.
Paul would later use the same symbolism to recognize and attribute to some men the strength and leadership that they were obviously known for. In Galatians 2 after spending fourteen years in his ministry Paul finally comes to Jerusalem and it’s there that he meets James, Cephas, and John. Notice what he says in v.9 – “and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
What I believe Paul is saying here is that these men were worthy of respect and honor and what was known of them was their strength and valued leadership. Some have suggested that he is only referring to them as elders. Then why not just say “who were elders”? Paul wasn’t describing an office but rather their influence among God’s people.
You and I can do the same thing today. There are plenty of men and women that we look up to within the body of Christ. Those who’s opinion and wisdom is greatly valued and often sought in many different matters of life. Though honor is bestowed to those who serve as elders along with their wives, one doesn’t have to serve or have served as an elder to have great positive influence among God’s people. I think we’d all agree that Paul in many respects is considered a “pillar” in regards to his teachings and influence and yet he never served as an elder.
I think it would benefit us all if we personally asked ourselves who seems to be pillars in our lives. Maybe they are parents, elders, teachers, evangelists, or other brothers and sisters in Christ. They are people whom Paul says to Titus should be teaching and training the younger. Sanders said that “Leadership is influence.” Why not identify those people in your life and then let them know that you hold them in that honor and respect. Let them know that you look to their leadership and wisdom to help guide you and understand what the will of the Lord is better each day. Let them know that their dedication and knowledge is valued and appreciated. And let them know that you too seek to one day be a pillar among God’s people and in His church.