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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Taxes & Churches – Avoiding Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the third topic of discussion.


3. Churches Existing Only to Avoid Taxation

 TAXES & CHURCHES

The third time this struggle came up for me is a conversation I had with one of my daughters friends a while back.

He was telling me about some house churches in a town north-west of where I live that were avoiding the paying of property taxes by claiming their home as a church and hiding behind the 501 (c) 3 status.  I don’t know where this young man is in relation to the Lord, but his take on the situation was bang on.  He said that it was obvious, in some of the churches, that the only reason the “church” existed was to avoid the paying of property taxes.  (Is the common refrain of offence ringing in anyone’s ears?)  My goodness.  

Summary Arguments

I can imagine some of the arguments that might arise if this teaching were to be taken seriously by the modern church.

  1. If churches had to pay taxes, missions would suffer.
    • But why would missions need to suffer?  Why not cut church staff, and allow the rank and file of the church to step up.  I think if you have been reading my junk for a while, you realize that I also struggle with what I think of as “professional christianity”.  We hire those to serve us, when we as believers need to serve one another.  It is a crippling disease within the western church.  But this is not the purpose of this blog.
  2. If churches had to pay taxes, there would be less service to the believer, less perks within the church.
    • No free study manuals, coffee, padded pews, etc.  Is that what the body of Christ is all about for you?
  3. If churches had to pay taxes, the growth of the modern church system would come to a grinding halt.
    • Large mega churches would definitely become rarer, since their tax burden might restrict future building plans.  Some existing churches would fall into default because they aree leveraged beyond their means.  
    • When this argument comes up, I often think of the struggling Chinese church prior to and during Mao’s revolution.  All modern western missionaries were pulled from China during the revolution and the western church bemoaned the situation, thinking that without the american missionary leading the church, the church would fall apart and disappear. Have you considered the last 100 years of the Chinese church?  If the rate of Christian growth continues, the nation of China will become a predominantly Christian nation within a generation or less.  (Very similar to the events of the early church in the Roman nation!) And this type of growth without any fancy buildings, professionally trained staff, or weekly entertainment get togethers.  

Amazing!

 TAXES & CHURCHES

What think ye? Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Benefiting from Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the second topic of discussion.


2. Churches Benefiting from Taxation

The second time this conflict arose in my thinking was over a period of two or three months.

I would occasionally drive by the construction of an alley way that would service a large church in the neighborhood. This alley will reduce traffic disturbance on the frontage road by supplying an additional exit from the church, and I am all for increased safety.

But doesn’t it seem backwards somewhat?

The general population (taxpayers, which include some believers admittedly) is blessing the institutional church, relieving a burden caused by the growth of a church.  A burden (the construction of the alley in this example) caused by the institutional church but not being relieved by the institutional church.  
They do have their rights!

What think ye? 
Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 3

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

1 Peter 2:13-17

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
 
or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
 

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

 

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter told the believers to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.  Of course we live in a nation that allows protest, but I wonder if believers are to protest as much as we do. 

 TAXES & CHURCHES

It is interesting that Peter uses the term “cloak of maliciousness” in reference to the freedoms we possess as Christians.  This cloak refers to a covering, and I think Peter is fearful that believers will use their declared freedoms, as a covering of actual malicious (evil) motivations and deeds.

I also understand that at the time of this discussion with my friend, the proposal was not an ordinance of man yet, so as far as I can tell, the church had every right to speak to God about this possible injustice.  But once this amendment passed, the church should, with well-doing, put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (Not be foolish men, who needed to be put to silence).

In each of these passages, the Bible seems to be telling us to take the loss for the sake of others.  Do not offend, humbly pay your taxes and do good.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 2

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

Romans 13:7

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

 TAXES & CHURCHES

In Romans 13:7 Paul told believers to pay their taxes, and since churches were in private homes, it seems obvious that if there was a property tax in those days, Paul was telling them to pay it.  If the ruling city officials request assistance from the general population to improve the living conditions of the community, does it not seem to be a sacrifice that would be well pleasing, in order to be a blessing on the community?

Fighting this proposal in the public arena was a no win situation for the church in my opinion.  The early church spoke to God about seeming injustices (see Acts 4:23, 12:5, etc.) and not to the general population.  (I guess the early church didn’t understand the power of public relations to turn the heart of a king/mayor!)

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 1

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passages.

Matthew 17:24-27

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
 
He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
 
And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
 
However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

When Peter was asked about the temple tax, Jesus sent him fishing and paid the taxes with a coin from the fishes mouth.  It is interesting that the Lords motive for paying the taxes is to avoid offending.

The background is the temple tax that the Jewish religious aristocracy required for the maintenance of the temple.  But note that Jesus likens this temple taxation to the more common taxation of the overlords within the land, that is, the Romans, who are referred to as the “kings of the earth”.  Interesting comparison!

So who are the “strangers” in this text?  Who did the Romans tax?

It is common knowledge that one of the responsibilities of conquered lands within the Roman empire was to bear the tax burden for the kingdom of Rome.  When Jesus refers to the children is this passage, He is referring to those who were free-born children within the Roman nation, that is, those born to Roman citizens.  Therefore the strangers are those who are the conquered.  So the comparison that Jesus makes is to liken the temple tax responsibility to the strangers (the Jewish religious aristocracy?) and to state that those who follow Jesus were the true children.

If I am following the Lord’s logic, this means that true children of the kingdom are free of this responsibility – that is, to pay any (temple) tax.

But not free from the responsibility to love.  We are not to offend our neighbor and in standing up for our rights (in not having to pay some tax), I am afraid we offend.  (Golly, after I finally considered this topic, it offends me!).

 TAXES & CHURCHES

Remember the atheist friend that was doing the surveys about the future taxation.  He certainly saw an apparent contradiction between the churches words and works.  And he certainly was able to use this experience to shore up his belief that the church was simply a business.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Introduction

taxes-150x150

The city I live in was trying to find support for an amendment to the city charter.  This amendment would charge a fee/tax (based on the size of the property’s impermeable surface, ie parking/roofing) to property owners to fund an account for the improvement of roads and drainage in the city.

I knew a fellow (an atheist friend) that was actually out among the population seeking to drum up support for this amendment.  He would chat with me about the reactions he would receive and the general feelings of the city population. 

Two groups stood out in fighting against this proposition. 

I suppose you could guess the first group to oppose this amendment – malls, with their profit driven focus and huge parking lots – this would definitely impact thier bottom line causing greater overhead and therefore smaller profit margins.  Business you know

The other group? – Churches.  

And this is where I began to struggle.  Consider the reason for taxes. 

Is it not to share the burden of services for the general public?

Did not the Lord state that it is better to give than receive? 

Are we not to be a blessing to the community we live in? 

Are we not to bear the burden of our brother, doing good to all?

Which brings me to my struggle.  

Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from?  I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?  

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?  

The next three posts will attempt to consider this question.   Use the contact form below to share your thoughts.


 

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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 .

infinity 2

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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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 3

Salary 2Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This third post is simply some wanderings and considerations I have had after my discussion with the Pastor!  Give me some feed back if I’m way out of line.


Consider 1 Corinthians 9:12

Remember that the topic of this passage is support (not salary) of an apostle, a traveling minister.  These verses, IMHO, do not apply to elders and pastors of local churches, who are able to maintain outside employment to assist the local body if in need.

1 Corinthians 9:12

If others (referring to other apostles – check the context!) share this rightful claim on you, do not we (Paul and his party) even more? Nevertheless, we (Paul and his party) have not made use of this right, but we (Paul and his party) endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

salary 3Is not Paul stating that using this “right”, (that is, support from a body of believers) actually hinders (places an obstacle in the way) the gospel? This is an apostle (not an elder or pastor) teaching this truth about an apostles right to support, which Paul is refusing to exercise.

How can local pastors refer to this same passage (1 Corinthians 9) to establish this right they believe they have, and yet miss this verse?

One important item that I need to clarify, for I know what some may be thinking.  I am not advocating abandonment of the Christian minister.  Support and salary are two completely different topics, and the New Testament exhorts believers to support those who are ministering among them.

Support for a Christian minister, coming from those blessed from his ministry, is a direct relational blessing.  If believers would remove themselves from unbiblical obligations, they could freely give funds, gifts and blessings to Biblically directed recipients, such as:

  • The poor (including widows, orphans, etc)
  • Travelling missionaries (those in a similar situation as the apostle in 1 Corinthians 9)
  • Christian ministers that trust in God.

An additional verse that some may appeal to, to justify the salaried position within the family of God is Galatians 6:6.

Gal 6:6

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Two things to notice

  • The context of this verse is general Christian living, not the requirements of a contractual obligation to a separate group of specialized Christians.  I once asked how this verse justifies the salary of a pastor but does not apply to a Sunday School teacher, or a “lay” Christian teaching in some manner.
  • The good things are just that – good things.  Encouraging words, financial help, a bag of groceries, an invitation to supper, a new car,  etc.

I love the opportunity to assist those I know of that are in need, or that I “sense” may need a “blessing”.  I believe the Lord is able to direct His people to assist His people.  Is that wrong?  Too simplistic?  Too ideal?

salary 1It is becoming obvious to me, that salaried positions for local elders/pastors seems to be foreign to the New Testament.

Help me find justification for the salaried position, so that I can sense that the modern church is still somewhat on track.

Although not scripture, it is interesting to review what an early church document reveals how Christians treated this topic.

Didache 2

Notice what the Didache (Also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve.”) teaches.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets.

didache

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

A little later in chapter 11…

But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Wow

Story Time

This topic, since I have been considering it for a period of time, was on my mind this morning, when I was visiting with a brother.  He mentioned that the church he belongs to is putting on a Christmas pageant and that they had sold 14,000 tickets, ranging from $8 to $14 each.  I mentioned that, at an average price of $10 per ticket, that church pulled in $140,000, and that this should pay for the minister’s salary.

Oh no no, he says – Our pastor makes $200,000,  plus benefits, vacation and a yearly month-long sabbatical.  Oh and this particular church has a $20,000,000 capital budget for renovations and building projects.

Silver and gold have I none – Peter – 1st century


 

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Church Things – “Gimme More Money” Training

Dollar-SignIf you give me money, I will train you to fleece your flock better!!!

I received an email recently from some christian organization, and to be honest with you, (as if I  have been lying to you up till now!!), I well nigh wanted to call these people and yell at them. 

But then I thought I might get talked into giving them some money, so I changed my mind!

First thing that got me was the artful manipulation of word-speak these hucksters use to entice christian leadership to join their organization (There’s that word again – organization!)

Secondly, after they have prettied up their message with high faluting terms, the topic itself is offensive. 

To see professional Christians (should there be any such thing as a professional christian?), offer to train other professional Christians to lure cash out of “high capacity givers” seems at best deceitful and at worst simply an act of exercising avarice. 

As a non-professional christian, I can assume any church I might attend is being led by a professional christian who is trained in pulling funds, offerings, tithes, love gifts, cash, money…. out of my pocket so they may pay

  • their own salaries

  • the salaries of their staff

  • church mortgage(s)

  • church overhead

  • entertainment needs

  • technical supplies

  • office supplies

  • utility bills

  • insurance premiums

  • Sabbatical leave

  • furthering education

  • holidays

  • expansion dreams

  • maintenance requirements

  • …………….

Brothers and Sisters – take back the freedom that you have been granted in your faith, and determine to be giving people to those the Lord describes in the NEW TESTAMENT.  (A cursory reading of the New Testament will easily convince you that the influences we find ourselves under in the current “church” is completely out of whack with the will of God.)

Buildings and staff do not further the gospel.   Buildings and staff simply feed the wants of US, and in the doing, cripple us as Christians.

As a matter of fact, the size and affluence that some church buildings try to exude, along with the exorbitant funds required to staff these temples of pride are a major stumbling block to many of the lost today, and dare I say to an increasing amount of believers.

I have chatted about how I feel about the current  church organization found in the USA in other blog posts.  This latest one was simply fueled by a single errant email that somehow crossed my path.

By the way, check out the subscription fees required to join this elite organization – dang that word “organization” comes up alot! 

Almost $1,200.00 a year to join, unless you go with the annual membership, which is soooo reasonable at just under $1,000.00 per year! 

And remember, the church that buys this package for their staff will need to ask their flock for more money to pay for this training! 

But don’t worry – that will be easy, after this training has been absorbed.


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Christian Accountability – Watch & Account

What is Christian Accountability and is a Christian influence-or-accountableAccountable to Church Leadership?

This post will address the last two words in our word matrix.

WATCH & ACCOUNT

These words supply two characteristics of the man who persuades and leads the christian are revealed in this passage.

Lets review the passage and then discuss.

Hebrew 13

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

I have emboldened the verse under consideration. The following posts will address Hebrews 13:17, and a considered review of critical words the apostle uses in exhorting the believers he is writing to.

Following is a matrix of words that need to be considered in understanding the teaching of Hebrews 13, especially verse 17. (See end of study for Strong’s full definitions.)

This next study will incorporate the last two words under consideration, due to both of them describing the christian leader being referred to in this verse

Hebrews 13:17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Watching

As you can see from the context, the first characteristic of the christian leader is that he is “watching”.  It is very interesting to me that this term has everything to do with being awake, alert, attentive. Attentive to “your” souls.

Is the “your” plural, that is, is the writer stating that the minister is concerned over the body of believers as a congregation, or is it more personal than that.  Could it be that the writer is referring to individuals?

Am I too jaded when I question the watching of men over my soul when they do not even know my name?

How many times have I put myself under a man who has never known what the condition of my soul is, where I am at in my christian journey, whether I understand the gospel, whether I am in sin…..

I do know that there have been times when I was sure the minister was watching over my wallet!

In the future, I would like to address the general topic of a ministers relationship to support, but at this time, suffice it to say, I believe the Word does not give authority of one man over another in the delegation of that man’s gifts or talents.

What is my point?

This verse is describing a man who is giving of himself for the purpose of others.  If taken literally, and I assume that it would play out this way, the godly christian minister would actually lose sleep over the condition of those he ministers to.  This type of minister would be one I would gladly give deference to, and seek to be easily persuaded by faithful Bible teaching.

Account

The minister in this text is one who will give account of the believers he has ministered amongst to the Lord, at least in the last day.  (Could it be that this minister is giving account of those he ministers to during his times with the Lord on a daily basis?)

It is funny to think that many in the church today advocate an accountability to each other to ensure faithfulness to God.  This passage, (and the rest of scripture, I believe) does not advocate any type of primary horizontal accountability.  Of course we are responsible to love and care for one-another.  This is not accountability.

My accountability is to the One who owns me.  My Father, not my brothers.  Love the brotherhood, Fear God.

In His ministry, did not Jesus persuade the populace, even seeking to make those interested more curious by telling dark sayings and parables?  He taught those who wanted to be taught, and lead a life that no man has ever led.  He is One who we should gladly hear and obey.  He is watching for our souls, and if you have a minister that exhibits these qualities in your life (professional or not) be thankful to the Master for him.

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Christian Accountability – Submit

What is Christian Accountability & is a Christian influence-or-accountableAccountable to Church Leadership?

This post will address the third word in our word matrix.

SUBMIT

To submit to One is to understand His wishes and to accept them as your own.

Lets review the passage and then discuss.

Hebrew 13

When this question arises, ie. “Is a Christian accountable to Church Leaders?” invariably the passage in Hebrews 13 is referred to. Therefore, lets consider the passage.

Hebrews 13
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

I have emboldened the verse under consideration. The following posts will address Hebrews 13:17, and a considered review of critical words the apostle uses in exhorting the believers he is writing to.

Following is a matrix of words that need to be considered in understanding the teaching of Hebrews 13, especially verse 17. (See end of study for Strong’s full definitions.)

The word of concern in our passage is used only once in the New Testament, and of course it is in Hebrew 13:17.

Hupeiko to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants) metaph. to yield to authority and admonition, to submit submit (one’s) self

The issue of authority is raised, by the inclusion of this word. The question that is of importance is

What is the authority that a believer is to yield to.

One possibility is that the elders are to be submitted to. This is correct to the point that believers are to submit to one another (Eph 5:21) and to consider one another above ourselves (Phil 2). I am not persuaded that this verse is giving any additional authority to any man simply because of a position in the church.

Another possibility is that the authority to be submitted to is the Word of God. I think this is the answer to our problem. And yet…

Thinking back, there were a group of folk that were very Biblical. Memorized vast amounts of the scripture (that they had!) and lived a very separated life. Always went to meeting, gave according to the scriptures and sought to obey every precept in their religion.

They ended up killing the Messiah.

I am not sure how this is gonna work out in my thinking, and if y’all can help me, it would sure be appreciated. It turns out that there is One who has authority, and I am trying to figger it out in relation to the Word of God.

He said ….”All authority has been given unto Me”

Lets consider one situation.

Jesus brings to our attention the time when David was on the run from Saul, and needed food for his following. We find the passage in Matthew 12

Matthew 12:1-8

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;

How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

How is it that Jesus would refer to a time in Davids life that he performed an unlawful deed, admittedly so, and then use it to justify His disciples actions (plucking and eating some “corn” as they traveled through the area.

The disciples were not doing anything opposed to what the Word was allowing.

Deuteronomy 23:25

When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn.

So why did Jesus bring up the incident with David? He could have easily rebuffed this complaint with the above passage. But I think Jesus was after bigger fish to fry. It has to do with ….

Da Sabbath

and the religious zealots affection for that special day.

Could Jesus be equating the the sabbath observance (even that which was prescribed in the Old Testament, not merely that which the pharisees had corrupted to its present state) to the ceremonial law describing the eating of the shew bread?

What about the priestly service overriding the observance of the sabbath?

Jesus took this incident and taught of a higher authority over the law, and as I read through the gospels, He seemingly rode this horse often!

So – what authority is applicable in the verse we are considering above (Heb 13) ? I am still trying to process this as I work through the epistles. It is a challenge. I know in the past, I have considered Paul to be the one to listen to, actually filtering out Jesus words by interpreting Paul’s words according to my desires.

I find it amazing that Jesus never abrogated a moral commandment, but those things that are least (ceremonial issues) had become the greatest with men, and Jesus was all about upsetting the apple cart!

Find following some additional greek words that the author to the Hebrews could have chosen to use in our text, but didn’t.

Hupotasso

to arrange under, to subordinate to subject, put in subjection to subject one’s self, obey to submit to one’s control to yield to one’s admonition or advice to obey, be subject A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use,it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”. submit (one’s) self unto5, submit (one’s) self to3, be in subjection unto2, put in subjection under1, miscellaneous12

Wow – glad he didn’t use this word in the text!

Dogmatizo

to decree, command, enjoin, lay down an ordinance submit…to decrees

I think we get our word “dogmatic” from this word! (Makes me consider whether being dogmatic is being Christ-like)

Douleuo

to be a slave, serve, do service of a nation in subjection to other nations metaph. to obey, submit to in a good sense, to yield obedience in a bad sense, of those who become slaves to some base power, to yield to, give one’s self up to

I like this possibility, seems to have a similar sense to hupeiko

Sunapago

to lead away with or together metaph. to be carried away with of a thing, i.e. by a thing, so as to experience with others the force of that which carries away to yield or submit one’s self to lowly things, conditions, employments: not to evade their power

Hupakouo

to listen, to harken of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is, (the duty of a porter) to harken to a command to obey, be obedient to, submit to

End Notes – Strongs Definitions

G3982 πείθω peithō pi’-tho

A primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty): – agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

G2233 ἡγέομαι hēgeomai hayg-eh’-om-ahee

Middle voice of a (presumed) strengthened form of G71; to lead, that is, command (with official authority); figuratively to deem, that is, consider: – account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.

G5226 ὑπείκω hupeikō hoop-i’-ko

From G5259 and εἴκω eikō (to yield, be “weak”); to surrender: – submit self.G69

ἀγρυπνέω agrupneō ag-roop-neh’-o

Ultimately from G1 (as negative particle) and G5258; to be sleepless, that is, keep awake: – watch.

G3056 λόγος logos log’-os

From G3004; something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computation; specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (that is, Christ): – account, cause, communication, X concerning, doctrine, fame, X have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say (-ing), shew, X speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.

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