News Letter 5855-046
The 3rd Year of the 4th Sabbatical Cycle
The 24th year of the 120th Jubilee Cycle
The 29th day of the 11th month 5855 years after the creation of Adam
The 11th Month in the Third year of the Fourth Sabbatical Cycle
The 4th Sabbatical Cycle after the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Third Year Tithe for the Widows and Orphans and Levites
The Sabbatical Cycle of Sword, Famines, and Pestilence
January 25, 2020
Shabbat Shalom to the Royal Family of Yehovah,
12 Month Moon of Adar
The new moon to begin the 12th month, the month of Adar will potentially be seen on Sunday 26/1/2020 after sunset from Israel. The seeing shall be easy as the moon is old (Almost two days). The astronomical new moon is on Friday 24/1/2020 at 21:42 (GMT).
From The USA and Central/South America, seeing shall be possible from Saturday evening, see the global viewing maps.
You can change this map by the hour and by the location to see what the moon will look like from where you are.
Do You See The Signs of Our Times
Signs of the End of the Age
Mat 24:3 And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?
Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
Mat 24:5 For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.
Mat 24:6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet.
Mat 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places.
Mat 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mat 24:9 Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name’s sake.
Mat 24:10 And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Mat 24:11 And many false prophets will rise and deceive many.
Mat 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold.
Mat 24:13 But he who endures to the end, the same shall be kept safe.
Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then the end shall come.
Since December you have been reading about many various Earthquakes around the world on the nightly news. Puerto Rico has not yet recovered from the devasting hurricane Marie which came at Categorie 5 strength in 2017. At the end of December 2019 and in early January 2020, the southwestern part of the island of Puerto Rico was struck by an earthquake swarm, including six that were of magnitude 5 or greater. The largest and most damaging of this sequence occurred on January 7 at 04:24 AST (08:24 UTC) and had a magnitude of 6.4 M.
Number of earthquakes worldwide for 2009–2019 Magnitude 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 8.0–9.9 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 0 1 1 1 7.0–7.9 16 21 19 15 17 11 18 16 6 16 9 6.0–6.9 144 151 204 129 125 140 124 128 106 117 133 5.0–5.9 1,896 1,963 2,271 1,412 1,402 1,475 1,413 1,502 1,451 1,675 1,489 4.0–4.9 6,805 10,164 13,303 10,990 9,795 13,494 13,239 12,771 11,296 12,777 11,349 Total 8,862 12,309 15,798 12,548 11,341 15,121 14,795 14,420 12,860 14,586 12,985
An increase in detected earthquake numbers does not necessarily represent an increase in earthquakes per se. Population increase, habitation spread, and advances in earthquake detection technology all contribute to higher earthquake numbers being recorded over time.
Rank Magnitude Death toll Location MMI Depth (km) Date 1 8.0 2 Peru, Loreto VIII (Severe) 122.8 May 26 2 7.6 0 Papua New Guinea, East New Britain offshore VII (Very strong) 10.0 May 14 3 7.5 1 Ecuador, Pastaza VII (Very strong) 145.0 February 22 4 7.3 0 New Zealand, Kermadec Islands VII (Very strong) 46.0 June 15 4 7.3 0 Indonesia, Banda Sea VI (Strong) 212.0 June 24 6 7.2 14 Indonesia, North Maluku VII (Very strong) 20.0 July 14 7 7.1 0 United States, California IX (Violent) 8.0 July 5 7 7.1 0 Papua New Guinea, Morobe VII (Very strong) 146.0 May 6 7 7.1 1 Indonesia, Molucca Sea VII (Very strong) 33.0 November 14 10 7.0 1 Peru, Puno IV (Light) 267.0 March 1
Listed are earthquakes with at least 7.0 magnitude.
By death toll
Rank Death toll Magnitude Location MMI Depth (km) Date 1 52 6.4 Albania, Durrës VIII (Severe) 20.0 November 26 2 41 6.5 Indonesia, Maluku offshore VII (Very strong) 18.2 September 25 3 40 5.6 Pakistan, Azad Kashmir VII (Very strong) 10.0 September 24 4 18 6.1 Philippines, Central Luzon VII (Very strong) 20.0 April 22 5 14 7.2 Indonesia, North Maluku VII (Very strong) 20.0 July 14 5 14 6.6 Philippines, Soccsksargen VII (Very strong) 15.3 October 29 7 13 5.8 China, Sichuan VIII (Severe) 6.0 June 17 7 13 6.8 Philippines, Davao VII (Very strong) 22.4 December 15 9 10 6.5 Philippines, Soccsksargen VII (Very strong) 10.0 October 31
Listed are earthquakes with at least 10 dead.
Then in January, we were telling you about various volcanoes that were then erupting around the world.
This is a list of volcanic eruptions of the 21st century measuring a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of at least 4, as well as notable smaller eruptions. Note that the size of eruptions can be subject to considerable uncertainty.
3 Anak Krakatoa Indonesia 2018 426 A major eruption triggered a tsunami that killed at least 426 people and injured 14,059 others. As a result of the landslide, the height of the volcano was reduced from 338 meters to 110 meters. This event caused the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 21st century. 2 Stromboli Italy 2019 1 A hiker was killed and several others were injured after the volcano’s strongest eruption since 2002. The Italian Navy was deployed and evacuated dozens of the island’s residents. 4 Raikoke Russia 2019 First eruption since 1924. At approximately 4 am, 22 June 2019 it erupted, with a plume of ash and gas reaching between 13,000 m (43,000 ft) and 17,000 m (56,000 ft), passing the tropopause and allowing stratospheric injection of ash and sulfur dioxide. 4 Ulawun Papua New Guinea 2019 On 26 June 2019 Ulawun erupted, sending an ash plume to at least 19,000 m (63,000 ft). Other large eruptions occurred on 2 August, also sending ash to 19,000 m (63,000 ft). 4 Shiveluch Russia 2019 The Shiveluch volcano had four large eruptions, with one reaching 23,000 feet (7,000 meters) and another 35,000 feet (10,700 meters). 2–3 Whakaari/White Island New Zealand 2019 20 4 Taal Philippines 2020 From January 12 to 13, Taal had 3 major eruptions. The first reached 55,000 feet (16,800 meters) into the sky, the second 36,000 feet (11,000 meters), and the third a lava fountain 3,300 feet high (1,000 meters).
Here is a list of all the volcanos in the Philippines and their locations.
We also had the armageddon wildfires of Australia of which about 50% were just recently put out by flooding rains. These were then followed by monstrous dust storms and then baseball-sized hail that just destroyed everything.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Dust storms, hail and flash floods have battered beleaguered Australian cities in recent days, extreme weather that has diminished the threat from scores of wildfires that continue to blaze across the country’s southeast.
A hail storm in the national capital Canberra on Monday damaged public buildings, businesses, homes and cars, cut power to some suburbs, brought down trees, caused flash flooding and injured two people, emergency services officials said.
To the west, a 300-kilometer (186-mile) wide cloud of red dust was carried by wind gusts up to 107 kilometers (66 miles) per hour and descended on the drought-stricken towns of Dubbo, Broken Hill, Nyngan and Parkes, local media reported. Much of the dust is top soil from New South Wales state farms.
Added to this mixture was the USA and Iran on the brink of starting WW III and Iranians shooting down a civilian aircraft loaded with people.
And then the world went back to sleep and continued with the impeachment process and the new trade deals and the DOW reaching even higher record highs than the day or the weeks before. Nothing changed.
This past week we began to hear about massive swarms of Locusts in Africa but the snoring continued.
Then we began to hear the WHO warning about new flu.
The number of people infected with a new virus in China tripled over the weekend, with the outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major cities.
There are now more than 200 cases, mostly in Wuhan, though the respiratory illness has also been detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Three people have died. Japan, Thailand and South Korea have reported cases.
The new strain of coronavirus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person to person, China confirmed.
Respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, who heads the health commission team investigating the virus, said 14 medical workers had caught it while treating patients, state media reported.
The sharp rise comes as millions of Chinese prepare to travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.
A total of eight people died of seasonal influenza in Taiwan in a span of 1 week according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reported by Central News Agency.
This records brings the death toll to 34 since Oct. 1, 2019. Some patients encountered severe flu that leads to cardiac arrest in older patients.
From Jan. 5 to Jan. 11, a total of 124,118 people sought medical treatment for flu-like symptoms at hospitals and clinics, according to CDC statistics.
80 percent were diagnosed with flu Type A H1N1 virus. A doctor noted that none of the eight individuals who died had been vaccinated against flu.
January 22, 2020. You can read morew about this new virus and watch the news updates at the link below.
Officials in China are racing to contain a deadly new strain of virus that has infected almost 450 people and left almost 20 dead. Over the weekend, the number of cases of the “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” quadrupled — and U.S. health officials confirmed the first case in the United States on Tuesday, in a man in his 30s who had recently traveled from Wuhan, China, to Seattle.
On Monday, a Chinese scientist confirmed that there can be human-to-human transmission of the respiratory illness. Officials in Hubei province, where the epicenter city of Wuhan is located, said Wednesday the death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 17.
Several U.S. airports have begun screening passengers from China to prevent the virus from spreading further. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illnesses as minor as a cold, or as serious as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization. They often present with pneumonia-like symptoms.
The viruses are transmitted from animals to humans — the virus that causes SARS, for example, was transmitted to humans from a cat-like animal called a civet. But in some instances, as appears to be the case with this new strain of coronavirus, they can also be transmitted between humans.
The World Health Organization said there are multiple known coronaviruses circulating in animals that have not yet been transmitted to humans.
Since 2005 we have been telling people about the curses of Lev 26 for not keeping the Sabbatical Years. No one listened to us back then, and few listen to us now. We have been showing you how to know when the Sabbatical years are and how to prove them from your own bible. Even amongst the brethren are those who say this is only for the land of Israel. And yet the curses are hitting the whole world now.
Here is an Easy Way To Help
I want to ask you for your help. It is actually quite easy. Whenever you watch one of our videos, I would like you to do the following each time.
- Click on the like button below the video. When you do this it tells the advertisers that my audience is not just in one small location.
- Also, follow me on Youtube if you’re not already doing so. The larger my audience on Youtube the more my videos can demand as advertisers bid for the right to place an ad there.
- There are sometimes one or two ads before each video now and then during and sometimes at the end. I always used to hit skip after 5 seconds. I am now asking you to watch each commercial for at least 30 seconds or until the end and then to click on the commercial to go to their link. When you do this, then the advertiser pays me each time you watch the whole commercial and also for you clicking on the commercial. When they see my audience reacting to the commercials the bid price goes up for those who want to advertise on my videos. This is an added income for sightedmoon.com to hep us do this work and it only costs you a few moments of your time.
We currently have 15,910 subscribers on Youtube and we typically have about 10,600–69,000 views per month. We are down about half this month for some reason. We also have about 70 groups of people with between 1 and 5 people watching us when we do a Zoom meeting. And then those meetings get more views when I post them. We would like to do more. In the comments section below you can write and ask what you would like to see me teach on specifically and I will consider it.
Very few buy the DVDs anymore. Our Youtube site has been free since the beginning in 2014. We do not sell a monthly subscription in order for you to get the best information from us or to get our newsletter or for you to be a part of the members only club. We do not demand you tithe to us. We do ask occasionally for your support for the things we are trying to do. We do sell our books and use that revenue to help this work. We also give away books and do not cry over the cost of doing this. Some people think I should work on writing the books for months at a time and then pay the editor to go through it 15 times checking for all that they do cover, and then for me to pay the publisher the thousands that I have already put out and to then cover the shipping cost as well in order for them to have a free book because they do not think it right that I am selling the word of God as they put it. The publisher and shippers do not work for free and the people who say this are too lazy to do their own research nor do they want to pay someone else who did spend the time.
Like the 5 foolish virgins are told to go and BUY the oil that they lack, these people just do not get it.
So, in addition to donations that some of you send in, and we are grateful for each one no matter the size, and in addition to any book sales that come in, I am asking you all to help in this little way and watch those commercials or let them run while you get a coffee and click on them to again give us another stream of income. We also encourage you to tell others to get the book “It was a Riddle Not a Command” from amazon now in softcover. Passover is going to be upon us soon and the three days and three nights question will again be raised. We cover that in great detail in the book. Also the question about which moon to follow. The Conjunction or the Crescent moon to begin the month. Again this book blows that argument out of the water from cover to cover.
Get copies to give to your family or friends who still go to the church you used to attend. And all of you can leave a favourable comment for this book while at Amazon.
Brethren, these are just some of the ways you can help us each month and each week. Pennies, nickels and dimes all add up.
Having now asked that of each of you, I have another request. I know there are some people out there who own and run large companies. And these people are doing things preparing for the coming horrors we have been talking about all these years. They have not been donating to this work, but have been planning on how they can help in evacuating people when that time comes. They have written to me and this is how I know.
I ask that you take it upon yourself to pray. Pray in the morning service time and the afternoon service time and the noon hour time just as Daniel set us an example three times a day. We are in need of miracles now as we come to the start of the 2300 Days of Hell. We are looking for a school or campground from which to teach in the Philippines. We are looking to organise an executive but that wil not be final until after Shavuot 2020. I am asking you to pray for these large companies. We need help now to get ready. Pray for more supporters and pray for those not yet called to this Torah way of life to be called. Pray our videos go from the current 2.5 million views to 25 million views and then 250 million views on each video.
Although the ad revenue would help it has been about getting this message out there to the rest of our countries. Your country and mine.
I am working on the News Letter each week. I am editing in garage band our zoom talk and it is not yet done. I am making and editing in Final Cut Pro another new video. I am working on getting all of our books edited and switched over to Amazon and taking the colour out of the Prophecies of Abraham and making it black and white to make it more affordable for people to buy the book. The current prices are about $80 for the coloured one. I am trying to organize setting up a place to teach Torah in the Philippines and for people to live. I still answer all my emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as on Facebook, MEWE, the many groups on WhatsApp, and LinkedIn. If you are on LinkedIn then please do connect with me there also.
I am doing everything I can to teach people about the Sabbatical and Jubilee Cycles, The Holy Days and the Sabbath, as well as the curses, and the 2300 Days of Hell starting this year, and the 70th Jubilee of Daniel 9 and it too begins this year. I am doing all I can and I am flat out and much of the time, worn out and tired. So are James, Pauline and Jan. I am asking all of you to help. It is easy to watch an ad. It is easy to send in a few bucks and say you did your part. I am asking you to pray like never before. To ask Yehovah to do a miracle and have our videos and or books reach millions. I am asking you to share these teaching everywhere you can to reach those few who are yet to begin this walk. Our time is almost over. I am asking each of you to find a way to help and I do not know how, but if you ask Yehovah He will show you.[/vc_column_text][dt_fancy_title title=”Tour Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey” title_size=”h3″ title_color=”accent” separator_style=”double” separator_color=”accent”][vc_column_text]Back in November we shared with you a tour to Saudi Arabia to see the mountain that Yehovah was upon when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.
That tour hosted by Andrew Jones begins in just over a month from now, on March 13, 2020. We almost had a full group going with us. But since November some have dropped out. So I want to again let you all know this tour is still available to go on. With the world conditions going the way they are, I do not expect this tour to be available for much longer. I hope I am wrong.
The cost to do just the Saudi Tour will be $1900 plus your airfare from where you are to Riyad and return. The cost to do Saudi and Egypt and see both sides of the Red Sea Crossing is going to be $3900 and the cost to also go to Turkey and see Noah’s Ark is going to be $5500 per person. Each of these additional tours includes your airfare between countries. You have to pay to fly to Saudi and back from there or back from Egypt or back from Istanbul. And some in the group are then going on to Israel for Passover.
Just imagine being amongst a few people in the entire world who have been to Mount Sinai and the Split Rock. Imagine being amongst the few who have been to Nuweiba and seen the Red Sea Crossing site. Then imagine you being one of the very few people in the entire world to have seen Noahs Ark and you are doing it with like-minded brethren. I would have done it alone. But to have many others also join me who all think similarly. That will be awesome. We currently have 15 signed up and eager to go. Will your name be one of those joining us?
We have openings right now if you want to go.
You can watch this short amazing video.
Tammy Goss just returned from this tour with her Mother and they went to all three sites. I will let Tammy tell you her thoughts on this trip of a lifetime.
“This journey was literally the exploration of a lifetime! This is not just a usual ‘tour’ as one might think, but a true Indiana (Andrew) Jones exploration experience! With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt extension, Mom and I traveled over 1600 miles seeing the most fascinating Biblical sites ever!
Where do I start a testimonial of this once in a lifetime experience? From climbing the Split Rock of Horeb in Rephidim, standing in awe at the bottom of the blackened top ‘real’ Mt. Sinai, walking in the animal chutes of Moses’ altar, seeing the ancient wells the Israelites probably drank from, climbing on the level rock area with ancient Egyptian cow god petroglyphs of what is through to be the golden calf site, seeing the biggest archeological area where a huge ancient gravesite is located where thousands were buried at once, to seeing the 12 wells that still exist to this day as well as many palm trees at Elim, the springs of Moses, the tombs of Jethro, being aboard a boat with cones on the water looking for coral and chariot parts, standing where the Israelites went on dry land through the Red Sea at Nuweiba, Egypt to standing on the Saudi side where they continued their journey to the Holy Land, to seeing the Imhotep pyramid, the oldest stone building in the world where it is thought to be where Joseph stored the grain in Egypt, I could go on and on!
We stayed in some of the most lavish resorts when possible with outstanding accommodations and food. This is really a trip of a lifetime for the Biblical scholar who wants a true experience of where all these events took place, or a true adventurer that wants to travel to areas few have traveled!
I am forever grateful to Ron Wyatt and Mary-Nell and Randall Lee, and Jim and Penny Caldwell for their initial and ongoing research of these sites. I’m very grateful for Andrew’s assistant Seth Walsh who always made sure we were doing great. And I am forever grateful to our guide, Andrew Jones, for continuing in the footsteps of Ron Wyatt. Because of him, we were blessed to walk in the footsteps of Moses.
The following Pictures are all coutesy of Tammy Goss who did this tour with her Mother.
Frank and Sense
Last Shabbat I gave you an article on Prayer and I shared with you the Ketoret and how it was made. Do you remember how it was made? This week I am asking you to pray ernestly for this work and to offer your Ketoret before Yehovah on our behalf.
I was asking you all to pray last week and to do so in a way your prayers would be heard. I was also showing you how your prayers are the offerings of our lips.
Two weeks ago we talked about the dark room and the depression that many of us are feeling. At the end of the Shabbat here in Ontario, we had our Zoom meeting in which I wanted to address these concerns about what was coming and whether or not you understood the times we are in. One question led to another and then another. And then they led to the witnesses and who they might be.
I do my best here to answer every question sent to me personally. I try to do the same on Facebook, Linkedin, Protonmaiil, WhatsApp, MEWE (not as much), and other sources that some people use to talk to me through. Jan does a lot of teaching and explaining on MEWE which is why I am not there so much. Pauline used to do a lot on our sightedmoon.com FaceBook site until the censor police took it down. James is still dealing with depression and is writing his way out. I say that so you know I do not have him at this time to talk with and mull over all the weighty mattters that are now before us.
Many of you send me videos to watch. Very many of you. It would seem some of you think I have all kinds of time just to sit around and watch every video that comes across your computer with no explanation as to why I should watch all of them. Others want me to read their books they wrote and critique them. I am currently trying to read two short ones and have a hard time doing that.. Others want me to join them about some topic they are interested in and debate them or others they draw in. They too assume I have nothing else to do and would love to jump at all these various opportunities. And still others want me to read a book or watch a 2-hour teaching and tell them why that book or that teaching is wrong. They just can’t see it, but that book or teaching challenges what I am saying and they think the video or book shows me to be in error but they can’t prove it themselves. So, would I investigate it for them.
Others write to bait me with a question about the book of Enoch or Book of Jubilee and get offended when I tell them the truth about it. And if I do not respond, they think I do not have an answer to their trick questions.
This last week a new person reached out in desperate need of advice. Her Father had recently died and she was in a terrible fight with her husband because she was now walking this walk and they were losing their friends at home and at church. Her letter ripped my heart out knowing exactly how she felt and what was going on and even what was not said. She had no one to talk with about all the changes she was experiencing. This is who I want to talk with. This is what is important.
I also had a long talk with Jan as she explained to me things she thought I may not have known, which I did.
Pauline and I talk often as we try new methods to get this message out and she too is concerned about me as was Jan.
My wife has told me to sell the house and we will split it down the middle. I would then go to the Philippines or where ever and she would go live with the kids. None of my kids talk with me nor come to visit. My daughter is the exception but….
I met with the Real Estate Friday before Shabbat.
Like you, I see the monumental movements in geopolitics and am stunned to witness prophecy in action before our very eyes. Floored. Like you, I have been playing this religion game of trying to understand Yehovah’s word and being a good person and failing miserably.
I asked, no I told James, to add the countdown clocks to the web site. He told me repeatedly that that would be a death nail to the ministry. What if nothing happens? He asked. What if it does, I said! So the clocks on the web site are there and the countdown keeps winding down and each time I look at it I shudder. Time is just flying by. I read older News Letters looking for some information on this or that and I see myself warning that we then had 15 years, then 10 years and then 7 and 4 and 3 and 2 and 1 and now, we have just a few months until we arrive at that one infamous day. The Middle of the 70th Week of Daniel. The middle of the 120th Jubilee Cycle since the creation of Adam. The start of the 7 years of plenty for the Whore, Europe. The start of the 2300 Days spoken of in Daniel 8 in which the Saints are going ot be hunted and killed by the Whore. That sequence of numbers that starts with this one day after Shavuot 2020 and then leads to the end of the Tribulation when Satan is locked away and the Messiah comes, but the whole world is all but wrecked just as it said except for those were not shortend no flesh would be saved alive..
I have asked for help and when I do ask, no one writes back. I have told you all to spread this message and some have in their limited means only to be told where to go and just how crazy they and I all are. Others do not do anything to help.
Years ago people would ask me where do we go to escape and I would say to Jerusalem because it says that we’re to flee from there into Moab where we would be hidden for times time and a half time during the Great Tribulation at the very end. Trouble was the State of Israel wanted us to come there and spend our money on tours but did not want us to stay. We tried to start a school there and we built a vineyard to build a bridge back to the Land. The thing is we are not welcome as Torah believers in Yehshua there. A very few who choose to become Jewish are able to migrate there but are under constant watch for a number of years to see if they go back to the Christian ways and then get the boot out of the country.
Then in 2018, I was asking Yehovah where do we go and what do we do? I saw and I showed all of you Isaiah.
Isa 11:10 And in that day there shall be the Root of Jesse standing for a banner of the people; to Him the nations shall seek; and His resting place shall be glorious.
Isa 11:11 And it shall be in that day, the Lord shall again set His hand, the second time, to recover the remnant of His people that remains, from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Ethiopia, and from Persia, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coasts of the sea.
And we walked through each of those places to learn where they were and to learn from where the remnant would come back from. You were excited and you were happy and sad. All of you saw this. And we looked at all the places around the world to see which ones qualified to be coasts of the sea.
Now the time has come. We are just months away from Shavuot 2020. The infamous date we have been talking about now since 2005. In our zoom meeting a few weeks ago, I could hear the anxiousness of many people. Some are pulling back to distance themselves just in case.
I hear the bleating of sheep. The bleating of panic from many of you as the darkness approaches and covers the whole world.
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Psa 23:1 A Psalm of David. Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
Psa 23:2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
Psa 23:3 He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psa 23:5 You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Psa 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah forever.
This Psalm was the theme of a book given to me at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1994. The lady who gave me this book wrote in it,
Have a Joyous Feast!
This is your instruction manual for becoming a good shepherd.
All our love Linda, Karen, Brenda, Suzy, Nancy, Anne and Johny.
This book comes from what I lovingly called them, which was the Gossling Family. Because each time during the services this family would get up to go to the washroom and then each child would rise and follow the mother in the proper order going from the oldest and tallest to the youngest. This woman suffered at the hands of her husband for choosing to walk this walk. She had a gun shoved into her mouth and her life threatened multiple times. Yet each Sabbath she would shut down and go off to some service and at Sukkot come to the Feast with a tent and a loaf of bread and a jar of Peanut butter. And they would have the most fun as a family at each Feast.
I asked them if I could take them out for dinner. My wife made a big stink. So I sent a long white Limo to pick the whole family up and I found another family who could not afford a fancy restaurant to go with them for the company and they all had an awesome time. I saw them drive by as I went with my family to where my wife wanted to go by ourselves. Anyway, this lady got me this book about being a shepherd (A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd and His Sheep by Keller) and it revolves around Psalm 23. And I just found it as I was thinking about all that has been said this past few weeks.
I never wanted to be a shepherd. Especially one working for Yehovah. Much like Gideon, I doubted everything that has come to pass and just wanted to hide somewhere.
Jdg 6:11 And the Angel of Jehovah came and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. And his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
Jdg 6:12 And the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him, and said to him, Jehovah is with you, mighty warrior.
Jdg 6:13 And Gideon said to Him, O, my Lord, if Jehovah is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not Jehovah bring us up from Egypt? But now Jehovah has forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
Jdg 6:14 And Jehovah looked upon him and said, Go in your might, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?
Jdg 6:15 And he said to him, O, my Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
Jdg 6:16 And Jehovah said to him, Surely, I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.
Jdg 6:17 And he said to Him, If now I have found grace in Your sight, then show me a sign that You talk with me.
Jdg 6:18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You, and bring forth my food offering and set it before You. And He said, I will stay until you come again.
Jdg 6:19 And Gideon went in and made ready a kid and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour. He put the flesh in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out to Him to the oak, and offered it.
Jdg 6:20 And the Angel of God said to him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes and lay on this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
Jdg 6:21 Then the Angel of Jehovah put forth the end of the staff that was in His hand and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes. And there rose up fire out of the rock and burned up the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the Angel of Jehovah went away out of his sight.
Jdg 6:22 And when Gideon saw that He was the Angel of Jehovah, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! Because I have seen the Angel of Jehovah face to face.
Jdg 6:23 And Jehovah said to him, Peace to you. Do not fear. You shall not die.
This week’s Newsletter is going to be a long one. I hear the nervousness of everyone and the tension as the days tick by. The concerns about going to a new sheepfold in another country. I could not stop thinking of this book and began to read it and then had to share it with you. For some in the Philippines they may never have heard this story so I include it for them. For many of you it will be a calming reminder of who we are and what is being done for us.
The Sheep Fold #1
This series of chapters is taken from Keith Hunt’s blog with some of his comments.
SETTING THE STAGE
BEFORE WE BEGIN our study of this section of Scripture it is essential to set the stage on which our Lord stated the three parables contained in John 10. Only in this way can we comprehend clearly the truths He was teaching.
His own contemporaries, those to whom He addressed these ideas, were totally baffled by them. In fact, His hearers were so bewildered that some accused Him of being mad, or under the control of an evil spirit. They insisted that such statements as He made deserved death by stoning.
On the other hand, there were those who, having just seen Him restore sight to the young man born blind, felt sure that what He said contained truth. It was bound to, since He could perform such miracles.
So it was that a storm of controversy raged around Christ. People were polarized by His parables. Some said He deserved to die. Others hailed Him as a Savior.
Down the long centuries of time since that desperate day in which He declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, the controversy has continued over what He really meant. Scholars, teachers, theologians, academics, and preachers have all applied themselves to this passage of Scripture. Commentaries and books of various kinds have dealt with these parables. The diversity of views, and explanations given, leave one almost as perplexed as the people of Jesus’ own time.
Consequently it is no easy thing to be invited to do a book on John 10. Yet it has been undertaken in humility and with the full knowledge of what others have written previously. It is not intended to discredit what has been drawn from these parables b other teachers. They are fully entitled to their views. But it should be said at the outset that the approach which I have taken is a very distinct, personal one. It is based, not on the concept of the nation Israel, referred to in the Old Testament as God’s flock, the people of His fold; nor on the New Testament emphasis of the church being Christ’s little flock; but rather on my simply belonging to Him as an individual.
The reasons for this are neither theological nor doctrinal. They are the practical realities of the setting and events in which these statements were made by Christ. And if, with open minds and gently receptive spirits we look at what transpired during the days immediately preceding this passage, it will be seen that the personal approach is valid.
Jesus was nearing the end of His public life. An increasing hostility was building up against Him from the ecclesiastical elite of His time. The religious leaders of His day felt threatened by His enormous popularity and appeal to the common people. The plain people applauded Him openly. His winsome words drew them with magnetic and positive power.
This continuous polarization around Christ created a constant storm center of controversy. The Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees tried every tactic to attack Him whenever He appeared in public. The masses on the other hand came to love Him with great affection. His healing, helping, and heartening life had restored and lifted so many of them.
He entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, with His men. It was a festival commemorating Jehovah’s care of His people during their long wilderness wanderings after their exodus from Egypt. The Master immediately came under attack. In John 7 we see some claiming Him to be a “good man”; others insisting He was a “deceiver.” And they would have lynched Him, if they could, but His hour of arrest had not yet come.
Then, on the last day of the feast He was assailed again. Some asserted He was truly “the Christ.” His antagonists on the other hand claimed that Christ could not possibly come from Galilee. Officers were sent to arrest Him but failed to do so, declaring instead, “never man spake like this man!” So once more He was spared from the clutches of His opponents.
On the next day (the 8th day or the last Great Feast day – Keith Hunt) He returned to the city and was confronted by the Scribes and Pharisees with a young woman caught in an illicit sexual relationship. She was to be stoned, but to bait Jesus the frightened girl was brought to Him. Instead of condemning her, He forgave her but instructed her to go and sin no more.
The girl’s accusers were furious. They engaged in a dreadful diatribe with Jesus in which He insisted upon His oneness with the Father. For this they again determined to stone Him to death. Yet He eluded them and escaped. All of this is described in John 8.
Later He was met by a man blind from birth. In a remarkable manner He touched the sightless eyes and the blind man saw when he went to bathe them in the pool of Siloam, as instructed. Out of deep gratitude the healed man gave glory and praise to his benefactor. This precipitated another angry controversy with the religious skeptics and leaders.
Because he believed in the Christ the poor fellow was excommunicated from the religious life of his people. Jesus met him again and declared His own identity. The healed man was ecstatic and overwhelmed with adoration.
But to the Pharisees our Lord declared bluntly that they were both blind and steeped in sin and self-righteousness. All their religiosity had done them not one bit of good.
It is on this pathetic theme that John 9 concludes.
In blazing, bold contrast, Christ had personally touched and entered both the lives of the young adulteress and this supposedly sinful, blind man. He had brought them into an intimate, new relationship of abundant living with Himself.
Put into the language of the New Testament, these two individuals had discovered what is meant by “Christ in me,” and “I in Christ.” They had both entered into that dynamic new dimension of living which Christ Himself later referred to as “[Abiding] in me, and I in you.”
(And, note again, it was the Last Great Feast day that this all took place. The time when the multitudes of the spiritually blind, who were not called to repentance in their life time, will be raised in the White Throne Judgment day of Revelation 20, and be given the Bible and the book of life will be opened to them. They will see the truths of God. They will be given a chance of seeing salvation laid before them. If they will, their blinded eyes of the mind will see the Great Shepherd, and they will accept Him as their personal Savior – Keith Hunt)
To depict and dramatize this remarkable relationship with Himself He then proceeded to tell the three parables of the Shepherd and His sheep in the next chapter.
By contrast, in Psalm 23, David the author writes from the standpoint of a sheep speaking about its owner. In John 10 the approach is the opposite. Our Lord, Jesus the Christ, here speaks as the Good Shepherd. He describes His relationship to His sheep; we, the common people, who have come into His ownership and under His care.
Joh 10:1 Truly, truly, I say to you, He who does not enter into the sheepfold by the door, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a robber.
WHAT IS A SHEEPFOLD?
It is an enclosure open to the wind.
It is an enclosure open to the scrutiny of the owner.
It is an enclosure not covered in, roofed over, or shielded from the eyes of the shepherd.
It is not a barn, shed, or closed-in structure.
Its walls, open to the sun, the sky, stars, rain, and wind may be made of rough-laid stones, sun-dried bricks, timber, mud and wattle, or even tightly packed thorn brush, called a corral in some places, a kraal in others, and a boma in parts of Africa.
The main purpose of the sheepfold is to provide protection for the sheep – especially at night and in stormy weather. Its high thick walls are a barrier that prevents thieves or, to use a modern parlance, rustlers from invading the flock to plunder the
The enclosing walls are also a safeguard for the sheep against all sorts of predators. These vary, depending upon the country in which the sheep are kept. In some areas it is a case of keeping out wolves or jackals. In others, especially parts of Africa, lions, leopards, and even hyenas are guarded against. Even then, despite the barricade of thorn brush, there are occasions when predators will prowl around a sheepfold stealthily searching for some spot where they can leap over the enclosure to capture and kill their prey. This produces panic among the flock. The carnage is terrifying and the losses among the flock can be enormous. For the sheep owner the raids on his sheep represent serious financial reverses which may take years to recover.
I had a neighbor whose flock was raided one night by a cougar. By daybreak more than thirty of his finest ewes lay dead on the ground. Fences and walls had been cleared by the powerful predator without it ever passing through a gate or open door.
“Sheepfold,” besides being the name for an enclosure where sheep are generally kept at night, is also a term for managing sheep. In sheep countries we often speak freely of “folding” sheep. By that we mean the much wider sense in which a flock of sheep are said to be “enfolded” by a certain owner or sheepman. The sheep come under his special management and his direct control continuously. He folds his flock exactly as he sees fit in order that they will flourish and prosper under his care.
Folding sheep is another way of saying a shepherd is managing his flock with maximum skill. It is to say that he handles them with expertise, moving them from field to field, pasture to pasture, range to range in order to benefit them as much as he can, as well as to enhance his own land.
So a sheepfold conveys the idea of the special relationship a sheep has to the ownership and care of a certain shepherd. And when our Lord, who referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd spoke these parables, He saw the overall picture of the unique relationship between Himself and His followers – between Himself and those who had come under His good hand for the management of their lives.
He begins this first parable by asserting that anyone who forces a way into the “sheepfold” other than by the proper doorway or entrance may be a thief or robber. In other words, He is saying that my life is a sheepfold to which He alone, the Good Shepherd, is the rightful owner.
Within the fold of my life there are all kinds of people who come in and out. There are the members of my immediate family circle, my wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, or more distant relatives. Then there are friends, neighbors, business associates, schoolmates or strangers who from time to time pass in and out of the circle of my life.
In reality none of our lives are totally closed in, roofed over, and so completely sealed and safeguarded as to forestall the entry of others. Each of us is a sheepfold in our own private, individual way. We are within a fold, a circle, a life, which really cannot be roofed over.
It is true some of us may have high walls of self-defense erected around us. We may even go so far as to try and enclose ourselves completely to forestall invasion from others, and we may feel we have actually succeeded in this. However, we may fool ourselves into believing that we can withdraw into our own secluded little domain where we are exempt from the entrance and intrusion of others.
Christ’s assertion is that in fact this is simply not possible. It is true I am in an enclosure. It is true I live within a limited circle which, however, is shared by others who enter it. But over and beyond this my life is surrounded and enfolded by the encircling care and provision of a providential God. Nor is it closed off from His loving care and concern. It is in fact wide open to the wind, the wind of His gracious Spirit. There is no way He can be kept out, any more than the wind blowing across the countryside can be kept out of an open sheepfold.
The truth that there is no one anywhere who can escape or elude the coming of God’s Spirit, is portrayed in exquisite detail in Psalm 139. There is no way known to man in which he can prevent the gracious presence of God’s Spirit from making an impact on the fold of his life. We are surrounded by Him; we are found by Him; we are touched by Him. His impact is upon us. We are beneath the influence of His hand … His person … His presence!
Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
Psa 139:1 To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O Jehovah, You have searched me and have known me.
Psa 139:2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
Psa 139:3 You search my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psa 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Jehovah, You know it altogether.
Psa 139:5 You have closed me in behind and in front, and laid Your hand on me.
Psa 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot go up to it.
Psa 139:7 Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
Psa 139:8 If I go up into Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
Psa 139:9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the furthest parts of the sea;
Psa 139:10 even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.
Psa 139:11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light around me.
Psa 139:12 Yea, the darkness does not hide from You; but the night shines as the day; as is the darkness, so is the light to You.
In the light of all this we must conclude quietly that though we may be able to exclude others from our lives, to a degree, we cannot do this with Christ. He comes to us again and again seeking entry.
(True, IF you are being called of God. What Keller did not understand is that God is NOT calling everyone to Himself in this lifetime. Psalm 139 was from David, a man called of God to be His child. Then indeed there is no hiding from Him anywhere. The truth of the matter is that the Lord is NOT giving salvation to the masses. Most today are spiritually blind, only the election of grace can know the Good Shepherd. See Romans 9 through 11. There is a plan of salvation being worked out by the Father. All will have a chance for salvation in the time frame that is of God. This plan of salvation is fully explained and expounded upon in studies on this Website – Keith Hunt)
He does not force His way in. He does not gate-crash my life or yours. He chooses to enter by the proper entrance which is really His privilege. Yet He is so gracious in requesting our cooperation in this.
Still, in fear and apprehension we often exclude Him, while at the same time, unknowingly, we are invaded by adversaries.
Many who force their way into my life, who slip in by means that are cunning, who impose themselves by devious and destructive tactics; often are bent on deceiving and destroying me. They are thieves and predators who are determined to plunder and exploit me as a person for their own selfish ends.
We live in a world and society rife with those who hold and propagate false teachings, false philosophies, false ideologies, false concepts, false values, and false standards of behavior. We are approached on every side by those who would penetrate our lives to pillage them if they could. Their aim is to exploit us. They would rob us of the rich benefits which could be ours as the sheep of God’s pasture.
(Yes, when called by God, Satan the Devil often works overtime, sending and doing his best to side-line us, to prevent the Spirit of the Lord from leading and teaching us, so we move from being called to being chosen. There is a full study on this Website entitled “Called and Chosen – When?” – Keith Hunt)
Sad to say that in many lives they have actually succeeded. People have been pillaged. Countless lives have been robbed by the enemy posing as proper owners. Yet in those same lives, in those very sheepfolds, the door has never been opened to the Good Shepherd who really does have the right to enter, and who in truth is entitled to their ownership and care.
This is one of the enduring enigmas of human behavior that is so baffling. We human beings will allow all kinds of strange ideologies and philosophies to permeate our thinking. We will allow humanistic standards and materialistic concepts to actually rob us of the finest values that would otherwise enrich us. We permit false aims and ambitions to penetrate our thinking and dominate our desires, scarcely aware that in so doing we are forfeiting the richest values our Good Shepherd intended for us.
On every side we see people robbed, not necessarily of materialistic possessions, but of the much more enduring assets of eternal worth and duration.
(Jesus did say indeed, many are called but few are chosen. Many called ones are robbed from moving on by the cares of the world, the physical riches of the world, the pleasures of the world, the whatever of the world; anything that prevents us from having the Good Shepherd enter fully into our lives, our hearts, our minds – Keith Hunt)
The simple solution to this whole dilemma is to discover for ourselves that in truth the only One who really has a right to manage the fold of my life is not myself, but God.
Most of us labor under the delusion that we have every right to our lives; that we have the right to go where we wish, do as we please, live as we choose, and decide our own destiny. We do not. We belong to God. He made us for Himself. He chose us in Christ out of love, from before the foundation of the earth to be His own. He has bought us twice over, both through His generous death and also by His amazing resurrection life.
Every faculty I possess in my body, mind, emotions, will, disposition, and spirit has been entrusted to me as a gift, bestowed by the bounty of a generous, gracious, self-giving, self-sharing God in Christ. There is no such thing as a “self-made” man or woman. To assert this is colossal conceit of the first magnitude. It is an affront to the living Lord who alone has a rightful claim on me. Even the total earth environment, the biota, of which I am a part, and which sustains me during my brief earth sojourn is God’s doing. Only at His pleasure is it maintained in perfect balance and poise. It provides the precise support mechanisms which insure my survival upon this sphere in space.
The Preeminence of Christ
Col 1:15 who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation.
Col 1:16 For all things were created in Him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created through Him and for Him.
Col 1:17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.
In view of the fact that all of life originates with Christ we should be able to see the reasonableness of admitting His ownership of us. We ought to discern the inescapable conclusion that He is entitled to enfold us with His loving care and concern. We should recognize the fact that He is fully and uniquely qualified to manage us with a skill and understanding far surpassing our own.
In spite of all this He does not insist on imposing Himself upon us. He does not override our wills. He refuses to rush into our experience by gate-crashing His way over our decisions. Having made us in His own likeness, free-will agents able to choose as we wish, whether or not we shall be His sheep, enfolded in His care, is ultimately up to us. This is a staggering decision facing each individual.
The amazing generosity of Christ in so approaching us stills our spirits and awes our souls before Him. Yet at the same time He insists anyone else who attempts to invade my life as an imposter, a counterfeit shepherd, is in truth none other than a thief and a robber … a plunderer of my life who will impoverish and cripple me.
The Shepherd’s Entry #2
“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth” (John 10:2-3a).
BECAUSE THE SHEEPFOLD belongs to the shepherd who constructed it, he has the right to use and enter it as he wishes. The sheep who occupy it belong to him. The sheepfold is an integral part of his complete sheep operation. The flock moves in and out through the entrance either to find security by night or fresh fields for grazing by day.
Whenever the shepherd comes to the fold it is for the benefit of the sheep. Unlike the rustlers or predators who come to raid or rob the livestock within, he always comes with beneficial intentions. The sheep do not fear him. They do not flee in panic or rush about in bewildered confusion, trampling and maiming each other in blind excitement.
In fact, some of my most winsome recollections of handling livestock during my long life are wrapped around those poignant moments of watching an owner come to his stock. Some come with gentle calls. They alert the sheep that they are approaching. Others whistle gaily as they near the gate so as to set the sheep at ease. Some sheepmen and sheepherders in Africa love to sing soft plaintive tunes as they come to the corral or sheepfold.
All of these approaches are diametrically opposite to the sly, subtle tactics of the predators or prowlers who attempt to pounce on their prey by surprise. They want to catch the sheep off-guard and capture them amid their confusion. It is a crafty, cunning part of their plan of attack.
And when the shepherd reaches the entrance it is customary to tap on the gate, or rattle the latch, or knock on the door loud enough so that all within the enclosure are alerted to the fact that he is outside, ready to enter. More than this, he expects to enter. When we apply this concept to our own lives we see the striking parallels. So often in our past we have seen our lives exploited by those who had only their own selfish interests at heart. They were not in the least concerned what happened to us as long as their own insidious, greedy ends were gained. They used and abused their prey to promote their own designs, no matter how much destruction they wrought.
By contrast there is none of this in Christ, the great Good Shepherd. Because of His care and concern for us, because of His self-giving love and conduct He comes to us always with peaceable intentions. All through the long and painful history of the human race we see God coming to willful, wayward men in peace.
Always His words of introduction to us are: “Peace be with you”; “Peace be unto you!”; “Be not afraid, it is I”; “Peace, good will toward men!”; “Peace I leave with you … not as the world giveth, give I unto you!”
He does not come to men to plunder or prey upon them. God has never exploited any person. Not once has He extracted anything from anyone for His own ends. There is not even a hint of grasping greed regarding the Good Shepherd who approaches us only with our best interests in mind. He does not use people for some selfish pleasure of His own.
And because He comes to us in generous good will He comes gently and graciously. He is Jesus the Christ; “The perfect Gentleman!” He refuses to force His way into our lives. In His magnanimity He created us in His own image with free wills, able to act independently in determining our own decisions.
He stands outside our lives, entreating us gently to grant Him admission. The generosity of such an approach overwhelms us when we pause to reflect that in truth He really has every right to enter.
The enormous pathos of this appeal by Christ to our human hearts is portrayed vividly by the aged and beloved John writing in the third chapter of Revelation. There God’s Spirit speaks to us,
“See, I am now standing at the door and knocking. If any one listens to My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and feast (share life) with him, and he shall feast with Me. (Rev. 3:20, Weymouth).
This One who so entreats us to open our lives to His entrance is none other than God very God, the Christ, who in the second parable of John 10 declares emphatically “I am the good shepherd…. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly!”
He comes to us anticipating an entrance. He is entitled to enter and has that privilege because He is our rightful owner. This will be explained later in this chapter.
There is a gross misunderstanding among many as to what God’s intentions may be in expecting entry into our lives. They assume He will make enormous demands upon them which cannot be fulfilled. They imagine they will be deprived of pleasures or practices which will leave them poorer people. Beleaguered by such misconceptions they are reluctant to grant admission.
Yet, the opposite is true of the Good Shepherd. He seeks entry to enrich us. He desires to put at our disposal all of His wondrous resources. He wants to inject an exciting new dimension of dynamic living into our days. He intends to share His very life with us. Out of that life imparted to me as an individual can come all the noble qualities of a fine and wholesome life which are uniquely His. These are made real in me, by His presence. They are further transmitted through me to touch other lives bringing blessing and benefit to those around me.
Why then are we still so loathe to let Him in?
There are various reasons, of which two far transcend all the others.
The first of these is fear. Almost all of us have at some time or other allowed people into our lives who took unfair advantage of us. They have hurt and wounded us. Sometimes they have abused us callously and with great cruelty. We started out
trusting them to a degree, and ended up torn and mutilated by the encounter.
The end result is that we begin to build high walls of self-defense and self-preservation around ourselves. We want to protect ourselves from the onslaught of outsiders. If perchance we have been injured repeatedly we become even more wary, cautious, and unwilling to open ourselves to anyone whom we regard as an intruder.
We bluntly warn people, “I don’t want you in my life!”; “Please stay away, I don’t want you interfering in my affairs”; “Just keep out of my business and mind your own”; “Live your life and let me live mine.”
And though we may not say so in actual words, we entertain the same attitude toward Christ when He comes to call at the doorway of our hearts (i.e., our wills). We subconsciously attribute to Him the same selfish motives and ulterior designs which characterize selfish human beings.
This is, of course, unfair to God. But it also demonstrates that we really do not know or understand Him, for His thoughts toward us are always good.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jer.29:11).
And the ultimate end He has in mind for me is that my will should be aligned with His; my life moving in harmony with His; together sharing in the magnificent plans and purposes He has for His people. To so live is to enter a powerful, positive adventure of selfless giving of ourselves for the good of all. This is the great dynamic of the love of God at work throughout the whole cosmos. It is the divine energy that drives the universe!
Yet most of us will not respond to His overtures. We prefer to draw back, to close ourselves off from Christ, to withdraw within the closely confining circle of our selfish little lives. There we feel more secure and self-assured. It is comfortable and we prefer this confinement – even if we are cramped within the constricting walls of our own making and choice.
The second reason why people will not open up their lives to the Good Shepherd is much more subtle and insidious. It is an integral part of our lifelong conditioning and culture to assume that I, Me, My, are entitled to absolute priority in our thinking, planning, and conduct.
From earliest childhood we insist on having our own way, indulging our own desires, doing our own thing, going our own way with our wishes always paramount. We become veritable little “kings in our own castles,” or even worse, “little gods in the temples of our own lives.” We resent anyone who dares to enter our domain. We even naively assume at times we can be “the shepherd in our own fold.”
There is no doubt in our minds that we are entitled to make all our own decisions, no matter how disastrous the consequences. We are sure we can solve all our dilemmas even though they lead us deeper and deeper into despair. We are determined to run our own lives even if we run them into the ground, ending up in absolute ruin.
In all of this we are positive no one else can manage our affairs nor control our conduct any better than we can. In pride and self-will we view outsiders, God included, as intruders, imposters who dare to try and usurp control. And we adamantly refuse them entrance.
As I sometimes say to people who take up this fortified position, “You have not only erected high walls around your life; you have dug a deep moat outside and drawn up the drawbridge lest anyone ever come in.”
In spite of our indifference, our fear, our pride, our determined refusal to let Him in, Christ is very patient and compassionate with us. He keeps coming. He keeps speaking. He keeps standing at the door. He keeps knocking. He keeps rattling the latch.
In the case of a few lives the door is finally opened. Our Lord made the unusual comment that it was really the “porter,” the doorkeeper who opens the door. And it may well be asked, “Who is the porter? Who is this One who for the sake and welfare of the sheep opens up the sheepfold to the Good Shepherd?”
He is none other than the gracious Spirit of God Himself. It is He who, unbeknown to us, and long before we are conscious of the presence of Christ, comes to us quietly to begin His gentle work within. It is He who gradually prevails upon our spirits to respond. It is He who, even in our willful waywardness, is at work within us turning us toward the One who stands outside the fold of our lives. It is He who gradually overcomes our fears, our deep subconscious inhibitions toward Christ. He is able in His own wondrous way to pulverize our pride, to lead us gently to see the enormous folly of our self-centeredness. He generates within our wills the active faith needed to comply with and respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
It is then and only then that the door is opened to Christ. It is then that the guard, so to speak, is let down. Then the One outside is granted entry. For some this is an act of great apprehension. It involves a definite movement within the will. Yet it is God who works within us to will and to do of His good pleasure. (See Phil.2:13.)
In his autobiography C.S.Lewis tells how he had long resisted the gentle overtures of Christ to enter his life. One day, while riding atop a double-decker bus to the zoo in London, he sensed he could no longer keep the Lord out of his life. By a definite, deliberate act of his will he literally unfastened the defenses within which he had enclosed himself for so long. Then the presence and the person of Christ moved quietly, but wondrously, into his soul. He was instantly “surprised by joy.” And this phrase is the title of his book.
When Christ enters, He brings not only joy, peace, and reassurance to the opened heart; He brings also the divine resources of love, life, light, and fullness of character which are uniquely His. These are essential to the new lifestyle He initiates. It is He who assumes control. It is He who begins to manage the sheep. It is He who begins to give direction and purpose to all that happens to them.
Of course, it can be asked, “Is He really entitled to do this?” “Is He my rightful owner?” “Does He have the credentials to determine what shall be done with my life?” To each of these the emphatic reply is yes!
First of all, we must be reminded that it is He who made us. The amazing intricacy of our bodies; the incredible potential of our minds and memories; the enormous capacities of our emotions; the unmeasurable impact of our wills; the unplumbed depths of our spirits … each and all are glorious gifts bestowed upon us in generosity by God. We did not fashion or form them. They belong rightfully to Him. They are simply entrusted to us for wise use under His direction for the brief duration of our days on earth.
Secondly, though all of us in willful, self-centered waywardness have gone our way to do as we want, we are invited to return to Him and to come under His care. To make this possible, He has brought us back with His own life, given in sacrifice for us. So, in reality He has redeemed us, brought us back, made it possible to be accepted again as His own.
Thirdly, He continues ever to intercede on our behalf. He suffers in our stead. He entreats us to become wholly His in glad abandon.
So it is that on this basis it is both reasonable and proper that, as His own people, the sheep of His pasture, we have every obligation to throw open wide the door of our lives, allowing Him to enter gladly as our Lord, our Shepherd.
The Shepherd’s Voice #3
“And the sheep hear his voice:and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3b).
THE RELATIONSHIP WHICH rapidly develops between a shepherd and the sheep under his care is to a definite degree dependent upon the use of the shepherd’s voice. Sheep quickly become accustomed to their owner’s particular voice. They are acquainted with its unique tone. They know its peculiar sounds and inflections. They can distinguish it from that of any other person.
If a stranger should come among them, they would not recognize nor respond to his voice in the same way they would to that of the shepherd. Even if the visitor should use the same words and phrases as that of their rightful owner they would not react in the same way. It is a case of becoming actually conditioned to the familiar nuances and personal accent of their shepherd’s call.
It used to amaze and intrigue visitors to my ranches to discover that my sheep were so indifferent to their voices. Occasionally I would invite them to call my sheep using the same words and phrases which I habitually employed. But it was to no avail. The ewes and lambs, and even the rams, would simply stand and stare at the newcomers in rather blank bewilderment, as if to say, “Who are you?”
This is simply because over a period of time sheep come to associate the sound of the shepherd’s voice with special benefits. When the shepherd calls to them it is for a specific purpose that has their own best interests in mind. It is not something he does just to indulge himself or to pass the time away.
His voice is used to announce his presence; he is there. It is to allay their fears and timidity. Or it is to call them to himself so they can be examined and counted carefully. He wants to make sure that they are all well, fit, and flourishing. Sometimes the voice is used to announce that fresh feed is being supplied, or salt, minerals, or water. He might call them up to lead them into fresh pastures or into some shelter from an approaching storm. But always the master’s call conveys to the sheep a positive assurance that he cares for them and is acting in their best interests.
When my children were young they saved up their few dollars to purchase their own pet ewes. And it was a delight to watch them go out to the fields and call up their own sheep. Quickly these ewes came to recognize the voice of their owners. When they were called they would come running to be given some special little hand-out of grain or green grass. They would be hugged and cuddled and caressed with childish delight. It was something which both the sheep and the owners enjoyed.
In all of this the key to the contentment of the sheep lies in recognizing the owner’s voice. When the sheep hear that voice they know it is their master and respond at once. And the response is much more than one of mere recognition. They actually run toward the shepherd. They come to him for they know he has something good for them.
In examining the Christian life we discover powerful parallels. We find that at some time or other most of us have heard God’s voice. We knew the Good Shepherd was calling. As our Lord Himself said so often when He was here among men, “If any man hear my voice,” then certain things would happen.
But first the question may well be asked, “How does one hear God’s voice?” “Is it possible for Him to communicate with me?” The simple answer is Yes; definitely.
He may speak to me clearly through His Word, whereby He has chosen to articulate Himself. His own gracious Spirit will impress upon my spirit His intentions and purposes for me as a person.
He may do this privately in the quiet seclusion of my own home, in the stillness of my devotions. He may, on the other hand, do it through some message spoken from a church pulpit, through a radio broadcast or a television program. Christ may come and speak to me through a devout and godly friend, neighbor, or family member. He may call to me clearly through some magazine, periodical, or book I have read. An everdeepening conviction and awareness that this or that is what I “ought to do,” may come to me. This great “I ought to” or “I ought not” is the growing compulsion of His inner voice speaking to me in unmistakable accents by His Spirit.
The Lord has chosen to articulate Himself also through the splendor and beauty of His created universe. The psalmist portrays this for us in exquisite poetry.
“The heavens declare the glory (character) of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps.19:1-4).
He also communicates with me clearly through the wondrous character, conduct, and conversation of Christ Himself. He, “the Word,” became flesh and dwelled among us. Through His flawless life, His impeccable character, His wondrous words I can hear God’s voice. He asserted boldly and without apology,
“The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
On another occasion He insisted,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
From the foregoing it is obvious that anyone can hear God’s voice; it is possible for us to be reached. But the burning question of communication is, Do we hear? By that I mean much more than merely making contact. This was a perpetual point of pain to our Master when He was among men. Over and over His comment was, “Ears you have, but you hear not!”
Hearing is much more involved, much more complex than it appears on the surface. It embraces more than just being spoken to by God. It involves three very definite aspects of interaction with Him.
If, in actual fact Christ the Good Shepherd has been granted entry into the little fold of my life, then I will have begun to become familiar with His voice. This then implies that I do recognize His voice. I learn to distinguish it from the many other voices calling to me amid a confused society and a complex world. I come to that awareness where I am alert and attuned to the special attributes of Christ’s call to me personally. I am like young Samuel who, in response to the voice of God, replied, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
O great Shepherd, I am listening. I am attentive. I am waiting for Your word to me. I am ready to recognize what You have to say to me.
The second aspect to hearing God’s voice is that I respond to it. He chooses to communicate with me in order to impress upon me His intentions and desires. He has good intentions toward me. They are in my own best interests and it is incumbent upon me that I recognize this, take them seriously, and respond accordingly.
The instant sheep hear and recognize their shepherd’s voice, they lift their heads, turn in the direction from which the sound comes, and cock their ears to catch every syllable. Whether resting, feeding, or fighting, everything else is forgotten for the moment because they have heard their owner’s call. It commands their full and undivided attention. Something new and different is about to happen.
The same should be true of us in responding to God’s voice. It should command our undivided attention. We should never allow the other interests and demands of our often busy lives to blur the gentle appeals that come to us from Christ. He does not blow mighty bugles to gain our attention. We are not hounds being called to the hunt, but sheep being led in the paths of righteousness. If we are not sensitive to the overtures of His Spirit and quickly responsive to the distinct promptings of His Word, we are not going to go anywhere with Him.
It is often frustrating to a shepherd when he calls his sheep to discover that though they may have recognized his voice and responded to it, they still refuse to move. They simply will not come running when called.
Again and again I have watched a flock of sheep in which there were a few recalcitrant ones. Standing there stupidly and stubbornly they simply shake their heads, waggle their ears, and bleat out a pathetic “blah!” For the shepherd calling them, this is frustrating.
The same thing is too often true among God’s people. We recognize His voice, we respond to it to a degree, but we will not move. We will not act. We will not run to Him. We adamantly refuse to comply with His wishes or cooperate with His intentions for us.
Our attitude and actions are as absurd as any “Blah!” bleated by some stupid, stubborn sheep. We stand still, not moving a step toward Him who is so fond of us. We appear to be almost paralyzed … impotent to move a step ahead in the will of God.
Now the reader may well ask, “How does a person move toward Christ? How does he, so to speak, ‘run to do His will’?” It is obvious that if we are to benefit from hearing His voice we must step out to do what He calls us to do.
This involves much more than merely giving mental assent to what we may have heard. It simply is not enough just to agree with what God’s Spirit may have said to us. It goes far beyond even becoming emotionally excited about what we have heard. It is possible for people to weep tears of bitterness or remorse yet never move toward God. It is equally ineffective for individuals to become merely ecstatic about some spiritual issue, for, when the emotion has passed, they are still standing precisely where they were before the call came from Christ.
What then is the step needed to move us? It is an action of our will. It is the deliberate choice of our disposition to do that which we have been called to do.
We refer to this as the response of faith in action. It is the compliance of our will to God’s will through straightforward obedience and glad cooperation.
Truth becomes truth to me, and spiritual life becomes spiritual life to me only when I actually do the thing Christ calls me to do!
Not until this actually takes place do we move toward the Shepherd or begin to experience the benefits of His care and management. We may know all about Him in a theoretical, doctrinal way. But actually living, walking, and communing with Him in a personal encounter will be something foreign and unknown.
Unfortunately many who call themselves Christians, who consider themselves the followers of Christ, who claim to be the sheep of His flock, are really still strangers to His voice. They have yet to know the precious and special delight of actually knowing Him. Our Lord referred to this in a solemn statement He made in the Sermon on the Mount. It is full of pathos and poignant pain:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day Lord, Lord…. And then will I profess unto them I never knew you” (Matt.7:21-23).
The relationship between the shepherd and his sheep, between Christ and those whom He calls, is one of personal, profound knowing; for He knows me intimately, He knows me by name. Only those who are acquainted with the pastoral life of a sheep owner in the Middle East or Africa are able to grasp how thoroughly these people know their livestock. Their livestock are their very life. Sheep, goats, cattle, camels, and donkeys are both the center and circumference of their entire social scene.
If one goes to visit a village, the order of greeting and salutation is first to ask how the owner himself is faring. Then one inquires after the health of his sheep and cattle. Following that one asks about his children, then lastly his wife or wives. This is not intended as any slur on his family, but it does point up the enormous importance attached to livestock. They are the paramount consideration in the life of the owner.
A second remarkable aspect of the care of animals in these countries is that each one is known by name. These names are not simple common names such as we might choose. Rather, they are complex and unique because they have some bearing upon the history of the individual beast. For example, an ewe might be called: “The one born in the dry river bed,” or “The beautiful lamb for which I traded two pots of honey.”
During the years when my family and I lived among the Masai people of East Africa I was deeply moved by the intense devotion and affection shown by the owners for their stock. Out in the grazing lands or beside the watering places they would call their pets by name, and it was sheer joy to watch their response as they came to the shepherd’s call to be examined, handled, fondled, petted, and adored.
Some of these sheep had literally grown up as members of the family household. From their earliest days they had been cuddled, hugged, fed, and loved like one of the owner’s own children. Every minute detail of their lives was well known and fully understood.
A remarkable picture of this is portrayed for us in 2 Samuel 12:3, where the prophet of God rebuked King David for his adultery with Bathsheba, when he likened Uriah to a poor shepherd with only one little lamb.
“But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.”
Is it any wonder that such ewes and lambs were called by endearing names? It is little marvel that every detail of their lives, every unusual facet of their character was known intimately.
This is the picture portrayed for us by Christ when He made the terse statement: “He calleth his own sheep by name.”
Most of us are totally unaware of just how well God really does know us. We are oblivious to the staggering truth that every aspect of our lives is fully known to Him. If we examine the Word of God on this subject we will discover that even from our conception in our mother’s womb all the hereditary factors that combined to make us each the unique individuals that we are have been known to God.
A careful reading of Psalm 139 assures us that we are known far beyond human knowledge, even in the environmental influences that have shaped us, by God who comprehends our complexities. All the multitudinous idiosyncrasies which make each of us distinct individuals are known to our Lord and Master.
The Good Shepherd may well be a stranger to me, but I am no stranger to Him!
When in the process of time an individual opens the sheepfold of his life to Christ, he may feel he is inviting a stranger to enter. Yet the truth is that He who enters is not a stranger at all but the One who has in fact known us from before birth.
This discovery is really double-pronged. It is at the same time both reassuring, yet also alarming. It is wonderful to realize that at last there is someone who does know and understand me. If I have been the type of person who has played games with others and pulled the wool over their eyes, I will find I can’t do it with God.
The hypocrisy has to end. I must begin to be open and honest with Him who knows me through and through – who calls me by name.
In calling to his sheep, the shepherd desires to lead them out of the sheepfold. Sheepfolds, especially in the East, are not pretty places. Their names may sound picturesque and romantic, but the enclosure where the sheep spend the night usually is an appalling spot. Within the enclosing walls of stone, timber, bricks, or brush there is a continual build-up of dirt, debris, and dung. Not a blade of grass survives the eternal tramping of a thousand hooves. And as the seasons come and go the sheepfold lies ever deeper in its accumulated dung. The odors can be atrocious after rain and vile in the heat of the summer sun.
The good shepherd is up early at break of day to fling open the gate and lead his sheep out into fresh pastures and green grasslands. He will not allow his flock to linger within the corral for an hour longer than is necessary. There they can only stand still in the scorching sun or lie down to try and rest in the dirt and dung that clings to their coats and mats in their wool.
Gently the shepherd stands at the gate and calls to his own to come outside. As each animal passes him he calls it by name, examines it with his knowing eye, and, if necessary, searches with knowing hands beneath its coat, to see if all is well. It is a moving interlude at the dawn of each new day: a time of close and intimate contact between the owner and his flock.
The parallel in our own lives is not difficult to discover. It is in the little circle of our own constricted living that most of us feel most secure, most relaxed and perhaps most familiar.
But our great Good Shepherd calls us to come out of the restricted, petty round of our cramped lives. He wishes to lead us out into fresh new pastures and broad fields, perhaps to new places we have never been before.
The surprising thing is that many of us are not aware of just how drab, soiled, and dusty with accumulated debris our lives really are. We keep milling about in our same little circle. We are totally preoccupied with our self-centered interests. We go around and around, sometimes stirring up quite a dust, but never really accomplishing anything worthwhile. Our lives are cramped, selfish, and plagued with petty pursuits.
The tragedy of all this is that it can apply to every aspect of our lives. It can be true in a physical dimension where we allow ourselves to be cramped within four small walls or within the narrow confines of a city house or apartment. We can be cramped, too, in abused and neglected bodies.
We can likewise find ourselves corralled in a moral and mental dimension. We will not move out into new areas which enlarge the horizons of our minds or new experiences that stir and challenge our souls. We cringe from new vistas and fresh pursuits that will get us off the barren ground of our familiar old style.
Equally so is there a sense in our spiritual lives where God by His gracious Spirit calls us from and leads us out of our cramped experiences. He invites us to move out into the rich, nourishing pastures of His Word. He wants us to roam abroad in the wide ranges of new relationships with others of His flock. He longs to lead us beside still waters; in paths of righteousness; up into the exhilarating high country of the summer ranges where we are in close communion with Him.
The intentions He has for us are all good. His desires and aspirations for us are enormous, full of potential for unimagined benefit to us and others. Because the thoughts He thinks toward us are thoughts of peace and blessing, let us not hold back! It is the truly wise one who will allow himself to be led out into the broad fields of God’s gracious blessings and benefits.
He Leads Me Out, And Goes Before Me, To New Green Pastures #4
“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goes before them” (John 10:4a)
As was pointed out in the preceding chapter many sheepfolds are polluted places. Even the environs around the sheepfold often become barren, trampled, and eroded by the passing to and fro of the flock. So if they are to benefit from the outlying fields and meadows they must be put out to pasture.
A good shepherd simply does not permit his stock to linger long on the barren, contaminated ground around the corral. There is nothing of value there for them to feed upon. The corral is essentially a place of protection during darkness.
The diligent owner will be up at dawn to put his flock afield. This is a self-imposed discipline. He must bestir himself before the sun breaks over the eastern skyline, but this he does gladly and willingly for the sake of his sheep.
A reason for this is that because of the aridity of so much sheep country, he simply must get them out on grass early to benefit from the dew that lies on the herbage at dawn. Often this is the only moisture available for the flock. Frequently in these semidesert countries there are no clear running streams nor placid pools of water where they can be refreshed. The total moisture intake to maintain body metabolism and vigor must come from dew-drenched vegetation.
Another point of interest is that this is the coolest time of the day. The atmosphere is moist and fragrant with the night air that has settled over the land. The heat has mostly dissipated during darkness. Mosquitoes, flies, and other insects are semidormant, less active, allowing the sheep to graze peacefully.
Turning to our lives we find that much the same principles hold true in our quiet times with the Master. It is noteworthy that most of the truly great men and women of God through the centuries are those who have met with Him early in the day. It is significant that so many of His most intimate “saints” have been those who literally allowed themselves to be “put out” into fresh fields of intimate association with Christ at break of day.
It is in these still hours that the quiet dews and refreshing presence of God’s gracious Spirit descend upon us. It is then that the frantic world is still. It is then that the clamor and conflicts of our complex lives are quieted. It is then that we sense our own spirits can best be silent, responsive, and sensitive to the stimulus of His own strong Spirit.
(If you are not called of God to see the true light of His word, then you continue in blindness, no matter what hour of the day it is, morning, noon, or night. You may have a “good start to the day” as the saying goes, if you pray and study in the morning, but many have not come to the knowledge of the truths of God, JUST because it was morning. Sometimes Jesus took quiet time with God AFTER a long work day in healing and preaching. Personally, I’ve done most of my study time and writing time in the evenings, even late at night, when things can also be quiet and restful – Keith Hunt)
Our Shepherd, our Lord, our Master Himself, when He was here among us as a man, delighted in these quiet hours in communion with His Father. The gospel record confirms how often He slipped away to be alone in private prayer and meditation. It was the time of refreshment for His soul; the time of restoration for His body and uplift for His spirit.
It is not always easy to be up and alert at an early hour. It demands a degree of self-discipline which is more than many can meet. But it is the interlude of enormous benefit to those who will allow themselves to be “put out” to this extent. So often, especially when we are weary, the comfort of our warm beds is so appealing. The natural, normal inclination is to simply sleep on.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. (Prov.6:10-11; 24:33-34)
(But as Keller has pointed out, a shepherd must at times be up before the rising of the sun, so the sheep can have the dew of the morning. So giving yourself the time to do most of your study and prayer before the day begins for you and your sheep, may have you meeting yourself as you go to bed. I’m sure David the shepherd had times when most of his study, meditation, prayer life, was during the day, as his schedule with his sheep varied. Quality time is also important, not just quantity. There have been many a person who has spent hours in the morning studying etc. and have not become a better theologion or have grown in grace and knowledge of our Lord. For some the morning will be the best time in their working life, for most of their devotions. For others it may not be the best time. The proverb quoted above is not teaching that you should have little sleep. Modern science has proved everyone should get at least 8 hours sleep per day, to have a healthy mind and body. The proverb above is about overdoing sleep and being lazy. Each person must work out what is best for them, for the major part of study and prayer and meditation, within their working schedule and duties of life, and that may vary from day to day or week to week – Keith Hunt)
The impoverishment which comes to us is often much greater than we are aware of. Not only is it in a spiritual dimension, but it is equally so in mind and body. The reason for saying this is because the early hours are among the best of the day. It is then we are rested. Our minds are alert; our bodies are refreshed; our spirits are still. We are fully prepared for whatever new and fresh experience our Lord may have in mind for us. And if we deprive ourselves of this opportunity for a first-hand encounter with the living God, then our total lives are at a lower level than they could or should be.
(Especially in this modern world, this teaching of the morning is best for major devotions is simplistic; there are today too many factors to life (even for a shepherd in olden days) that have to be taken into account for each individual, to ever put a dogmatic stand on the idea that the morning is the very best part of the day for main devotions. I’m not disagree with Keller per se here; it is good to have communion with the Lord in the morning, but some think ALL of their prayer life and study life should be in the morning. I disagree with that. If you are a morning person, then by all means use the morning for most of your prayer and study with the Lord. But not all of us are morning people. Most of my study and meditation in the Word is in the evenings. I just happen to be an “evening guy” – unlike most I guess, my mind seems to be alert and sharp in the evenings. Then today with work schedules and shift work, you have to figure it out for yourself which time of the day is best for you to have most of your prayer, study, meditation work with the Lord – Keith Hunt)
It is the alert person who in a positive and distinct way presents himself or herself at dawn to the great Shepherd of the soul, who flourishes under God’s care. In a dramatic way the course of the entire day’s events are established. A strong, pervading, impelling awareness of God settles over us. We become acutely aware that we are, by a decisive action of our wills, putting ourselves at His disposal, to be put where He wishes during the day. We realize that we are going out into the turmoil of our times; into the chaos of our society; into the broken world of our generation, not alone but with Him.
(Again, schedules of work, home, children, vary with each person, and can change for some people from day to day. Quality time is always better than quantity time. And the Lord is always there no matter what time of the day you have to do most of your in-depth devotionals – Keith Hunt)
It is because of this knowledge, this awareness, that, as God’s people, we can be put out into a troubled generation with strength, serenity, and stability. It is He who puts us into the place of His appointment. It is He who will put us into the green pastures of His choosing. It is He who will make even our most desperate days of benefit to a beleagured world. This He will do even to the refreshing of our own lives.
Why then, it may be asked, are so many of us reluctant to be put out of our little lives? Why are we so loathe to have our life habits disturbed? Why are we so unwilling to be put out either for the benefit of ourselves or the welfare of others – including our Master Himself?
The answer is rather startling, yet simple. It is largely because most of us are stubborn and selfish. We find it much easier and more comfortable to confine ourselves to the familiar little round of our old self-centered lives. We are so enfolded with the comforts and conveniences that have conditioned our existence that we are reluctant to have our constricted circle of living disturbed. Our days may be drab and dry, as barren as any eastern sheepfold with its dust, dung, and debris, but we will not be put out of it.
Some dear souls are fully aware that this is so. In a way they come to almost abhor their own dry existence. But instead of allowing themselves to be put out they turn inward to indulge in endless self-pity and boredom.
Somehow they feel it is no fault of their own that they are caught in a confining little circle of hopelessly selfish living. They are so preoccupied with their own petty interests that the idea of being drawn out to new fields and fresh experiences is both unwelcome and frightening.
They have ears, yet they are deaf to the pleas of perishing people around them. They have eyes, yet they cannot see the broken humanity, homes, and hearts all about them. They have spirits, yet they are shriveled, shrunken, and atrophied with self-interest, unable to sense the needs and heart hunger of a sick society, a world groaning in despair.
To such our Great Shepherd comes, intending to put them out where they can count for something substantial in His economy.
Let us look at this whole concept in a practical and simple way. Let us remind ourselves that because our God has been all over the ground before He knows what He is doing with us. He does not put us out into places or experiences where we are caught in a crisis. There are no crises with Christ. He has all foreknowledge. He is totally familiar with every circumstance that will or can confront us.
It follows then that wherever He chooses to put us it is for Him familiar ground. We are not going out blind. We are setting out under His guidance. Our confidence is in His faithfulness to find the places where not only we, but also He and others will benefit most from our just being there. It is not a case of relying on our wits, intelligence, or insight. Rather, it is a question of unquestioned reliance on His utter reliability to put us into the right place at the right time in the right way. Because He is all-knowing and all-understanding and totally trustworthy we can depend fully on His faithfulness to do that which is best.
Now this applies to every aspect of our lives. In no way is it or can it be confined to just our spiritual experiences. With God, every aspect of life is totally sacred the moment He touches it. There is no distinction in the mind of God, as there is in ours, between secular and sacred when He has a dynamic part in it. He desires that the total round of our little lives be lifted out of the mundane round of impoverished days, to the lofty and broad sweep of living to our fullest capacity under His control. He wants to broaden our horizons.
This is true because He declared unequivocally, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
What does this involve in basic terms? In Christian thinking there is too often a tendency to deal in abstract values and intangible ideas. Let us get down to basic human behavior. Perhaps we can begin with our bodies, our physical makeup.
If in truth I am God’s person; if Christ has in fact entered my life, my body belongs to Him: He resides there. My right to do with it as I choose has been abdicated. It is now the residence of His gracious Spirit who is entitled to be sovereign in its conduct and care. I no longer have any right to misuse or abuse it. It is not to be overworked, over-stressed, overfed, overindulged with drink, nor overcharged with sex.
As the sheep of Christ’s care this body is to be under His management. It is to be put out of the confining, restricting, damaging environment of just four walls and cramped quarters. It is to be exposed fully and freely to the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, clean water, wholesome food, moderate exercise, and adequate sleep. These are provisions made for it by God. I should be willing to be put out to see they are met. This will benefit not only myself, but also my family, friends, and anyone else who encounters this healthy, wholesome, energetic, vigorous person.
Turning to my soul with its mind, emotions, and will, precisely the same principle applies. This is my person, now indwelt by the living Spirit of the living God. I shall not permit it to be cramped and contaminated by exposing it to such dusty trivia as newspaper propaganda, pornography, cheap debasing literature, hours of low caliber television programs, or rubbish from the mass media.
Instead, God’s Spirit will lead me to expose myself to the finest in art, literature, and music. He will put me into situations where my mind can be improved and my soul can be stimulated with that which is beautiful and noble and lofty. I can and will become a person of broad interests, noble aspirations, and enormous enthusiasm because I belong to Him and He wishes to put me out into wide fields of fruitful and useful endeavor to benefit my generation.
The same is true in the realm of my spirit, where I commune with Him. In the deep intuition of my innermost being where I “know him,” Christ comes to enlarge my life and the understanding of His will.
He leads me to browse widely and ruminate richly in His Word. He puts me out to touch a hundred or a thousand other lives by His direction. He enriches my fellowship and contact with those outside the little circle of my sheepfold. In short, because He does all this it is possible to make an impact on my generation out of all proportion to my one little life – because He is in it with me.
NOTE: CERTAINLY, the main thought here is that the Lord wants to LEADS US OUT into fine spiritual pastures. You must ALSO WANT IT! You must be HUNGRY for it, praying to Him to lead you into more grace and knowledge. You must DESIRE and REQUEST from Him that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. I cannot over-estimate having this attitude; you must SEARCH the Scriptures; you must PROVE all thing, and hold fast to that which is good and correct. All truth will not be given to you in just ONE big scoup; it will come often a little here and a little there. As you are given it, as you accept it, as you live it, then God will give you more. There are wonderful green pastures out there that our Lord is eager to lead and guide you to them.
Many of the studies on this Website are the product of years of deep searching, meditating, and prayer. It has only been time and God’s revealing in His time, that the truths of theses studies have been born. What you see here is devotion times over many hours and years, even decades, of continuing to love God’s word, to search God’s word, and to be CORRECTED by His word. And I can verify with decades of living all of this, that Jesus was and is ABSOLUTELY right in promising us that the Spirit would come and would lead us into all truth. You just have to make it clear to Him that you WANT and YEARN and DESIRE with all your heart and mind, the way of the Lord in all the spiritual grace He can give you. Sometimes that crying out may need to be done with literal tears. I’ve had to do that at times over the years, you probably will have to also. Such crying to the Father will not be ignored, He will send the Spirit to lead you into all truth, and with that comes peace and gratitude and contentment, as only possible when you KNOW who God is and when you KNOW you are walking with Him on the straight and narrow path that leads to the Kingdom of heaven. Keith Hunt
The Sheep Know His Voice! #5
… and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice (John 10:4b)
In CHAPTER 3 we learned how the sheep come to recognize their shepherd’s voice and respond by running when called. Over a prolonged period of time they become acutely aware that it is always in their best interests to do this. They have learned to trust it, to rely on it, but even more significant, to actually enjoy hearing it.
This is simply because the voice and the shepherd are as one. His voice denotes his presence. His voice indicates he is there in person. His voice represents his power, authority, and ability to protect them in danger while also providing for their every need.
In essence the sheep become so acquainted with that voice that they know it intimately. They come to expect it. That voice of that owner speaks peace and plenty to them. To hear and know that voice is to be constantly reassured of the shepherd’s care for them. It is evidence of his affection and faithfulness to them.
Precisely the same can apply to the Christian under Christ’s control. His voice is not something we shrink from. It does not disturb or dismay us. We do not find it troubles us when He speaks.
We also learn to delight in hearing Him. We look forward to having Him speak to us. We enjoy the increasing awareness of His presence; we relish the individual interest He shows in us; we revel in the close intimacy of communion with Him. We delight in knowing assuredly that He has come to be with us and we can be with Him, ready and eager to follow Him.
Nowhere is there stress or strain in this relationship with the Shepherd of my soul. Its keeping has been deliberately entrusted to Him. A calm, strong, quiet assurance pervades me that in His care all is well. Absent from this commitment of myself to Him is any fear or foreboding. I know Him. I know His voice. I know all is well.
And this knowing applies to all of my life. It embraces not only the past and the present but applies equally to the unknown tomorrows. My days need not be charged with anxiety. There is no need to inject unnecessary stress into my sojourn of this day. He is here. His voice speaks strength, serenity, and stability to my soul.
So where He leads me I will follow!
Etched indelibly upon the walls of my memory is one tropical night when all alone, with no one near but God Himself, I went out to walk softly beneath the rustling palms beside the Pacific Ocean. My life, it seemed, had reached an absolute impasse. There seemed no point to pushing on. Everything had ground to a deadly standstill. The future looked forbidding; in fact, it appeared positively hopeless.
From the depth of my being I cried out to Christ. Like a lost sheep bleating in desperation from the thicket in which it was stuck fast, I longed to hear my Shepherd’s voice. He did not disappoint me!
He heard. He came. He called. He spoke. And in His voice that night, speaking to me clearly, distinctly through His Word, by His Spirit, my soul was reassured. I could hear Him say, “Entrust the keeping of your soul and life to Me. Let Me lead you gently in the paths of righteousness and peace. My part is to show the way. Your part is to walk in it. All will be well!”
It was so. And it has been to this day.
The question in all of this is, “Do I really want to follow Him? Do I really want to do His will? Do I want to be led?”
Some of us say we do without really meaning it. More than anything else it is like a sentimental wish. It is a half-hearted hope. It is a pleasant idea we indulge in during our better moments. Yet, too often deep down in our wills we still determine to do our own thing and go our own wayward ways. It is precisely at this point where we come to grief in our walk with God. It is presumption of the worst sort to claim His commitments to us, made so freely and in such generosity, while at the same time refusing to comply with His commands or wishes because of our own inherent selfish desires.
Whatever else happens there remains this one, basic fundamental fact that only the person who wants to follow Christ will ever do so. All the rest will become strays.
This word “follow” as used by our Lord implies much more than just the thought of sheep tagging along blindly behind their owner. It has within it the connotation of one who deliberately decides to comply with specific instructions.
For example, if one purchases a complicated clock or other piece of equipment that is to be assembled, along with it will come a sheet of instructions. At the top will be printed in large bold letters, “THESE DIRECTIONS MUST BE FOLLOWED.” In other words, there can be no guarantee that it will work unless the directions are complied with and carried out to the minutest detail.
It is the same in carrying out God’s commands. His clear instructions for our conduct and character have been laid out for us in His Word and in the life of our Lord, the Word enfleshed. There rests with us then the obligation to comply. As we cooperate and follow through we will find ourselves progressing. New areas of life, exciting experiences of adventure with Him will emerge as we move onto fresh ground. I quote here from “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”: “As mentioned earlier it is no mere whim on God’s part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh embarrassing.”
First of all, Scripture points out the fact that most of us are a haughty and stubborn lot. We prefer to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa.53:6). And this we do deliberately, repeatedly, even to our own disadvantage. There is something almost terrifying about the destructive self- personal pride and self-assertion. We insist we know what is best for us even though the disastrous results may be self-evident.
Just as sheep will blindly, habitually, stupidly follow one another along the same little trails until they become ruts that erode into gigantic gullies, so we humans cling to the same habits that we have seen ruin other lives. Turning to “my own way” simply means doing what I want. It implies that I feel free to assert my own wishes and carry out my own ideas. And this I do in spite of every warning.
We read in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25,
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
In contrast to this, Christ the Good Shepherd comes gently and says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The difficult point is that most of us don’t want to come. We don’t want to follow. We don’t want to be led in the paths of righteousness. Somehow it goes against our grain. We actually prefer to turn to our own way even though it may take us into trouble.
The stubborn, proud, self-sufficient sheep that persists in pursuing its old paths and grazing on its old polluted ground will end up a bag of bones on ruined land. The world we live in is full of such people.
Broken homes, broken hearts, derelict lives, and twisted personalities remind us everywhere of men and women who have gone their own way. We have a sick society struggling to survive on beleaguered land. The greed and selfishness of mankind leaves behind a legacy of ruin and remorse.
Amid all this chaos and confusion Christ the Good Shepherd comes and says, “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt.16:24). But most of us, even as Christians, simply don’t want to do this. We don’t want to deny ourselves, give up our right to make our own decisions. We don’t want to follow; we don’t want to be led.
Of course, most of us, if confronted with this charge, would denyit. We would assert vehemently that we are “led of the Lord.” We would insist that we follow wherever He leads. We sing hymns to this effect and give mental assent to the idea. But as far as actually being led in paths of righteousness is concerned, precious few of us follow that path.
Actually this is the pivot point on which a Christian either “goes on” with God or at which point he “goes back” from following on.
There are many willful, wayward, indifferent Christians who cannot really be classified as followers of Christ. There are relatively few diligent disciples who forsake all to follow the Master.
Jesus never made light of the cost involved in following Him. In fact, He made it painfully clear that it was a rugged life of rigid self-denial. It entailed a whole new set of attitudes. It was not the natural, normal way a person would ordinarily live, and this is what made the price so prohibitive to most people.
In brief, seven fresh attitudes have to be acquired. They are the equivalent of progressive forward movements onto new ground with God. If one follows them he will discover fresh pasturage, new, abundant life, and increased health, wholesomeness, and holiness, in his walk with God. Nothing will please Him more, and certainly no other activity on our part can or will result in as great benefit to lives around us.
1) Instead of loving myself most I am willing to love Christ best and others more than myself.
Now love in a scriptural sense is not a soft, sentimental emotion. It is a deliberate act of my will. It means that I am willing to lay down my life, put myself out on behalf of another. This is precisely what God did for us in Christ.
“Hereby perceive (understand) we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).
The moment I deliberately do something definite either for God or others that costs me something, I am expressing love. Love is “selflessness” or “self-sacrifice” in contradistinction to “selfishness.” Most of us know little of living like this, or being “led” in this right way. But once a person discovers the delight of doing something for others, he has started through the gate which leads into one of God’s green pastures.
2) Instead of being one of the crowd I am willing to be singled out, set apart from the gang.
Most of us, like sheep, are pretty gregarious. We want to belong. We don’t want to be different in a big way, though we may wish to be different in minor details that appeal to our selfish egos. But Christ pointed out that only a few would find His way acceptable, and to be marked as one of His would mean a certain amount of criticism and sarcasm from a cynical society. Many of us don’t want this. Just as He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, so we may be. Instead of adding to the sorrows and sadness of society we may be called on to help bear some of the burdens of others, to enter into the suffering of others. Are we ready to do this?
3) Instead of insisting on my rights I am willing to forego them in favor of others.
Basically this is what the Master meant by denying one’s self. It is not easy nor natural to do this. Even in the loving atmosphere of the home, self-assertion is evident and the powerful exercise of individual rights is always apparent. But the person who is willing to pocket his pride, to take a back seat, to play second fiddle without a feeling of being abused or put upon, has gone a long way onto new ground with God. There is a tremendous emancipation from “self” in this attitude. One is set free from the shackles of personal pride. It’s pretty hard to hurt such a person. He who has no sense of self-importance cannot be offended or deflated. Somehow such people enjoy a wholesome outlook of carefree abandon that makes their Christian lives contagious with contentment and gaiety.
4) Instead of being “boss” I am willing to be at the bottom of the heap. Or to use sheep terminology, instead of being “Top Ram” I’m willing to be a “tailender.”
When the desire for self-assertion and self-aggrandizement gives way to the desire for simply pleasing God and others, much of the fret and strain is drained away from daily living.
A hallmark of the serene soul is the absence of “drive,” at least drive for self-determination. The person who is prepared to put his personal life and affairs in the Master’s hands for His management and direction has found the place of rest in fresh fields each day. These are the ones who find time and energy to please others.
5) Instead of finding fault with life and always asking: Why? I am willing to accept every circumstance of life in an attitude of gratitude.
Humans, being what they are, somehow feel entitled to question the reasons for everything that happens to them. In many instances life itself becomes a continuous criticism and dissection of one’s circumstances and acquaintances. We look for someone or something on which to pin the blame for our misfortunes. We are often quick to forget our blessings, slow to forget our misfortunes. But if one really believes his affairs are in God’s hands, every event, no matter whether joyous or tragic, will be taken as part of God’s plan. To know beyond doubt that He does all for our welfare is to be led into a wide area of peace and quietness and strength for every situation.
6) Instead of exercising and asserting my will, I learn to cooperate with His wishes and comply with His will.
It must be noted that all the steps outlined here involve the will. The saints from earliest times have repeatedly pointed out that nine-tenths of being a Christian, of becoming a true follower, a dedicated disciple, lies in the will. When a man allows his will to be crossed out, canceling the great “I” in his decision, then indeed the Cross has been applied to that life. This is the meaning of taking up one’s cross daily – to go to one’s death–no longer my will in the matter but His will be done.
7) Instead of choosing my own way I am willing to choose to follow in Christ’s way, simply to do what He asks me to do.
This basically is simple, straight-forward obedience. It means I do what He asks me to do. I go where He invites me to go. I say what He instructs me to say. I act and react in the manner He maintains is in my best interest as well as for His reputation.
Most of us possess a formidable amount of factual information on what the Master expects of us. Precious few have either the will, intention, or determination to act on it and comply with His instructions. But the person who decides to do what God asks him has moved onto fresh ground which will do both him and others a world of good. Besides, it will please the Good Shepherd.
God wants us all to move on with Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants it not only for our welfare but for the benefit of others as well as His own reputation.
Perhaps there are those who think He expects too much of us. Maybe they feel the demands are too drastic. Some may consider His call impossible to carry out.
It would be if we had to depend on self-determination or self-discipline to succeed. But if we are in earnest about wanting to do His will, and to be led, He makes this possible by His own gracious Spirit who is given to those who obey (Acts 5:32). For it is He who works in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil.2:13).
A Stranger Do Not Follow! #6
And a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they known not the voice of strangers (John 10:5).
AFTER LONG AND intimate association sheep become beautifully adjusted to their owner. They develop a touching and implicit trust in him and only in him. Wherever he takes them they simply “tag along” without hesitation. In quiet and uncomplaining reliance upon him they accompany him anywhere he goes. In his company they are contented and at rest.
This can be equally true in our Christian experience. Unfortunately for many of us it is not always so. Despite the tendency not to trust ourselves completely to Christ, there are those occasional times when we have. Almost all of us have known what a stimulating delight it has been to respond to the Master’s voice, to run to do His will, and thus discover His remarkable provision for us. We call this living or walking by faith.
Because the world is so much with us and we are so much in the world, our responses to Christ are not always as acute as they could be. Because from early childhood we have been conditioned to materialistic or humanistic or scientific concepts, it is not always easy to distinguish God’s voice from the many other voices calling to us from the contemporary world. Because we have been taught and trained to be busy, active, energetic individuals, the main thrust of our times is to be people “on the go.” This is true even if we really don’t have any clear idea where we are going or what our ultimate destination may be.
Modern man is often a frustrated, frantic, fearful person racing madly on his own man-made treadmill.
This is not just true of the twentieth-century western world. It has ever been thus in the history of our race. It matters not whether an individual’s life is spent in the feverish, high-pressure atmosphere of a modern executive office in Manhattan or in the feverish, humid, swamp lands of the Amazon basin where a primitive hunter struggles to survive. All men know something of the unremitting, unrelenting fever of living.
And to all of us Christ comes with His incredible call,
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28).
This invitation is not one to lethargy or indolence. It is not a formula for opting out of life. It is rather the delightful way of walking through the tangled turmoil of our times in quiet company with Christ.
To put this down on paper is fairly simple. To put it into daily practice is much more demanding and difficult. The reason I say this is simply because it is not just Christ who calls us to Himself. It is not just the Good Shepherd who invites us to walk with Him in the paths of right living and right relationships. It is not just the One who loves us deeply and desires our companionship who would have us follow Him.
There are scores of foreign influences appealing to us. On every side there are false pretenders to our ownership. We are sometimes surrounded by counterfeit “shepherds” who would have us believe they have our best interests at heart. When, in reality, they are predators disguised in various cloaks of respectability bent on our destruction. In some cases they are already among us, parading themselves as one of our own, while at the same time plotting our ruin.
In the Scriptures they have been given various names. In the Old Testament they are referred to frequently as “the shepherds which feed themselves and not the flock.” Our Lord called them “false prophets” or “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Elsewhere they are called “dogs” who devour the sheep.
In some cases these “strangers” have occupied places of prominence in our society. They may be preachers, teachers, writers, lecturers, broadcasters, or people of great influence posing as our protectors. Some may well go beyond even this and parade themselves as “saviours” to their fellowmen. They invite their contemporaries to come along with them and follow in their footsteps.
To a much lesser degree, but just as dangerous, are those common people who in their own quiet, subtle way insinuate themselves into our intimate circle of companions. They may be members of our family, among our friends, in the societies we join, in our business world, amid professional people, or even in the church.
It requires constant alertness on our part not to be victimized by impostors. We simply cannot afford to follow strangers if we are to survive as contented Christians who are attuned only to the call of our Master.
It may seem to the reader that this point is being unduly labored here. But the simple fact is that it is literally impossible to live in serenity of soul if we are torn between trying to follow conflicting calls at the same time. Our Lord was blunt about this. He stated emphatically,
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise (ignore) the other” (Matt.6:24).
Too many of us have tried too long to make the best of both worlds. We have tried to live with one foot following Christ and the other following the false ideas and teachings of our times.
And the plain position which the Good Shepherd takes is a simple one: “My sheep – those who know Me – simply will not follow strangers.” How easy it sounds; how difficult to do!
It is, of course, outside the scope of this book to list or even enumerate the false ideologies, misleading concepts, damaging philosophies, and strange teachings which are so much a part of the contemporary scene. They proliferate on every side. They are spewed out in floods of printed matter, in radio broadcasts and television shows that now engulf the entire planet – to say nothing of the person to person contacts.
But broadly all of these strange and false concepts are based on the following themes.
1) Humanism. Man is master of his own destiny. He is the supreme being in the universe. There is no superior power or intelligence to which he need appeal.
2) Materialism. The chief end of life is the attainment and acquisition of tangible values. The measure of a man’s success is not the quality of his character but the quantity of things he has accumulated, or knowledge (human) he has acquired.
3) Scientism. Only that which can be subjected to the scientific method of examination is real. It must be evaluated empirically on the basis of our five fallible finite senses. Any dimension of divinity or deity is ruled out as invalid.
4) Atheism. Insists that there cannot be such a Being as God. All that exists does so by pure chance. Existence which is evolutionary has neither purpose nor meaning nor direction.
5) Religionism. Man’s blind, unguided groping after God. The wild guessing at what God may be like. An abortive attempt to interpret the character and conduct of God from the distorted viewpoint of a man still in the darkness of his own sin and despair.
6) Spiritism. All of the occult, including demonism and satanic emulation. This includes all aspects of contact with the realm of evil spirits in opposition to God our Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ, and … the Holy Spirit.
7) Higher Criticism. In Christian circles it denies: the authenticity of God’s Word, the deity of Christ, the necessity for the redemption and reconciliation of sinful men to a loving God.
If and when we detect these notes sounding in the voices which call to us as Christians we should be on guard at once. Paul, with his brilliant intellect, broad background of education, and enormous spiritual perception warned the church at Colossae:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col.2:8).
Apart from the falsity of strange and unfamiliar teaching there is a second way in which God’s people can reassure themselves that these impostors are in fact false shepherds. That is by the actual character and conduct of their lives.
Invariably a man or woman lives what he or she truly believes. Our lifestyle is an unconscious reflection of our inner convictions, and inevitably it will be found that the behavior pattern of the so-called “false shepherds” – “false prophets” – wolves in sheep’s clothing” will be a dead giveaway as to who they really are.
Put in the language of Scripture we say, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” No matter how smooth, subtle, or reassuring their words or manner may be, ultimately it is the quality of their lives which will declare their true identity.
As Christians we are wise to not only examine carefully the content of the voice we are called by, but also the character of the one who calls to us. A person’s words may drip with honey but be potent poison coming from a corrupt conscience.
It is true we may be likened to sheep because of our mob instincts. But we need not be always ignorant, dumb sheep. If we have heard and known the delight in our Shepherd’s voice; if we revel and rejoice in His companionship, we are worse than fools if we do not flee from strangers to Him.
Sheep are among the most timid and helpless of all livestock. Though they will often hammer and batter each other, both rams and ewes, they will run in panic from the least threat of unknown danger. I have seen an entire flock rush away in blind fear simply because one of them was startled by a rabbit bursting out from beneath a bush.
Yet, in a peculiar manner they will sometimes stand still and stare blankly when a powerful predator comes among them. They will huddle up in tight, frightened little knots, watching dumbly while one after another of the flock is torn to pieces by the wolf, bear, leopard, cougar, or dog that may be ravaging them, or similarly they may be stolen by rustlers.
The only sheep that have any chance to escape are those that flee for their lives. They must get out of danger. There is simply no other hope of survival. Somehow they must separate themselves from the attacker who would destroy them.
Our Lord knew all this. He was thoroughly familiar with the hazards of sheep management. No doubt many of the shepherds who had come to His carpenter’s shop in Nazareth to have Him build tables and benches for their humble homes had regaled Him with tales about the terrible losses they suffered from predators and rustlers.
This is one of the favorite topics of conversation for sheepmen. And always, in the end, they know that the only place of safe protection for the sheep is close to the shepherd himself, within earshot of his voice.
The voice that is such an assurance to them is at the same time a terror to their enemies. That voice, which speaks of safety and well-being in the Master’s care, instills fear and respect in the raiders.
To thrive and flourish, the sheep have to be ever under the sound of that familiar, friendly voice. To be lured away or distracted by any other is to face utter destruction or complete loss.
When I was an impressionable young man, one of the jobs given to me was to paint a huge building. At that time, because of a tempestuous boyhood and great adversity in my late teens, I was bitter and hostile toward society. My early life had been a tough struggle to survive amid severe hardships. So my mind was fertile ground for subversive ideas.
Working with me on the big barn, teaching me the tricks and skills of painting, was an old master craftsman. He was a Swede and an excellent painter. But he was also an ardent and avowed revolutionary. Day after day, sitting side by side high on the swing stage, he poured his subversive propaganda into my malleable mind.
It remains a miracle that my entire life was not destroyed by that invidious, crafty campaign. But some twelve thousand miles away, half way around the world, my dear mother, widowed and lonely, poured out her soul in tears that her wayward son would be spared from the snares and attacks of the enemy. And one day, unable to endure the perverse propaganda poured into my ears by the old painter, I went to my boss and demanded another job where I could work alone. I wanted to be free. I wanted to flee from my foe. Something about that smooth, subtle voice of destruction alerted me to my mortal danger.
I give God thanks that other work was provided for me. It was possible to separate myself from the one who would have ruined me. To flee from a strange voice that brought foreign and damaging ideas was my only salvation.
Later in life, when my own children were teenagers, soon to leave home, I counselled them to do the same. Whenever they found themselves in the company of those who were not God’s people, who were endeavoring to destroy them, there was one simple solution: “Just get out of there.” “The sheep will flee from strangers for they do not know their voice.”
It is not weakness to do this. It is wisdom. Most of us, sad to say, simply are not skilled enough nor astute enough to match wits with our opponents. We are not sufficiently familiar, nor can we be, to fully understand or master all the devious and destructive devices of false philosophies, cults, religions, and ideologies of our modern world.
But what we can do is to become so grounded in God’s Word, so familiar with our Master’s voice, so attuned to His will and wishes, so accustomed to His presence, that any other voice alerts us to danger. It is a question of having our souls and spirits in harmony with His. It is a matter of living in close communion with the Shepherd of our lives. Then, and only then, will the threat of strange voices be recognized.
This does not mean that if I live in an environment or culture where one or two false philosophies predominate I am to remain ignorant of them. No, I will learn all about their insidious tactics to take God’s people unawares. And in my alertness to their depredations I may well save both myself and others from their ravages.
Engaging the enemy in endless disputes and arguments seldom achieves anything. Paul was aware of this when he wrote to his young protege, Timothy. Over and over he advised him against becoming embroiled in unprofitable debates with those who posed pointless and false issues.
What Christ asks us to do as His followers is to concentrate on keeping close to Him. Our major distinctive as His disciples should be the unique life we have because of our intimate association with Him. He resides with us and in us. We likewise live with Him and in Him. Therein lies our strength, our serenity, our stability, and our safety. There is simply no substitute for this wondrous relationship with Him in a warped world.
His audience of that day, except for the young man born blind, and the young adulteress, whose lives He had entered, just could not understand what He said. Nor can most of our contemporaries.