Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds as Rulers – 9

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Rule the Flock?

with force and harshness you have ruled them

Two leadership characteristics define the shepherds that tick off Ezekiel

Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

First off lets define the characteristics Ezekiel accuses the shepherds of.

Force

חׇזְקָה chozqâh, khoz-kaw’; feminine of H2392; vehemence (usually in a bad sense):—force, mightily, repair, sharply.

Harshness

פֶּרֶךְ perek, peh’-rek; from an unused root meaning to break apart; fracture, i.e. severity:—cruelty, rigour.

Seems these shepherds were being kinda nasty with the way they were shepherding the flock. Descriptions such as force, cruelty, rigour – these are simply negative terms. These shepherds were ‘ruling” as a king, or in my mind, like the typical worldly minded boss that has authority issues in his life (Those type were probably bullied in thier childhood, if you ask me.)

Hebrews 13 7

As always, there are exceptions to the “rule” – The New Testament freely revises the method of shepherding, since Hebrews 13:17, (at least in the ol’ KJV), allows for shepherds to rule over thier flock. (Hellooo – I am being waggish here!!!)

I have addressed the ruling of shepherds discussed in Hebrews 13:17 in five posts, called “Christian Accountability” Check it out when you have a chance.

Let’s look at the definition for rule in the Ezekiel passage

Rule

רָדָה râdâh, raw-daw’; a primitive root; to tread down, i.e. subjugate; specifically, to crumble off:—(come to, make to) have dominion, prevail against, reign, (bear, make to) rule,(-r, over), take.

Wow – these shepherds were actings as kings! Ruling with dominion, prevailing against the sheep, reigning!

No wonder the shepherds crucified the good Shepherd. He was atypical, and the light of His life shone on the bad shepherds, exposing thier cruel manner of shepherding.

The rub comes when I look around today. Do we see Ezekiel’s type of shepherd still reigning over God’s people? Of course.

Superiority of the Professional Shepherd

superiority

There are many instances of the superiority of the Shepherd in this culture, those who demand respect from thier flock. Fellowship of the Spirit has been replaced with faithfulness to the Pastor/Priest/Minister. Submission to the will of God has been replaced with subservience to the vision of the Pastor/Priest/Minister.

Don’t get me wrong – We are to submit to one another. That is clear from the book of Ephesians 5:21 .. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Professional Cross

My concern is the superiority of the professional christian, and the desire of christendom to have it so.

We want a man (or woman) to tell us what God wants. But He has given the Spirit of God to believers for (subjective) guidance, and the Word of God for (objective) guidance. What a blessing to have both the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit of God will not guide you where the Word of God restricts! (Is that news to anyone out there?)

The Apostle Paul’s Superiority

Let’s check out the superiority of the Apostle Paul. Surely if any believer could demand obedience and respect, it would be the apostle Paul. But this concept took a hit in my thinking when I came across 1 Corinthians 16:12.

1 Corinthians 16:12

Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

Did you catch that? How audacious is that Apollos?!
First off, this is the urging of the Apostle Paul, a man who has seen the Lord, and been given revelations he isn’t allowed to speak of. How dare Apollos refuse a request, a strong urging of the Apostle. contumacious

OK – here comes one of my rants!
I tell you, if I was the Apostle, I would have strictly censored Apollos, brought him before the church leadership, stripped him of all fellowship, taken him to the middle of the town and placed him in stocks, with a sign over his head “CONTUMACIOUS” (a wee bit waggish don’t you know!)

What did Paul do? The Apostle of the Gentiles submitted(?) to Apollos’ will – Apollos will come when he has opportunity. How outrageous! How can Paul’s ministry withstand such an insult, such a shaming of authority?

Secondly, I myself wouldn’t have informed the Corinthians of the lack of influence I had over Apollos. Such weakness on Paul’s part. Doesn’t leadership demand obedience?

Unless there was a greater lesson. Hmmmmm.

Self Appointed Apostles & Prophets

Joe the Apostle

The superiority of the professional christian seems to be in full bloom in my neck of the woods. A current fad that has erupted recently in my city is the self proclaimed apostle or prophet. Signs (I mean advertising signs) are all over the city touting of the glorious ministry these apostles and prophets are displaying. Thier billboards and signs have glossy pics of thier person, with crowds feigning at thier presence, with airbrushed highlights and endorsements from other self proclaimed apostles or prophets.

For some reason I fear these “great” christians may never discuss thier weakness and frailty, or the time they had to escape the city in a basket. (Read the last post if this makes no sense)

shepherdcarrysheep4

My friend, if you are under a professional christian that is forcing his way on your life with harshness, run away. Save your soul from the destruction he or she is inflicting on you.

On the other hand, if you currently have found a shepherd that exhibits the humility of the Lord Jesus, and is a man of like passions as yourself, honouring God in his weakness, you have found a blessing. A rare blessing. Let him know, and he just might blush.

Give thanks to the Good Shepherd for your human shepherd.


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Lost – 8

shepherd-carrying-sheepTrue Shepherds Seek the Flock

the lost you have not sought

In our last post, that is on those sheep that were straying, we found that the shepherds were acting on the sheep, forcing them out, banishing them, thrusting the sheep away. The sheep were straying away from the flock due to the active work of the shepherds.

No so in this instance. But first, lets read the passage.

Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Let’s define the term “sought” first. The Hebrew word is baqash. The definition is as follows
בָּקַשׁ bâqash, baw-kash’;

  • to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer); by implication, to strive after:
    • ask,
    • beg,
    • beseech,
    • desire,
    • enquire,
    • get,
    • make inquisition,
    • procure,
    • (make) request,
    • require,
    • seek (for).

I hope you get the impression that this seeking represents a drawing action on the part of the shepherd, a rescuing effort.
It may seem I am laboring an obvious point, but these last two terms represent a duality that the bad shepherds were getting completely backwards.
The previous blog described the shepherds as actively rejecting the sheep. Not so in this phrase. The shepherds were simply indifferent. The shepherds were acting passively in regards to the sheep they were responsible for.

True Shepherds Seek the Flock

Luke is the gospel that displays the seeking heart of the Messiah. His life and character stand in stark contrast to the shepherds Ezekiel is describing

Luke 5:31 – 32

31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Again, the Master is describing His heart, and the extent of effort and risk He will undergo to find that one sheep, and to rescue it, bring it home and celebrate with His loved ones.

Good Shepherd seeking lost sheep

Luke 15:4 – 74 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Note that the shepherd lays the sheep on His shoulders. I have heard that shepherds, when finding a lost sheep, will break one of the sheeps legs, to dissuade the sheep of ever leaving again. I don’t know if this was common practice in Jesus day. No matter, it is the Shepherds perogative to disciplinie His sheep, and He does so with our benefit in mind.

The truth that stands out for me, is that the Shepherd carried the sheep, the wandering sheep that caused ths shepherd to leave the comfort of His home, and to search, search search. He carries the sheep, and that with rejoicing, not anger or resentment over having to search all day, possibly missing the football game after church, or loosing out on the bbq over at Sally’s home.

One of the first Bible verses I memorized speaks of this intent of the Messiah. His desire to not only save the lost, but to seek them. He is actively searching.

seeking the lost

Luke 19:10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

This verse actually confused me for many years. I was considering a popular teaching of how Jesus’ mission was to save only those He knew would trust Him, those that, from the foundation of the world, would be destined to believe and be saved.

In my opinion, seeking them seemed to be unneccessary since they would come to faith no matter. Currently, I understand the seeking is the first step, an effort independant of the saving effort. He seeks. And He saves.

Back to Ezekiel 34. From verse 5 – 6, the Lord describes the current condition of the sheep. And what is that condition? The sheep were scattered, dispersed, strewn about.

scattered sheep

Ezekiel 34:5-6

5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

The sheep were scattered due to the shepherds actions (or inactions)!

Verses 7-10, the Lord speaks of the sheep becoming prey for beasts, while the shepherds lived a life of self indulgence.

The Lord states He is against the shepherds. The shepherds are the enemy. He will rescue the sheep from these shepherds. Rescuing speaks of danger, danger at the hands of the shepherds that the Lord has declared to be the enemy.

He is against the shepherds, and will no longer allow the sheep to be food for the shepherds.

Current Conditions

Times have not changed. During the apostle Paul’s ministry, false apostles in the Corinthian church brought believers into bondage, exalting themselves, taking advantage of the sheep, and speaking of how important they were as shepherds.

2 Corinthians 11:19-20
19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!
20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

Does this not smack of the same attitude, the same superiority, and abuse that Ezekiel was confronting? Is not this an all too common condition of the western church?

Don’t get me started!

Paul tries to shame the believers in this passage, but it also reveals that false teachers/shepherds are a constant problem for the people of God, no matter what time we live in!

How did Paul exhibit his authority? By the shameful (cowardly?) escape from Damascus.

Paul in basket

Paul was a man of like passions, with fear and weakness. He regretfully boasted of the sufferings for the Lord in the previous verses – he was forced to speak of it.
He would rather have “boasted” of his humanity and exalted the Lord in his life.
Strange credentials to say the least!
Lets get back to Ezekiel, and end this post on a positive note!

Ezekiel 34:15-16

15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.

16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Parable of lost sheep

The Lord Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ

  • will make them (the sheep) lie down
  • will seek the lost
  • will bring back the strayed
  • will bind up the injured
  • will strengthen the weak

He is the Good Shepherd!


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Strayed – 7

shepherd-carrying-sheepTrue Shepherds Retrieve the Flock

the strayed you have not brought back

Notice a difference between the next two phrases we find in our study. The reason the sheep are not with the flock is twofold and God addresses both reasons.

The first reason is that the sheep were driven away – the second is that the sheep wandered away or got lost.

God is addressing the bad shepherds and rebuking them for their lack of concern for His flock. I am assuming that both the lost and the strayed are those that are (or were) in covenant with God.

Let’s read the passage first..

Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

For this post, let’s consider the shepherds relationship to those who strayed, and lets define the term first. The Hebrew term is nadach.
נָדַח nâdach, naw-dakh’;

to push off; used in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively (to expel, mislead, strike, inflict, etc.):—banish, bring, cast down (out), chase, compel, draw away, drive (away, out, quite), fetch a stroke, force, go away, outcast, thrust away (out), withdraw.

Notice this term generally speaks of outside forces acting on the one straying. A few of the translated terms seem almost violent – thrust away, banish, force, drive out.

True Shepherds Pull the Flock Together

Consider the prophet Jeremiah’s burden in Jerusalem at approximately the same time Ezekiel is prophesying

Jeremiah 23:1-2

1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.
2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.

Also consider Zechariah’s complaint of the foolish shepherd.

Zechariah 11:15-17

15 Then the LORD said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.
zech 11 17

16 For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!”

Is Jeremiah repeating the same concerns of Ezekiel? Are the shepherds of Israel driving the flock away?

Old Testament / New Testament Shepherds

Let’s think about something for a minute.

Is it the ministry of the shepherd to visit the flock? Or should the flock “minister” to the minister, by attending to the shepherds availability, needs and vision for the flock?

Although I do not seek to draw an exact parallel between the OT shepherds of Israel and the NT equivalent elders, I can’t help but see some recurring similarities. I have been a part of the body of Christ for close to 40 yrs, and I cannot remember one time when an elder/pastor visited with me simply to visit with me. Of course when a death or marriage requires their service, it is appreciated. But something tells me that caring for the flock, simply for the flocks sake might make a tremendous impact.

When I lost my job a few years back, the ministerial staff decided to also ask us to leave the church. It was simply coincidental to an issue that we were discussing with leadership (see below), but in my mind, this emphasized a “business” aspect of the institutional church.

Submit

In the separate circumstance referred to above, they asked us to submit to three wishes of the church staff. Two out the three could be defended Biblically, and we would gladly submit, but the third was arbitrary, and in good conscience we decided against the request. Therefore the church staff “requested that we leave”. They actually said submit or step down from all teaching/leadership ministries.

It was a few weeks later that one of the deacons told us privately that we should just leave – we had stepped down from all teaching by this time. – no discussion or desire to converse about the situation – just do as we say! I don’t get it. It was obvious we would have to move out of the area to seek other work, but the staff had it in their mind to “let us leave”.

By the way, due to losing my job, my entire family was at risk of being deported from the United States. It was a good thing that no one on the church staff took the time to know our situation, or this may have been a burden that was too heavy for my brothers. (At least I hope no one on the church staff knew of the implications of me loosing my position!)

Does this make me think that I am one who is “driven away”? At one time I may have thought that, but I have to consider what I have been driven away from, that is an institution that found it to be advantageous to follow rules instead of seeking relationship.

You know, if they had some authority to defend their decision to “let us leave”, it would be a different story. I would gladly defer to Scripture. All through the years we had attended this congregation, I had constantly deferred to leadership decisions, asking the Senior Pastor for permission for each action I was taking.

When asked about the reason for this ultimatum, it was simply stated that they were the authority – of course not in so many words, but there was no Biblical considerations discussed.

myopic

So am I “driven away”?

I guess, but I am not convinced that Ezekiel would consider this particular instance to be of any concern.

You see, I think I have been “driven” into a better place, where the Spirit of the Lord is allowing more freedom to see His Church as compared to my previously myopic perspective.


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Injured – 6

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Bind up the Flock

the injured you have not bound up

In the following post, we will be discussing the third clause in this verse.

Ezekiel addresses the failings of the shepherds of his day, and the application to today’s environment is uncanny.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

True Shepherds Bind up the Broken

This portion of the verse we are considering needs to have some terms defined.

Binding

Binding speaks of bandaging, or restraining. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, this term pictures a tying or fastening. See below for Strong’s definitions.

Broken

Broken defines many types of damage, such as rupturing, crippling, rending violently, being wrecked, crushed or quenched. See below for Strong’s definitions.

True Shepherds Mend the Flock

Ezekiel is describing a very damaged and hurting flock. He is also describing a flock that is being ignored by those who have a calling to minister to them.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the binding the shepherds of Israel were performing. It has changed somewhat since the days of Ezekiel, but only for the worse.

Instead of ignoring the flock the shepherds seem to be taking advantage of the flock. The flock was hurting, and the shepherds loaded them down with burdens, and refused to help them.

Matt 23 :4

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Story Time

Recently, I was sitting in a McDonald’s trying to enjoy a cup of java, watching those about me. Things have not changed much about the flock of God. Many in this place seem (only God knows) to be aimless and placing their trust in empty promises.

Just this weekend many folks trusted in the hope of a Mega Millions lottery, where the jackpot was over $640,000,000.

Did you hope in this?

Winning the lottery is a proven recipe for disaster, yet so many hope in the chance of winning more money than they need.

Prov 23 :5

When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.

prov 11 4

Prov 11 :4

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

Prov 11 :28

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

The sad thing is that many shepherds in the church would encourage seeking this worlds goods. Simply to live in opulence or to find comfort and safety. They would say that He died so that we might live (in comfort)! He became poor that we might have (physical) riches. These dear folk need to read the Bible instead of their imaginations.

Some shepherds in the church would allow (encourage?) the chasing of the wind (seeking wealth), with justifications such as

chasing the wind

If you win you could support the poor
If you win you could help your children
If you win, you could build a church
If you win you could help missionaries…..

It is a rare person that can steward earned wealth properly. Earned wealth is a trust that is granted from the Lord and it is a responsibility to be faithful in the correct distribution of it, to honor the One who bought us.

I can’t imagine the burden and distraction of “found” money, and the emotional turmoil it would cause.

Keep it away! Father, help me understand that riches are a false hope. May You bind up our brokenness, and in that binding, give us the desire and wisdom to help others find Your mercy and kindness.


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Strong’s definition “Bind”
– Transliteration: Chabash – Phonetic: khaw-bash’ – Definition: 1. to tie, bind, bind on, bind up, saddle, restrain, bandage, govern a. (Qal) 1. to bind, bind on 2. to bind up b. (Piel) to bind, restrain c. (Pual) to be bound up – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 599 Part(s) of speech: Verb
Strong’s definition “Broken”
– Transliteration: Shabar – Phonetic: shaw-bar’ – Definition: 1. to break, break in pieces a. (Qal) 1. break, break in or down, rend violently, wreck, crush, quench 2. to break, rupture (fig) b. (Niphal) 1. to be broken, be maimed, be crippled, be wrecked 2. to be broken, be crushed (fig) c. (Piel) to shatter, break d. (Hiphil) to cause to break out, bring to the birth e. (Hophal) to be broken, be shattered – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 2321 – Part(s) of speech: Verb

Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Sick – 5

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Heal the Flock.

the sick you have not healed

We are going to continue in Ezekiel 34:4, and with this blog, we will look at the second clause of Ezekiel 34:4.

Good shepherds heal their flock, seek the flocks health, look for signs of life and pray for the best for the flock.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this blog is that the shepherds were not healing the sheep.

True Shepherds Heal the Flock Spiritually

Luke 4 :18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

I have placed the passage in Luke 4:18 as a primary reference due to the clarification it gives me about what is being healed. Jesus healed physical sickness when He was on earth (and He still does) but the emphasis of His healing ministry is spiritual.

True Shepherds Prioritize the Healing

If I get healed of a sickness today, tomorrow I may die. Healing of sickness is a wonderful gift of God, something that is granted to the believer and non-believer based solely on the mercy of God.

The great physician

Spiritual healing is a potentially eternal condition, that has ramifications in this life and the one to come. His ministry is to heal the sheep of a greater sickness than mere cancer, heart disease or a brain tumor.

Of course the very verse I am referring to above may speak of physical healing (recovering of sight to the blind), but considering how Jesus spiritualized various promises in the Old Testament (see previous blog “A Literal Bible”) the recovering of sight may be referring to spiritual understanding.

Luke 9 :11

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

This verse is definitely speaking of physical healing, but the point I would like to draw your attention to is that He healed them that realized they needed healing!

He came to call the sick so that He might heal them. To find healing, one must admit to their illness. This admission of illness (spiritual) may seem counter-intuitive, even fearful, but this verse teaches me of the desire of the Good Shepherd – He will heal all those that need healing.

Is it too much to say that He is anxious (I speak foolishly) to heal those who seek Him.

A True Shepherds Motivation for Healing

Lets consider the motivation for the two types of healing (physical and spiritual) from the perspective of the Great Healer.

1 Peter 2 :24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Of the many verses that speak of healing, the passage in 1 Peter draws me in. Did the atonement grant physical healing to those who have enough faith?

Story Time

A while back I was chatting with a Word of Faith preacher concerning physical healing and the miracles that his church regularly experiences. I asked him about a couple of issues that concern me.

My first question was “Does 1 John 1:9 describe forgiveness as an act of mercy on God’s part?” He agreed, yet I drew his attention to the phrase “faithful and just” in the verse. This phrase tells me that the reason God forgives His people of the accidental sins they commit is due to His faithfulness to the righteous (just) conditions His people are under, not an emotional response based on our strong(?) faith.

1 jn 1 9

When we confess our sins, HE FORGIVES.

In other words, God forgives His people because of the “covenant/contract” He has entered into with His Son, due to His Son’s obedient sacrifice, and our relationship in Him.

It is not an act of mercy that motivates God primarily, but His faithfulness and justness that motivates Him to forgive His people, if we confess our sins to Him.

The second concern was logical. I pictured what I imagined as a typical gathering at his young preachers church. Say one person gets a healing due to their faith. What about the “99” others. Granted some may not need healing. Some may, but do not receive. What does that say about their status of being a believer?

It seems that if I were in the crowd, and listening to the teaching that the death of Christ afforded all believers (who had enough faith) to claim their physical healing, and yet not receive a healing, I would begin to question my salvation.

After all, if God won’t heal a temporal sickness, what makes me think He will heal my eternal sickness.

This young preacher admitted to not having considered these topics. He seemed to be an honest man and I appreciated his willingness to discuss these issues. I believe he has a sincere desire to be healing the flock, but his zeal for God may not be according to knowledge.

The important issue is that God has supplied a Good Shepherd to the church and that Good Shepherd heals His flock.

bad_shepherd 2

If you are associated with a group that is abusive or harmful, and not reflective of the Good Shepherds character, it may be wise to consider the Master and listen to His voice.

His sheep hear His voice


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Weak – 4

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Strengthens the Flock.

The weak you have not strengthened

Verse 4 has a number of clauses that define the actions of the evil shepherds.

The Good Shepherd is described in the New Testament as fulfilling each of the activities God addresses when He rebukes the evil shepherds.

I loved seeing this – how that the Good Shepherd supplies the very needs of the sheep as opposed to those who simply abuse the flock for self-gratification.

Ezekiel 34 :4

The weak you have not strengthened,

the sick you have not healed,

the injured you have not bound up,

the strayed you have not brought back,

the lost you have not sought,

and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Strengthening Shepherds are Gentle

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this post is that the shepherds were not strengthening the sheep.

Matt 12 :17-21

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

The Good Shepherd will be gentle with the flock, seeking to encourage some, as one would encourage a smoking flax to reignite, and refusing to damage a bruised reed.

Matthew 12-20 A Bruised Reed-portrait

This truth has been very refreshing to me, teaching me that the Lord’s attitude toward a weak child is not that of sneering at them, or despising them or ridiculing them. He will strengthen them, even at the point of their greatest weakness.

A bruised reed has no structural strength. It is literally useless. So often, I consider those that are damaged to be useless, but this seems so anti-Christlike. His attitude is to strengthen the flock, and the verse above exhibits His attitude towards the weakest and most hopeless condition. Ever try to get smoking flax to reignite?

Strengthening Shepherds Supply Strength to Others

Luke 22 :32

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The true Shepherd strengthens His people, sometimes through very unexpected methods. This passage is reflecting the time of Jesus speaking with Peter after his denial. How small Peter must have felt, how unworthy! Yet Jesus, in giving the command to strengthen the brethren, strengthened Peter. Peter needed to know how Jesus felt about him and Jesus trusts him with caring for the flock.

This is something wonderful!

The Spirit of the Good Shepherd will be reflected in mutual encouragement among His people, in their communion with each other.

Who is your Good Shepherd? Your Pastor, Priest, Minister?

good shepherd

His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. But if you are in a religious system that does not allow you to obey your Lord, either through your conscience, the written Word or otherwise, it may be profitable to compare your earthly shepherd with the Good Shepherd.

As we venture through the remaining parts of the verse, it will become obvious that Jesus is the perfect anti-type of these wicked shepherds.

The sheep hear His voice and they follow.


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds Compared – 3

shepherd-carrying-sheepShepherds Compared

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how the passage describing shepherds in Ezekiel 34 seems so very modern.

Many times I have come across men (and women) who say they are shepherds and yet might not like to consider what Ezekiel says. Some may say they have had a calling, a vision, a dream.

Ezekiel doesn’t seem to care about stories. He is looking at the impact of the shepherd’s shepherding on the sheep.

Stories are fun and lately have become outlandish as to how some are “called” to be His shepherds. But in the end, they are simply stories, stories that the gullible or (too) trusting want to believe, because of dry skin on thier ears (itchy ears – get it?).

Lets consider what Ezekiel is trying to teach us. In the following blogs on Ezekiel 34, I would like to settle on the 4th verse for a bit.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

This verse defines the failures of the shepherds of Israel during Ezekiel’s time. Instead of simply finding fault, (due as it may be), I would rather contrast these shepherds with the Good Shepherd that we seek to follow.

The Good Shepherd Is Against The Bad Shepherds.

Ezekiel 34 :9-10a

9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God will put a stop to these bad shepherds from feeding His flock. The food these shepherds were feeding the sheep must have been bad food, food that might be described as “leavenous” in a few hundred years after Ezekiel preached! (Jesus ofter warned His disciples of the leaven of the….)

The Good Shepherd God Has Placed Over Us.

Ezekiel 34 :23-24

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.

God’s servant David, otherwise known as the King of Glory, Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Great and Good Shepherd, He shall feed us.

Are you being fed by the Master? Are you in communion with Him? Do you hear His voice? He is teaching us, are we listening?

By the way – I didn’t ask if you are going to church regularily, or doing good things in the sight of men, or obeying some preachers wishes.

Is He teaching you?

In the next few posts, let’s look at each of the complaints against the bad shepherds. Hope to visit with you again.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

He is Good.


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Ezekiel 34 – A Good Shepherd Described – 2

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Feeds the Flock

Recalling the previous verses in Ezekiel 34, the emphasis of God’s complaint against the shepherds is that they are not feeding the sheep.

Lets read the verses again and consider a key characteristic of a good Shepherd.

Ezekiel 34 :1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

The key characteristic of a true shepherd is to feed the flock.

The Good Shepherd Fed His Flock

When Jesus was restoring Peter, He reiterated three times to feed the flock.

John 21 :15-17

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

It is instructive to remember that the last words Jesus told His apostles was to be “teaching them to observe all that I command”

Peter Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Peter got it! I think he really got it! He understood a shepherd’s responsibility and passed on this key characteristic to his readers.

1 Peter 5 :2

2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Paul Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Paul got it too, and he passed it on to his readers!

2 Timothy 2:24

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,

Paul Expects His Converts to Shepherd by Feeding the Flock

Interesting that Paul expects to get some milk from the flock. This is even described as a right for apostles to expect some milk from the flock (see verse 12). Paul teaches this, but relinquishes that right in order for the gospel to have one less obstacle (Paul’s word not mine).

Notice that in the next two passages, Paul expected his converts to continue to feed the flock, to pass truth on, since the truth is the very lifeblood of the church, and by it we are able to stand.

Acts 20 :28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

2 Timothy 2:2

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Chief-ShepherdThe Chief Shepherd Feeds His Flock

Golly – the very passage in Ezekiel 34 speaks of the priority of teaching within the Shepherds ministry to His flock. God will set up the Shepherd, and the first activity He is seen to perform is to feed the sheep.

Ezekiel 34:23

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

God has set up His One Shepherd to feed His flock. Are you receiving sustenance from the One Good Shepherd?

It is obvious that God is feeding His sheep, and that He has supplied the Good Shepherd to perform this ministry. Feeding His sheep is the emphasis of the Good Shepherd, but God wants to express His all-encompassing concern for His sheep by describing the various other activities of the Shepherd that pleases God.

Although only One Shepherd fits this description perfectly, it is very instructive to consider the characteristics Ezekiel descibes in this passage, in order to understand God’s will for men who would call themselves shepherds of God’s flock.

(P.S. – Continually reminding someone they are a shepherd may be a clue!!)

This we will do in the following posts. Hope you can join me.


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Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1

shepherd-carrying-sheep

My wife and I were reading in Ezekiel 34 a few nights ago.

During the reading, it occurred to me that this passage is very New Testamental.

By that I mean, many phrases within this passage are directly addressed in the New Testament.

You know, I would consider this passage to be very modern, dare I say it – even applicable to us today.

Lets read the first three verses to get a gist of the passage, and then let me know what you think!

Ezekiel 34:1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

It seems the Lord is using the picture of the shepherd/sheep to describe the spiritual relationships between the leaders of Israel (both political and religious) and the “rank and file” of Israel – what we might call “the laity” in today’s Christian environment.

The principle complaint against the shepherds was that they fed themselves, to the exclusion of feeding the flock. Of course the leaders fed some of the flock, but as we will see, it wasn’t an enviable condition to be in if you were a sheep!

The shepherds of Israel ate the fat.

It seems that the word fat in the first phrase of the charge may be translated as milk (some translations use “curds”). This would show a progression of abuse on the part of the shepherds as to what they demand from the sheep. Since the milk of the sheep was not restricted from the shepherds, the Lords complaint must be regarding the abuse of this privilege.

Excessive taxation and the demand of religious obligations was “milking the flock”, in a very real manner. Today when we talk of “milking it”, I think we are using the term in a similar manner.

The shepherds of Israel clothed themselves with wool.

shepherdcarrysheep4

Sheep are to supply wool. It is one of their principal functions. So again, the issue must be the abuse of the privilege. In the same way that the milk supplied a temporary need, the wool supplied a more permanent benefit to the shearers. But the next phrase seems to indicate that those that were giving the benefits of milk and wool were not being fed, which reinforces the original charge against the shepherds. They (the spiritual leaders of Israel) were taking from the flock, but not feeding them!

The shepherds of Israel slaughter the fat ones.

The final function of a sheep is to supply food to the owner. It seems the shepherds fed these particular sheep. Please understand this is not an enviable position to be in.

If you were starving, at least the shepherds of Israel were just using you (taking milk and wool), instead of intending to kill you.

I suppose a number of questions rise in my mind. Fellow blogger Gerry Palermo suggested I build a survey of the questions. Check out Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1 – Survey for a chance to respond to the following questions.

  • How do you see the Good Shepherd?
  • Does the Good Shepherd require milk, wool and meat from His flock? Selah.
  • Is He demanding more than you can supply?
  • Do you feel that you are not able to satisfy the demands of the Master?
  • Do you worry about His intentions?
  • When things are going well, do you worry that you are being set up?

Jesus rescuing lamb

By asking these questions to the sheperds of Isreal, Ezekiel is condemning these actions. The character of God in not such, that His intent is to simply take take take.

He does expect fruit from His followers, which is simply the natural outgrowth of abiding in Him. He feeds us, clothes us and provides life, that we might produce fruit for His glory.

Consider the difference. The true Shepherd is fundamentally different than the shepherds Ezekiel is preaching about in this passage. In the following posts, I hope we will find the contrast to be obvious!

Let us give thanks for our Good Shepherd!


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Local Church Membership Q&A – 20 – Epilogue

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.

Since my discussion with Cody, I tripped over a blog that discusses the dangers of signing a church covenant, a very fitting epilogue to our discussion on membership

Take a few minutes to visit Istoria Ministries Blog.


This is our final post on this instance of local church membership.  If you have followed the posts through to this one, I would love to hear from you.  Please drop me a line.  As always, if you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 19

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership. A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time. Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


Cody – As I watched you lead the study the other night, I saw a young man who wants to follow the Lord and disciple those he has a chance to. I would challenge you to consider what you are teaching, that is, that you focus on the Word of God and not some man’s teaching about the Word of God. (We spent less than 10 minutes reading the Word that night and the remaining time referring to a booklet.)

In my own studies recently, I have been in Mark 7. In that chapter, the Lord rebukes the religious leaders of the nation. I have to ask myself – How is the requirement for a believer to enter in to church membership any different than the Pharisees requirement for the disciples to wash their hands prior to eating. Both teachings are obviously constructed out of good intentions to protect the “layman”, but the Lord didn’t seem to accept this teaching.

Mark 7:1-13

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem,
2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.
3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders,
4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)
5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)–
12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,
13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

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Jesus referred to the Word of God in His defense for the disciples. As a proponent of church membership, I would ask you to do the same. Either refer to the Word of God for your teaching, or admit that your teaching considers the Word of God to be insufficient for the needs of this time.


If you have followed the posts through to this one, I would love to hear from you. Please drop me a line. As always, if you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 18

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


Time for Questions

As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts

Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership facilitate church discipline effectively?

This might be the most convincing argument for local church membership, if the church is modeled after an organizational structure, but the church is modeled after a family, so this argument is only effective if the premise of organizational church life is considered to be the norm.

Since this is not what the New Testament models the church after, we have to reconsider our thinking.

An example is always helpful for me.

As I have sought to be involved in local churches, being members for many many years, I have seen many families leave the fellowship and move onto other churches.  Not so often, I have seen individuals leave on bad terms, (whether under formal discipline or not, I don’t know, even though the Lord says the final step in discipline is to bring the offender before the whole church)  These disciplined folk usually end up in either another local fellowship, or end up wandering aimlessly.  In my opinion, it seems that the discipline did not have it’s intended effect, that is, the restoration of the believer to the church.

What is the answer?

Make the offender miss the group – that is, reach into the offenders life (prior to any offense) and invest time and effort so that the offender will miss the group.  Having a name taken off a list is not that effective!

Most, if not all offenders would admit that the reason they may have considered coming back to the original fellowship is because they missed the people, not the fact that their name was off a list.

So I have to ask you – What is the purpose of the list in relation to the act of discipline?

Matthew 16:18

 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Our next post will address a final question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 17

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


Time for Questions

As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership assist in performing the work of the Body?

In one discussion with a brother, (he calls himself a pastor – I tell you this so you may understand the dilemma my question poses -) I asked the following question.

Would you rather have a faithful believer that is not a formal member of your church, or a formal member that is not necessarily faithful?

I don’t remember him answering.

Since I cannot find any place in the Scriptures that clearly demands this practice, the Body of Christ must be able to perform all of it’s duties without the imposition of this practice. Not only does the New Testament teach this, Christian history affirms the same.

The imposition of a formal church membership is associated more often than not with religious organizations that persecute believers.  Thankfully as believers in the west, we do not live in this condition today!

In the passages that specifically describe the working of the Body of Christ, (universally or locally), local church membership teaching or instruction is painfully absent.

It seems the Lord will build His church.

Matthew 16:18

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 16

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

Time for Questions

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership foster an “us vs them” mentality?

By this I mean among believers.

How many times have you heard those under your care speak of other believers as “those over there” or “that other church on the corner”? I understand that we live in a fallen world, but creating or maintaining a system that fosters this attitude is counter-productive in my opinion.

Notice Paul’s method of teaching the Corinthian body, by using the practices of other groups of Christians to “shame them” into conformity with the rest of the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:16

16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

How often does a local church seek to be different from the rest of the Body, and by that activity, miss out on many blessings. Of course, this should not apply in individual personal holiness, for we are all called to follow the Lord and not others, but the expression of that life in Christ should be to be at peace with others.


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of loacal church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 15

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

Time for Questions

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership follow after pragmatism or edification?  

By that, I would refer to the following.

1 Corinthians 10:23

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

If, for the sake of argument, the local church is “allowed” to have membership rolls, how is this beneficial to the average Christian?  Remember, permissible actions do not equate to be pleasing actions!

Membership could be seen as a method of allowing or restricting a believer from christian activities or “full fellowship”  This seems to be hurtful to the believer outside and create a sense of “arrival” for the one who is in “the club”.

It would seem that the benefit goes to those who might boast about the members. Although the principle topic is circumcision in Galations, could the attitude of Paul toward the judaizers be similar in regard to those who require local church membership from a believer?

Consider the following very loose paraphrase of Gal 6:12-13  (My apologies to Paul!)

Galations 6:12 – 13

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be members; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

For neither they themselves who are members keep the membership agreement they signed; but desire to have you sign up for membership, that they may glory in your potential attendance.


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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A Study of Eternal / Everlasting

everlastingEverlasting – It boggles the mind – at least my mind!

How can I grasp this concept?

I remember laying in bed at night when I was a young’n and thinking about the eternal, and just when I thought I had it figger’d out, some extra years would appear in my thoughts. I felt like a dog chasing my tail!

“Everlasting” in the Bible

When I was a dog chasing my tail, I didn’t have the desire or will power to go to the source to research this concept. Now that I am a Christian, I have the Word of God to search for answers.

infinity 3

So lets Consider the Bible and search for answers.

First off, lets find out the words, in the Old and New Testament, that the inspired writers used to describe this concept!

Four Old Testament Hebrew words and three New Testament Greek words are translated to describe the concept of eternal/everlasting .

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OLAM – Old Testament “Eternal”
The most common word in the Old Testament is “OLAM”.  The following table analyzes this word in describing various eternal/everlasting things.

You might be asking by this time – What’s your point Carl?

infinity 1My point is that we cannot interpret the Word of God in a strictly literal, “technically accurate” manner.  Some folk have complained that this makes the Bible an unreadable document, that is, they could not simply pick up a Bible and understand it correctly.

When was the last time you considered the Bible to be a cartoon?  When I pick up a Blondie or Garfield cartoon, I don’t intend to spend more than a few seconds (at most) in understanding the message being conveyed.  I think the attitude towards the Word should be somewhat different.

The Bible was written in a completely different culture, time and place than what we live in.  To assume that  we have the right to simply understand the message in a 20th century North American context is foolishness.  Unless, of course, we see the Bible as a magic talisman, instead of a message from the living God.

In the case of this particular study, I find it amazing that some things that are described as eternal and everlasting (in our mindset) are not!

Does this take away from the core definition of eternal/everlasting? No – the core meaning is the core meaning!  What I think I have tripped over is how the overall context can affect the specific message of a particular word.

What do I mean?

Consider

Gen 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

What will happen to this covenant when there is no living creatures on the earth?  (BTW – that will happen!)  It is eternal between the two parties that enter into the covenant, so the default message is that although the term everlasting is used, it is not everlasting/eternal. The everlasting condition of this covenant is dependent on the existence of “every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth”.


How about this one.  The land of Canaan is to be an everlasting possession for the seed of Abraham.

Gen 17:8

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Two issues erupt in this verse.

  1. Who is the seed of Abraham?
  2. Is this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?

The first point is simple to answer.  Paul labors the point of describing who the seed is in the book of Galations.

Gal 3:29

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Then two more issues occur to me. – (Come on Carl – gimme a break!!)

Was this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?  Or did the Jewish people misunderstand this verse and “literally” interpret the promise, assuming the land was theirs unconditionally forever?

The very next verse after the great promise to Abraham, the Lord stated…

… Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Unconditional promise?  Could the Jewish nation survive if they were disobedient and rebellious? (Did they?)  Could they assume upon verse 8 and ignore verse 9?  (What about the nation of Israel today?  Are they presently keeping “my covenant”? )  The everlasting possession was dependent on the Jewish nation’s keeping of “my covenant”.  It is very interesting to me that the covenant being referred to here was the Abrahamic covenant and that the nation’s allegience to the Siniatic covenant revealed the heart of the people towards God.  Additional examples of how the eternal/everlasting concept is modified by the context, can be found above and I would encourage you to consider them.

Does this contextual effect on the concept of eternal/everlasting continue into the New Testament?  I will leave that for you to study out.  Get back to me when you find something out, eh?

I gotta go study some Garfield!garfield


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Local Church Membership Q&A – 14

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

Time for Questions

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership “have its privileges”?

Remember, as believers we are to take our marching orders from the Word, and not lean on the secular world (not even popular credit card commercials) for our wisdom.

I never considered asking my children if they wanted to join the family in order to fully enjoy all the privileges (and responsibilities) of the family. My wife and I just figured they were members of the family due to their birth into our family.

Is this wrong?

Am I missing something?


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of loacal church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 13

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

Time for Questions

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership allow for a “country club” environment?

Remember the Biblical image of the church is one of family, not of an exclusive/elite club!

Formal church membership smacks of club-ship (Is that a word?)


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 12

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

Time for Questions

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Does Local Church Membership minimize the importance of joining the worldwide Church, ie the Body of Christ?

Sometimes I will be able to speak with someone concerning the invitation to follow Jesus. How many times have I heard folks say they belong to a church.  (And we all know what they mean, since the local church membership concept is so prevalent in this society!)  Much confusion is propagated by the emphasis of the local church membership concept over and above the call to follow Jesus.


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Follow Considering the Bible on WordPress.com

 

Local Church Membership Q&A – 11

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


As I have been thinking on this topic, I have considered 9 questions.

One question will be offered for comment in the following posts Consider and respond, or again, if you want to discuss just let me know.

Time for Questions

Does Local Church Membership sometimes cause believers to sin against their own conscience in an effort to obey a man?

How many times have I heard a man, or even a group of men, announce from the pulpit a “dream” or a “vision” that they have for the local church they are leading. Many times the call goes out to join this effort.  Sometimes this call for action becomes a litmus test for faithfulness to the Christian life.

Some believers are intimidated into a service that is not their calling. (Obedience is better than sacrifice.)  This is a shameful condition, since this believer may be missing out on God’s specific direction for their life, and possibly effecting the “vision” group improperly.

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Some follow their conscience and quietly defer the invitation.  At best, this may create a passive division within the body. At worst, this action may become a test of submissiveness, resulting in the judgment of rebellion,  that ends in an unnecessary discipline or offense.

Cody – remember that Christianity is about following Jesus and serving others. Causing a believer to go against his conscience is a serious issue in Paul’s mind.

Consider …

1 Corinthians 8:12

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.


Our next post will address another question concerning the teaching of local church membership.  I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.

If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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