The Shepherd Test

Sheep need a shepherd

Matthew 9 and 10 Jesus spent a fair amount of time walking among the people, listening to their conversations. He saw those paralyzed both physically and spiritually. He saw a desperate father in need of direction when all around him was collapsing. He encountered religious leaders who could not or would not see the helpless, the needy, and unloved. Instead of meeting their needs, they watched Jesus, ridiculed and scoffed, and attributed his work to Beelzebub. They lacked the one thing this flock needed: compassion. They were just like the foolish, worthless shepherds of Zechariah 11:17 who left the flock to fend for themselves. Jesus noted that times had come and gone, but it was still like in the times of Zechariah. The sheep were scattered with no one to lead them. In sharp contrast, in Psalm 23, we see a picture of the good shepherd who leads, restores, and binds up the brokenhearted. Jesus is that Good Shepherd. His sheep hear his voice, and they follow Him, and He is even willing to lay down his life for the flock.

Somewhere there is a sheep in need of the Good Shepherd’s compassionate touch. 

If Jesus came now, would I pass the test of a good shepherd?

“Who Does He Think He Is?”

If you want to know who Jesus is; pay attention

Mark 2 If you want to know who this Jesus is, pay close attention, for time is of the essence.

Join Jesus as he teaches and where pious religious leaders, who know the Torah backward and forwards, come to find out who this man is. Outwardly, they are polite, but their heart chastises Jesus with this question: “who can forgive sins but God alone?” Forgiveness followed by healing should have answered their question that Jesus is God in the flesh who can do both. 

Immediately, Jesus removes himself from the crowded home to the seaside where he could teach unencumbered by their stares. He encounters Levi, the tax collector whose heart is prepared, and he steps out of his comfort zone to “immediately” follow Jesus. He invites his tax collectors and sinners to a feast at which the Pharisees mingle so they can ask why Jesus doesn’t follow protocol about fasting.

The following Sabbath, these same outwardly religious leaders tag along through a grain field. They challenge his ideas about the Sabbath, to which Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:27]

Jesus saw to the heart of the matter: The religious leaders wanted to justify their rules; Levi wanted righteousness.

Which do you want?

Times change but not the message

The times change but not the message:

Haggai 1 and 2 What keeps you from obeying?

As then, so today, fear is the tool of the enemy.  Cyrus gave the returning Israelites permission to rebuild the Temple, so what was the problem? The Samaritans used fear and intimidation to stop the work. As God’s prophet, Haggai reminded them that as God provided food, protection, and leading in the wilderness so He would provide now. Yet, the Israelites were excusing their delay in rebuilding by telling one another, “The time for rebuilding the Lord’s temple has not yet come.” [Hag 1:2] How often do we excuse our obedience using similar reasoning? Haggai reminded them that it was time and God was behind them, so “do not fear!” Haggai was saying, look at your life and your lack of provision for yourselves. God has withdrawn his blessing because of your disobedience. Has that been your experience as well?

Both Haggai and Zechariah were pleading with the people, “turn back to God and He will turn back to you.” Learn from your ancestors who did not listen and obey Me. [Zech 1:2, 3]

 Are we listening? Do we trust God to do what seems an impossible task? Remember the words of another prophet of God; Isaiah. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ [Is 41:10]

I Won’t!

Will you obey

Jeremiah 43: There is a phrase that says: “There is a sucker born every minute.” It seems that in Jeremiah’s day that statement was more than true. Having seen the devastation of the land, the temple, and the carrying off of prisoners, the ones left still did not trust their faithful prophet, Jeremiah. Over and over he had said to yield to their captors, trust God and you will live but they would not. And so we see that the fools decided the words of Jeremiah were untrue, packed up and went to Egypt, and sure enough, trouble followed them. They never returned to Israel, just as God said. They were of the Dennis the Menace generation. I am sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside. I refuse to admit I am wrong, I refuse to obey, yet are the first to complain when trouble comes their way. 

Today the gospel is free but many refuse to listen and submit to God’s ways. They still think that their works are better than God’s ways. Clearly, as Paul wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” [Eph 2:8-9]

“Faithfulness vs Unfaithfulness”

God rewards faith and curses unfaith

Jeremiah 35 to 37 Joshua challenged the men of Israel many years ago before these chapters: “Choose ye this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” [Josh 24:15]. It would have been wise for the men of Judah to have remembered these words because God had placed a similar challenge before them again. Jeremiah puts three stories before us to show us the rewards of faithfulness vs. the consequences of unfaithfulness.

The Rechabites, a nomadic tribe, were faithful to their ancestors never to drink wine and remain nomads. Even as Jeremiah tested them, they remained steadfast, and God gave them a blessing. “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always.” [Jer 35:19]

In sharp contrast to the Rechabites is King Jehoiakim, who “did not rend his garments” nor humble himself but burned the scroll of God’s words. To him came this pronouncement: “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David…I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity,” [Jer 36:30-31]

The third story Jeremiah is about King Zedekiah, who was a vacillating king. Although fearful, he would not trust the words of Jeremiah about the impending overthrow of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar. However, he would later see that what God had said would come true. [Jer 39]

What is the lesson God wants us to learn?

God rewards faithfulness and removes blessing from the unfaithful. Where are you?  

Celebrating and Communion

are we ready to celebrate

2Chron 30 As we have seen in our own country, it takes a lot of preparation to prepare for a party, especially when a new leader and a new regime are installed. It was no different when Hezekiah took the throne upon his father’s passing. As part of his new regime, Hezekiah invited the entire nation from N and S to celebrate the Passover, but his invitation was rejected. In fact, the people mocked and ridiculed the messengers he sent.  

 Back in Judah, the people united, and they removed the false altars and threw them in the Kidron valley.  Hezekiah prayed for those who were “unclean,” and the Lord forgave them because although unclean ceremonially, they were determined to follow God.  

 The Israelites in Jerusalem observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. They chose to be joyful even though others chose not to come. The Levites and priests were praising the Lord every day with all their might.

 Some applications from this passage for today.  Before we celebrate Communion, do we stop and ask if there are any idols we need to discard? Do we stop and “examine [ourselves] first,” [1Cor 11:28] Are we ready to observe and willing to consecrate ourselves to the Lord?  Do we pray for those who are determined to follow God?

Angering & Returning to God

God is waiting for us to return to Him

2 Kings 16-17; 2 Chronicles 28 God has his prophets, His Word, and the witnesses of even His enemies to remind us of the truth: obey God, and He will bless. It seems that this is the message we all need to hear. God will use even our enemies to remind us of His truth, yet we all, with hardened hearts, ignore Him and His Word.  King Ahaz is a perfect example. King Ahaz was not a good king and these chapters.   “In every city throughout Judah he set up high places to offer sacrifices to other gods. He angered the Lord God of his ancestors.”

[2Chron 28:25] God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with another, but men continue to ignore Him and His principles. Return to me, says the Lord God, and He will turn to you. “The Lord your God is merciful and compassionate; he will not reject you if you return to him.” [2Chron 30:9]

If you have walked away or turned from Him, take heart, and return to Him that He may bless you is a truth that we all need to hear and to apply.

“What Went Wrong?”

Train early and beyond

2Chron 24 Nations rise and fall; so do leaders. Jehoiada was a faithful priest who rose up to lead at a time when a wicked queen sought to take the nation away from God. He was not only faithful in that but he sought to protect the young king and raise him in a godly way.

“Joash did what the Lord approved throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest.” But when Jehoiada died so did Joash’s mentor and without his leadership he was swayed by the officials of Judah to sin. It was only by God’s grace that Jehoiada never saw that outcome.

So what can we learn from this story? Some children raised under a godly parent/tutor still go astray. We don’t have the reasons why this happened but we can learn what to do now. Parents must test children to see if they will obey. Did Jehoiada keep such a tight rein on the young Joash that he never was tested to discern good from evil? We must allow our children to pass and fail while they are under our roof so that when they enter the world they can stand strong against the ways of evil. We do that with our children by following Deut 6; teach them as they walk, sit and stand. Allow them to make decisions that even though you know the outcomes you can use them as teachable moments.

Incomplete obedience is disobedience.

Read study obey

2Chronicles 19-23 How often do we know the right thing to do but instead, we falter, waver, and do not follow through.

Jehoshaphat is a man of divided loyalties. He is all in for God until something catches his eye. Then he falters, wavers, and takes the wrong route. How like us. When all is going well, he draws the people back to God, prays like Solomon but then, in the time of peace, he foolishly aligns himself with Ahab’s son, King Ahaziah of Israel. God is gracious to send us warnings as he did Jehoshaphat: Eliezer, son of Dodavahu from Mareshah, prophesied against Jehoshaphat, “Because you made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will shatter what you have made.” And so it came to pass; the king’s ships were destroyed. 

God sends us pictures or warnings to get our attention. Sometimes we pay attention, but sometimes we fail, and we pay the price.

What is the life principle out of all this? The words of Joshua and James come forth: Choose ye this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord. And So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin. [Joshua 24:15; James 4:17]

Another verse comes to mind: Is 7:9 If your faith does not remain firm, then you will not remain secure.

How To Do It The Right Way

God's Word will tell us

2Sam 5 & 1Chron 13-16 Where were the Levites when David decided to bring the ark into Jerusalem using a cart instead of following Moses’ instructions about bearing it on their shoulders? David wondered “How will the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” [2Sam 6:9] Then David remembered, “we did not ask Him about the proper way to carry it.” [1Chron 15:13] That is a reminder that when we fail to keep ourselves close to God’s Word, we cannot discern His way.  Perhaps that is why Paul later reminded Timothy that it is His word that will teach, reprove, correct and train us in righteousness. [2Tim 3:16]

Where have we neglected to stay close to God so we know His purposes, statutes, and commandments? John told his flock “The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.” [1John 2:4]

Today keep a short account with God and stay in His Word, so you hear and know this principle: Isa 30:21 “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left.”

You can’t hear or obey His Word unless you read it each day and obey what you read.