KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
THE HEAVENS DECLARE
TAURUS — THE WILD BULL
In last month's Study on the Signs of the heavens we considered the Sign of TAURUS — THE BULL. It is a picture of a great beast, a bull or ox, with his head lowered and his horns pointed forward. He is untameable and irresistible. HE is charging forth — rampaging, raging, bringing destruction to all that is in his way. It is interesting to note that the Sign of Taurus is only the forepart of the bull; actually, as it is seen in the heavens, it appears to grow right out of Aires, the Lamb. The picture is of a Lamb that changes into a Bull. Here we see the gentle and redeeming Lamb taking on a different form and character — now giving rise to the Christ coming in great glory and in swift and powerful judgment. In salvation and deliverance we meet and experience and know Him as the Lamb, but to all that is contrary to Him — the world, the flesh, and the devil — He becomes the irresistible Lord of Judgment.
This dual nature — the meekness of the Lamb and the vengence of the Wild Bull — makes Him what He is, both the SAVIOUR and the JUDGE of the universe. In His redemptive activity His face is set against sin and death. Nothing can ever alter that. He will go to all lengths to turn men from evil, and restore them into harmony with the mind and heart of God. The sheer simplicity and sincerity of His passion is enough to melt and win the most sophisticated or the hardest of men. The wrath of the Lamb (as the Wild Bull) is beyond our understanding. But the Seer of Patmos was shown the unveiling of the wrath of the Lamb. I want to declare that God is going to come forth in these last days in a revelation of Jesus Christ with the judgments and wrath of God. This shaking and purging will affect the very church of the living God. The hour is come when judgment must begin at the house of God, but the whole earth will reel violently under the overflow. The judgment that begins at the house of God comes first to those who have received the call of sonship, to those apprehended to the High Calling of God, to those predestined to be conformed into the image of the Son of God that they may rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom. The Lord comes suddenly to His temple as a refiner's fire and as fullers' soap. He shall thoroughly purge His floor, and purify the sons of Levi.
We come now to the third Decan, or minor constellation, in the house of Taurus — AURIGA. We have seen the picture of a mighty Bull rushing forth in judgment, followed by Eridanus, the fiery River of the Judge; and now we see AURIGA — THE GREAT SHEPHERD. He is seated upon the Milky Way, holding up on his left shoulder a she-goat, who has her paws around the neck of Auriga. The goat is looking down in fear and apprehension at the terrible, raging, rampaging Bull. On his lap, and held by his left hand, Auriga supports two little kids, apparently new-born, and bleating, affrightened and trembling, but obviously safe and secure in the strong embrace of the Shepherd. The name Auriga is derived from a Hebrew root which means "A shepherd." Is not this the celestial portrayal of the Good and Great and Chief Shepherd gathering the lambs in His arms, and carrying them through all the judgments, disciplines, purgings and processings of God — in His bosom? Is He not saying, "Behold, the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa. 40:10-11). Furthermore — the exceptionally bright star in the foot of Auriga is called El Nath which means "wounded" or "slain." Is not this indeed He who was once bruised or wounded in the heel (Gen. 3:15)? He is the "GOOD Shepherd," who gives His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11), and He is "the GREAT Shepherd," brought again from the dead (Heb. 13:20), and is now "the CHIEF Shepherd," seen in the day of His glory among the sheep of His fold who hear His voice and follow Him all the way to Mount Zion (I Pet. 5:4).
It should not be surprising to find Auriga, The Shepherd, connected with Taurus, The Bull — the constellation denoting judgment. Judgment begins at the house of God and the Great Judge of all is also the Great Shepherd of all. "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps; O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing" (Jer. 10:23-24). What security, what safety — and what peace fills the heart of the trusting child of God who understands the great truth that it is not in man to try and direct his own way, the responsibility is not cast upon him, but upon GOD. It is true — "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way..." as the prophet declares in Isa. 53:6, the Lord has allowed us to wander off this way, knowing that we shall have awesome experiences by which we shall learn vital lessons which later shall be used in our instruction and correction. A story is told of one who talked with a shepherd in the high Alps. While talking, the shepherd gathered a handful of the best grass and went to a low shelter nearby. "I have a sheep there with a broken leg," he said. "How did that happen?" queried the visitor. "It did not happen," answered the shepherd. "I broke it intentionally. That sheep was headstrong and unruly. It did not love me and was always leading the other sheep astray. Now it knows its dependence on me and loves to eat from my hand. When it is well again, it will keep nearer to me than any of the sheep.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Among the many emblems of our Lord in the Scriptures and in the Signs of the heavens, I think there is none more beautiful than the one in which He said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. The writer to the Hebrews says, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will..." (Heb. 13:20-21). "The God of peace who brought again from the dead the GREAT SHEPHERD..." It means that He already was the Great Shepherd before He entered the tomb, for it was the Great Shepherd that was brought back from the dead. In the Hebrew Old Testament the God of Israel is designated as "The Shepherd of Israel," or Pastor and Leader of the nation. When our Lord Jesus Christ declared Himself to be "The Good Shepherd" the Jewish leaders knew that He was claiming to be Yahweh in- the- flesh. Although the hierarchy rejected His claim, the elect gladly accepted it. Those who followed Him, who heard His voice, and were fed and guided and taught by Him knew Him experientially as the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd.
Just how great is the Great Shepherd? Great through His creative power? Yes. Great through His miracle-working power? Yes. Great through His preaching and teaching power? Yes. Great through His nature, His personality, and His attributes, human and divine, that were combined in Him? Yes, He was in the days of His flesh the greatest in that respect that ever walked this planet. But in Heb. 13:20 there is the unfolding of actual greatness. The Greek text reads, "Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead that Shepherd of the sheep, Great by the blood of an aionian Covenant, even our Lord Jesus Christ." He is Great through sacrificial love, He is Great through sacrificial power, He is Great through the out-pouring of HIS LIFE on behalf of, and unto, His sheep. To have given us a Shepherd was much; but to have given us such a Great Shepherd is marvelous! More is meant than the mere quickening of the dead body of Christ Jesus. There is included, also, His exaltation by the right hand of God, to be a Prince and a Saviour, a King and a Redeemer, a Forerunner into the Kingdom of His Father. This, my beloved, is the grandeur of Auriga seated in the heavens high above the Milky Way with the kids upon His shoulder and on His lap!
George Wylie shared some precious insights into the Shepherd ministry of the Lord Jesus, of which I would share a portion. "What a Shepherd He is! What I have been impressed about is His care for the individual sheep. He is not just a shepherd of a vast flock of sheep, He knows each individual sheep and calls them by name and His care for the individual is just as great as for the flock. This is illustrated in the parable of the one lost sheep. When He brought His flock into the fold for the night one sheep was missing. What would that matter! What was the value of one sheep among the multitudes that He had. Who would miss one little sheep:, HE did — He left the rest of the flock in the shelter of the fold and went out to find the one lost one. It meant just as much to Him as did the rest of the flock.
"'He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. And he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out' (Jn. 10:2-3). To know them by name means that each has a separate identity and possesses characteristics peculiar to the individual. In the natural sphere this is true also. It is remarkable, but has often been verified, that however large the flock, the animals are individually known to the shepherd who recognizes each one by its face. This almost incredible fact has been proved again and again in courts of law, where the testimony of the shepherd that a stolen animal is his, because recognizable to him by face, has been accepted as proof of ownership. The humble child of God must never suppose that he is only one among many. Though untalented and undistinguished he is of equal consequence to Christ as those distinguished for gift and activity. All are equally precious to the Shepherd, and His most particular care is reserved for those who need Him the most.
"The 23rd Psalm has become very precious to me in the last few months. It starts out by saying, "Yahweh is my shepherd." Now I know this is referring to God, the Father, but the Son is the manifestation of the Father to us. He takes the Father's place in all things. So what is said here of Yahweh also applies to His Son YeHoshua. David wrote this Psalm, and what impressed me was the individual tone he used in writing the Psalm. Yahweh was known as the Great Shepherd of Israel. David could have said, ‘Yahweh is our shepherd; we shall not want. He maketh us to lie down in green pastures...’ but he didn't. He said, 'Yahweh is MY shepherd, and all the way through the Psalm he emphasized the individual care he received from God. Just notice: 'He maketh ME to lie down in green pastures; He ]eadeth ME beside the still waters. He restoreth MY soul; He leadeth ME in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with ME; thy rod and thy staff they comfort ME. Thou preparest a table before ME in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest MY head with oil; MY cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow ME all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever.’ All the way through the emphasis is on the individual care he received from the great Shepherd.
"'Yahweh is my shepherd; I shall not want.' When I went to Sunday School as a child one little boy in the class was quoting this Psalm. We had to learn it by heart. He said, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want.’ With a shepherd as He is what else do we need or want. He is the supply of every need. He doesn't just supply our needs, He isn't just the supplier of our needs; HE is our need, our only need. He doesn't supply our needs out of His storehouse or pantry; He gives of Himself to us. What He gives is not something He has an abundance of in His great storehouse; it is Himself He gives to us, of His own person and being, something of what He is. This is our need, our only need — more of HIM. We will never be in need while He is our Shepherd.
"Let us look at some of the things mentioned in this Psalm that we will not have any want or lack of. 'He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.' This is a picture of a sheep lying down contentedly in a field of luscious verdant grass. It has partaken abundantly of the luscious green grass and is full and satisfied. I can picture it lying down in this lovely pasture, resting and contentedly chewing its cud with not a care or worry in the world. This tells us that we shall never want for rest, provision, contentment and satisfaction. 'He leadeth me beside the still waters.' I can imagine this beautiful setting, a beautiful green meadow with a lovely little lake at the end of it, the waters reflecting the clouds drifting by and the trees growing along side casting their cool shade. I used to like to find a place like this for myself an a nice summer day and stretch out on the grass and watch the clouds as they slowly made their way across the sky, constantly changing shape; looking at times like animals, ships, people and faces. There is a place in the Spirit with the Good Shepherd just like this, a place of rest and calm in ones' soul where nothing disturbs the tranquility of the spirit, where all is peace and rest and confidence. Though the world around may be falling apart, millions starving and thirsting for lack of the necessities of life, the Good Shepherd makes His sheep to lie down contentedly, at peace in the green pastures of His abundance, and beside the still waters. The waters of life may be turbulent, they usually are; but in the spirit we are beside the still waters.
"I should say something here that may be helpful to some. We have here a picture of a sheep that will never know what it is to feel the pangs of hunger or thirst; there is always an abundant supply at hand. The Lord said, 'He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst,' yet we also have the scripture that says, "They that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. There are times we will be hungry and thirsty for the things of God; in fact I always am. I eat and eat and yet I hunger for more, I drink and drink and yet am still thirsty. Why should this be? Jesus said we would never thirst again, and yet I do, all the time. One thing good for us to know is that most things in the spirit are diametrically opposed or opposite to the natural. Natural laws and spiritual laws are different. For instance, in the spirit realm, up is down and down is up. By that I mean if you want to make something of yourself in the natural, you aspire to great things. You climb the ladder of human ambition, striving for the top and caring not how many people you trample under foot to get there. In the Spirit realm it is different; if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God there is only one way, and that is down. You must humble yourself and become the servant of all, not the head and ruler and oppressor of others. The law of God is, ‘Humble yourself in the sight of God, and He will lift you up.’ Try to lift yourself up in pride or self-assertiveness and you will be brought down. So up is down, and down is up.
"In the natural when we eat and drink until we are full we are no longer hungry or thirsty, but in a few hours we will be — we always get hungry and thirsty again. This is hard to explain, but in the Spirit, like the sheep that is lying down in green pastures and beside still waters, we can be satisfied and contented, yet there remains a strong desire for more. This is a different kind of hunger and thirst than we have in the natural. We can be full, satisfied, and contented, and yet at the same time hungering and thirsting for more. My experience is, the more I partake of the things of the Shepherd, the greater becomes my hunger and thirst for more. So I am full, satisfied, contented, and at the same time hungering and thirsting for more of the deep and glorious things of God. This is a paradox and hard for the natural mind to comprehend — but so it is in the realm of the Spirit. We will never hunger and thirst again as we do in the natural — because we lack — and yet, we will never cease to hunger and thirst after righteousness until we come into the fullness of Him. In the natural, when we eat and drink we lose our hunger and thirst for a time; if we don't eat and drink for a season we will soon get hungry and thirsty again. It is just the opposite in the realm of the Spirit. I find that the more I eat and drink of the bread of Life and the water of the Spirit the greater my desire for more. If I neglect to eat and drink regularly of the things of the Spirit of God, I do not get more hungry and thirsty; rather, I begin to lose my appetite for God and my thirst for the things of the Spirit diminishes. This is just opposite to how it works in the natural! I have never been more satisfied, full and contented in my spirit than I am today, and yet I have never been more hungry and thirsty for more of His life and reality. Try to explain that in human terms! There are many paradoxes in the spirit — 'As deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things (II Cor. 6:8-10).
"'He restoreth my soul. What has really blessed me is the knowledge, brought out by this Psalm, that He is not just the Shepherd of a great flock of sheep, but that He is my personal Shepherd; totally involved with me in all my affairs, taking care of me as though I was the only sheep He had. Have you ever been in the place where you needed your soul restored? Because of the trials, tribulations, adversities, pressures, reverses, battles against the powers of darkness; when things seem to have gone all wrong and nothing seems to be right; when the thick darkness has settled all around you, and there seemingly is no light at all; when you are hemmed in by the multitude of trials and troubles and there appears no way of escape, all hope is vanished, even the Lord seems to have forsaken you; you are disillusioned, despondent, and in despair you cry out in your distress, Lord, where are you? Why is all this happening to me? I don't understand it!' He's there, beloved. He is never far away. He is the Tender and Good and faithful Shepherd. He is at hand to restore your soul, to lift you up out of your distress and despair and to restore you again to that joy and peace and confidence and power that you once have known.
"’He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.’ There is much said about righteousness in the scriptures. What does righteousness mean? God is righteous; He is righteous because He does all things right and is never wrong. This is what God is — righteous, right. We are exhorted in the Word to seek and receive this same attribute. This is part of our inheritance as sons of the Most High. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS' (Mat. 6:33). 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness...he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what HE had promised, He was well able to perform. Therefore it was imputed unto him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead (Rom. 4:3, 20-24). So by believing in Yahweh who raised our Lord from the dead we have righteousness imputed unto us. It is wonderful to have our sins forgiven and not imputed against us any more, and to have the righteousness of God reckoned to us; but having righteousness imputed to us doesn't make us righteous; we are only counted righteous for His sake. We can have His righteousness imputed to us and still be very unrighteous, doing many things wrong, and few things right.
"God doesn't want to leave us in this unrighteous state; He wants to make as righteous. He wants to impart His righteousness to us, not just impute it. 'For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Him' (II Cor. 5:21). We are to possess and become the righteousness of God. To be righteous as He is righteous, to be holy as He is holy. Who wouldn't want to become this righteousness? To always be right in all we think, in all we say and in all we do. To never again think anything wrong; to have no wrong thoughts or ideas. To never again say anything wrong, and to never do anything wrong; but to be always right in everything. What a blessed state! Impossible? No! It is what He has planned for us and is working on in us. Of this very truth the Psalmist wrote when he said, 'He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's (nature's) sake. He leads me in the paths that will bring me to this glorious state. HalleluYah!' — end quote.
THE SHEPHERD LEADS
Recently the revelation of Jesus Christ as a Shepherd with His flock caught my attention in a special way. One particular aspect that struck me as I read the parable in John's Gospel is where Jesus says that the rightful Shepherd "entereth in by the door" to where the sheep are, and "leadeth them out." He leads them out! These days the idea seems to be to get behind the flock, see which way they're heading (via opinion polls), and then hurry in that direction! Real leadership, of course, isn't a matter of finding out what the conventional thought is, or what the sheep imagine is right, then going along with it. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. We need to follow something higher. We need the real leadership provided by our "Good Shepherd," Christ the way, the truth and the life. Think how Jesus illustrated this Christly leadership. Virtually all that He said and did ran counter to popular opinion. But His words had the spiritual power to break through conventional concepts. The apostle John records, for example, that officers sent to take custody of Jesus returned without Him, saying, "Never man spake like this man." The true leadership of the Christ has its source in God, the Spirit. So, Christ shepherds us with spiritual wisdom and love. Even the most intimidating, complex questions in our lives find answers when we seek guidance from the omniscient indwelling God.
What Christ says about God, man, and our own lives never simply follows human convention, worldly philosophy or popular religious theology. What Christ says comes from the perfection of God's Being and tells us — in ways just right for us at that moment — of God's real nature, His true ways. God can't be seen or understood by the physical senses or the human intellect. Because the man God creates is spiritual, that new creation which we are depends on God alone. God gives His man everything. So we should be looking to the Spirit for everything that's necessary in our lives. And this is especially true when it comes to the spiritual principles and realities we need to learn and know. If it is truly the mind of Christ within that is leading us, we'll have the courage and strength we need to go forward even though the way may be challenging. It's not necessarily easy where Christ leads, but the rewards are sure. And when Christ leads we need not be concerned over whether others are doing the same thing.
"And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice" (Jn. 10:4). These words of our Lord Jesus Christ are a great blessing and comfort in these days of uncertainty and rapid change. Our blessed Lord does not push His sheep ahead of Him into uncharted wilderness — He goes before them. The sheep do not know the way. How could they? They have never come this way before! But HE knows the way! As the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night went before the children of Israel as they crossed over to the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, so our Lord Jesus Christ has gone before us as our forerunner who has not only entered into heaven itself and the Most Holy Place within the veil, but He has walked out every step of that great and terrible wilderness that lies between. There are no uncertainties or uncharted wildernesses with Him. And "He goeth before them." So, a worried sheep is a foolish sheep. A worried sheep must be listening to other voices than that of the Good Shepherd. A worried sheep must have forgotten that he is not leading, but following. No enemy can touch the sheep unless He can first overcome the Shepherd. What confidence this evokes in our hearts!
Shepherding isn’t an easy job. Sheep don't just take care of themselves. They require a considerable amount of guidance and attention. The flock needs fresh pasture, clean water, and protection from extreme exposure to the elements. And the sheep must be provided with a safe place far the night. In Bible times, this sometimes meant piling stones in a circular arrangement as a protective wall of sorts. The shepherd would lie across the opening, guarding the entrance so that wild animals or thieves couldn't get at the sheep. A reliable shepherd would not allow himself to become drowsy or fall asleep if there was danger. The welfare of the flock would always be uppermost in his thought.
Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep" (Jn. 10:1-2). The sheepfold is for defense and has but one door, none is to enter by any other way. And none is to enter but the shepherd and the sheep. As someone has written, "If any one 'climbs up,' showing
by so doing that he is superior to the sheep — if he goes by another nearer or higher way, in which the sheep, being only sheep, cannot follow him — he may prove that he can do what they cannot, but he proves also that he has not a shepherd's heart, and would never lead the sheep whither he goeth. Such an act shows that he is a thief. For in meddling with sheep a man will either be a shepherd or a thief. Men do not meddle with them without intending either to serve themselves or serve the sheep. The true shepherd serves the sheep. Therefore he goes by the way they can go. If they are in the field, he with them is in the field, consumed by day with drought, by night with cold. If they need a door, he stoops to enter by the door; a ceaseless toiler for lower natures, who knows not what he gives up and bears in such a service. In a word, this is Christ's service; that wondrous coming down by which the Son of God stooped to the place of brutal erring men; not helping us afar off, but coming to us right where we are; sharing our sleeping and waiting, our weakness and our lacks; that by His humiliation He might meet our folly and our need, and in due time bring us safely home to God and His Kingdom. He leads from where we are to where He is, praise His wonderful name!
HEARING THE SHEPHERD'S VOICE
The following words by Ray Prinzing are a pertinent and powerful admonition to all those apprehended to sonship. "My sheep hear My voice... MY sheep hear — the Greek word for ‘hear’ used here is AKOUO and while there is included in its meaning the thought of 'to give ear' because you discern a sound, it also includes the meaning of TO HEARKEN, a responsive action to one's hearing. This goes beyond the outward hearing of the natural ear, when Jesus said, 'My sheep hear My voice!’ There is a LISTENING to hear the sound thereof, a receptivity within, and a responsiveness to follow in obedience. 'He goes before His sheep, and they follow Him, for they KNOW His voice.' Now we have another Greek word for ‘know,' this one being OIDA, absolute knowledge. Praise God, we are to have absolute knowledge of His voice — without doubts or questionings. The sheep — the mature ones, shall come to a place where they unmistakably know His voice. And they know that they know that they know! But as for STRANGERS — they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.
"And now we have an allegory, with the shepherd, and the stranger, and there is a sense in which we have them both within us. The Shepherd is the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, the stranger is the voice of the carnal mind. I dare say, our spiritual maturity is evidenced by the 'voice' which we hearken to, and follow. God is SPIRIT, and He contacts us through our spirit. ‘There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding’ (Job 32:8). It is interesting to watch a gathering of various levels of spiritual growth. When the Spirit of God is moving deep into the hearts of those who HEAR HIS VOICE, others seem to withdraw and almost appear bored with the service. Then if another voice begins to speak — appealing to the soulish realm, they suddenly come alive and respond accordingly with their manifestations. And finally, as another voice simply speaks that it is time for the 'pot-luck lunch to be served' there are those who endured all the service thus far, now they begin to respond. Each has heard a 'voice,' whether of the Shepherd, the stranger, or just the flesh. As for the physical, earth realm, obviously there is a time and place for its voice and message, HE placed us in this realm for a purpose, to be exercised and trained thereby. The natural is not 'sinful' until it becomes perverted and out-of- place. But there are those, as Paul wrote, 'many walk...whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things' (Phil. 3:18-19). When we hear the physical voice for a drink of water, some food, some sleep — and the needs are met, the voice remains silent. But when the voice keeps on, LUSTING AFTER MORE, then it has certainly entered into the realm of the unholy stranger; may God help us to flee from it, and not know it.
"There is something upsetting about the voice of the stranger, once you have determined before God to follow only the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT. Yet, uniquely enough, often times you cannot tell others that the voice being heard IS TO YOU the voice of a stranger — for in their response to that voice they are blessed in some degree and manner. And we would make it clear, we praise God for ALL, that HE is doing on any level, and through whomever, and whatever means He has purposed to work. However, our personal experience is such that we find more and more the voice of the 'charismatic move' has become to us the voice of a stranger. The projection of human personality, even though clothed with its charisma and religiosity, rings shallow and strange when one has heard the call of God into the depths and heights of the vision that leads to the realm beyond.
'"The inspiration (in-breathing) of the Almighty giveth understanding.’ How we yearn for more and more of that DIVINE IN-BREATHING. For far too long we have relied on the proper atmospheres for our breath. The singing had to be just right, the praise service, the favorite preacher or teacher, and when conditions were just right to form that particular atmosphere, we breathed deeply and enjoyed it. But there is a dimension wherein one does not rely on the outward atmosphere, for they live by the CHRIST WITHIN, and they hear HIS VOICE, and become, as Paul so aptly stated it, ‘I have come to learn, in the circumstances in which I am placed, to be independent of these and self-sufficient' (Phil. 4:11, Wuest Expanded). ‘...with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early’ (Isa. 26:9). I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search’ (Ps. 77:6)" — end quote.
A. B. Simpson was a man of deep spiritual experience. I quote the following from his article LISTENING. "A score of years ago a friend placed in my hand a book called TRUE PEACE. It was an old medieval message and it had but one thought — THAT GOD WAS WAITING IN THE DEPTHS OF MY BEING TO TALK TO ME IF I WOULD ONLY GET STILL ENOUGH TO HEAR HIS VOICE. I thought this would be a very easy matter and so began to get still. I had no sooner commenced than a perfect pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din. Some were my own voices, my own questions; some were my very prayers. Others were suggestions of the tempter and the voices from the world of turmoil. In every direction I was pulled and pushed and greeted with noisy acclamations and unspeakable unrest. It seemed necessary for me to listen to some of them and to answer some of them; but God said, 'BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
"Then came the conflict of thoughts for tomorrow and its duties and cares; but God said, BE STILL. And as I listened and slowly learned to obey and shut my ears to every sound, I found after a while that, when other voices ceased, (or I ceased to hear them), there was a still small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness and power and comfort. As I listened, it became to me the voice of prayer, the voice of wisdom, the voice of duty, and I did not need to think so hard or pray so hard or trust so hard. That still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God speaking in my secret soul; was God's answer to all knowledge and all prayer and all blessings, for it was the living God Himself as my life, my all. It is thus that our spirits drink of the life of the risen Lord and we go forth to life's conflicts and duties like a flower that has drunk in through the shades of night the cool and crystal drops of dew. But, as dew never falls on a stormy night, so the dew of His grace never comes to a restless soul. Oh, the calm! The rest! The peace which comes as we wait in His presence until we HEAR FROM HIM!" — end quote.
It is all-important in this crucial hour that the sons of God truly hear and follow the Shepherd, for those who hear the voice of the Shepherd, the Son of God, will LIVE! I cannot do better than share from the anointed pen of Paul Mueller in this regard. "As Jesus continued to teach the people, He emphasized the need to HEAR HIS WORD. He said, 'But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and THE SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: FOR THEY KNOW HIS VOICE" (Jn. 10:2-4). I trust you are as blessed by this passage as I am. It is thrilling to realize that the Lord of all the universe knows my name, and that HE LEADS ME OUT to His green pastures. He takes me out of the confinement of the Babylon system and into the abundant pastures of His truth and life. When He wants to get my attention, He calls me by my name. And with this intimate communion and relationship with my CHIEF SHEPHERD, I no longer need the shepherdship of men. To whom then could I go for guidance in these times of darkness? Beloved, there is none other, for He alone has the words of life. Indeed, Christ is our Apostle, our Prophet, our Shepherd, and our LIFE. HE IS ALL WE NEED.
"The life of Christ — to possess His image and likeness, is the promise before us. Christ came that we might have LIFE, and that more abundantly. And it is by hearing His voice that we shall attain unto His fullness. Jesus said as much, when He said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, HE THAT HEARETH MY WORD, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death onto life. Verily, verily, I say onto you. The hour is coming, and now is, when THE DEAD SHALL HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD; AND THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE. For as the Father hath LIFE in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have LIFE in himself (Jn. 5:24-26).
"Throughout all the clamor and clutter of these times, there rings forth the glorious truth of God which is as a clear trumpet sound to all who trust in Him. The prevailing message and truth of this hour is found in this passage: 'THE DEAD SHALL HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD; AND THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE.’ Repeat it often and believe its inspiring words of divine truth, for there is a people now abiding in the death of this life who shall HEAR the voice of the Son of God, AND IN HEARING THEY SHALL LIVE. Now, in the end of this age, we have come to the set time when the Lord has set ‘a definite day, a new Today’ (Heb. 4:7), when He shall speak to His elect, and those who HEAR shall LIVE.
"When Jesus spoke this truth, He made reference only to those who would be able to HEAR, when He said, 'AND THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE.' And those who will hear the voice of the Son of God are the elect who will be raised to His life. Let us now see the clear distinction Jesus made between the elect who will be raised to His life by hearing His voice, and the dead who are to be resurrected later. In John 5:24-26, Jesus spoke of the elect, while in verses 28-29, He referred to those who are in the graves: 'Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming (which is not now, but future), in the which ALL THAT ARE IN THE GRAVES SHALL HEAR HIS VOICE, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation' (from the Greek ‘krisis', not damnation, but more properly judgment as in vs. 22 & 30).
"SOME MUST ENTER the rest of God and partake of the life of Christ IN ADVANCE of others, thus establishing that PATH for those who are to follow. The Lord's elect of this hour will HEAR HIS VOICE and will come up out of this death to be among those ‘alive' ones who are 'alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord’ (I Thes. 4:15, 17). The goal is before us and the challenge great, but the Lord is able and by those 'two immutable things,' that is, by the infallibility of HIS OATH and the life of HIS PERSON, we shall attain unto that foreordained purpose in Him. This is the message of that Prophet, even the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom Moses referred when he prophesied of One to come who would be a true Prophet. Peter quoted the prophecy of Moses, who said of Christ, the anointed Prophet of the restitution of all things, 'Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you' (Acts 3:22). Let us then HEAR HIM. He is our Shepherd, our Apostle, and our Prophet. And if we are the sheep of His pasture, we will surely hear Him and will follow Him unto LIFE ABUNDANT, thus beginning the times of the restitution of all things" — end quote.
THE SHEPHERD SEEKS THE SHEEP
In a most precious and unique sense the Lord's believing people are the sheep of His pasture and fold. But in a broader and just as scriptural sense all mankind are His sheep, for "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). Truly, "ALL WE like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on HIM the iniquity of us ALL..." (Isa. 53:6). If the Christ indeed died and bore the iniquity of every man, then every man is part of His great flock that has gone astray, and for whom the Good Shepherd gave His life. Yes, the Good Shepherd is going about on earth still calling His sheep, seeking His sheep, rescuing His sheep, leading His flock, feeding His flock and protecting His flock. And who are His flock? They are the poor, the weary, the downcast, the sick, the sad, and the sinful who have strayed far from Him and His love. Long ago He was moved with compassion upon them as He saw them scattered abroad, fainting, tired and wandering as sheep without a shepherd.' Humanity is His flock...sin-cursed and disease smitten and death-bound humanity is the great flock for whom Christ died.
Lost sheep! Can you not see them? They fill the world today. They have wandered away to browse on some sweet grass that looked greener and enticed them forth; they have been separated from the care of the Shepherd and scared and driven by dogs, till at last they bleat hopelessly alone, or fall into pits, weakened by exposure and fatigue, the easy prey of lion or wolf. Far from the fold, torn, wounded, bleeding, covered with filth, frightened and certain to perish, unless rescued by the Shepherd. Such were all of us. "We were as sheep going astray." How shall we sufficiently thank and praise the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd of our souls, that He did not leave us to our hapless fate, but came after us — down mountain slope, through thorny bush, over jagged rocks, seeking until He found us, and pressing us to His bosom, brought us back. We "are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls" (I Pet. 2:25). Safe sheltered in His fold we bear His name branded on us and He calls us affectionately by our name, and we are now confident in the certain knowledge that "when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them; and His sheep follow Him."
In Luke 15:4 we read, "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost UNTIL HE FIND IT!" In this passage we find that at the end of the day, the shepherd finds that he is just one little sheep short of completeness. There is only one outside — so why bother to go after that one, for perhaps that one is one of the rebellious ones anyway and will not choose to come back! But the Shepherd we are dealing with in this story is not an ordinary shepherd. This is the Great and Good Shepherd of the sheep and nothing will stop Him or prevent Him from finding that last sheep. This Shepherd will not be content with even an extraordinary effort to find the sheep and then give up, feeling that He has done His duty. Neither does He "call" the sheep, and then wait to see if the sheep "decides" to come, and if not, just leave him there in his lost condition to die. This Shepherd searches UNTIL HE FINDS. And the FINDING of this Shepherd is not only the locating of the sheep, but it also includes the bringing back into the fold of that sheep.
If you know anything at all about sheep, you know that a sheep is helpless to find its way back to the rest of the flock. Not only that, but it becomes subject to every danger that is near to it, yet it never recognizes that danger. This is exactly the condition of mankind today. Mankind, being dead in trespasses and sins and in rebellion against God, does not know how to get to God. In fact much of humanity does not even think of getting to God. They have come to the point where they are quite satisfied with their condition just as the sheep is satisfied with its condition as it feeds, knowing not that it is lost. Mankind does not know their way back to God. Mankind must wait until it is found. He does not even know he is lost. He accepts his sad state as the norm. How will the lost ever come to God of himself, of his own "free will"? If he were able to come HE WOULD NOT BE LOST. Men do not even know they are lost, or where they are going. Ah, the Shepherd must find the sheep, not the sheep find the Shepherd! And Jesus said the Shepherd would seek until. Jesus said He came to seek and to save those lost ones. Not the lost ones seek God, but God seek the lost!
Most of the religious teaching today would have us believe that Christ has done all He can for the sinner, so He has now gone back to His heaven and is seated upon His golden throne waiting for all who will to be saved. According to this thinking, God through Jesus has done all He can possibly do and has now left the work of saving souls to the church, hoping that some, at least, will be persuaded to accept the Saviour. The church must go out and contact all the sinners they can and see if they cannot get them to "accept Christ." But, of course, if the sinner does not want to be saved, then even God in all His omnipotence cannot intervene and nothing is left but eternal hell fire and damnation for that sinner. But just what does this line of reasoning reveal? The tragedy of it is that it shows us nothing but the SOVEREIGNTY OF MAN'S WILL and the IMPOTENCE OF GOD'S WILL. The will of the sheep to remain lost exceeds the will of the Shepherd to rescue him and carry him back to the fold.
Another thing this line of teaching suggests is that God, having finished the work of redemption, then turns it all over to a rather carnal church that does not walk in the Spirit, does not even understand God's great plan of the ages, and cares far more about making proselytes to a denomination or sect than in bringing people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. The average church today cares more about its programs, its doctrines, its rituals and ceremonies, its buildings, its committee meetings and its budget than it does about making known to the world the glad news that God has reconciled the whole world to Himself and He shall not rest until every heart has surrendered and the very last sheep has been carried back to the fold. Nothing stops or hinders this Shepherd, for if He did fail in this effort, He could never rest knowing that one of His sheep was eternally lost and doomed. He does not send anyone else or leave it to the sheep to find its way back. HE HIMSELF GOES UNTIL HE FINDS.
Let us have these things right and straight in our minds. Let us see these things correctly. Let us believe the word of the Lord Jesus, the Shepherd-Saviour. Nothing is left in any way to chance. The Shepherd sends no one out to look far the sheep, but goes Himself. Granted, HE GOES THROUGH HIS BODY, but He is not sitting idly by to see what will happen. His mission goes on until it is one hundred percent successful and the last one is found. Nothing will stop the work of the Shepherd until that last sheep is made to correctly know the Shepherd, who He is, and His great love For him. The Shepherd does seek until He finds the last one, no matter how long it takes or to what depths He must search! He will search through this age or through the ages to come. He will search through earth or He will search through hell. Time or place mean nothing to this Great and Good Shepherd — only the lost sheep means much to him.
Someone will ask, "But doesn’t God command sinners to choose this day whom they will serve and to seek the Lord while He may be found?" ABSOLUTELY NOT! Oh yes, the scripture does say, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY WHOM YE WILL SERVE; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the god of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Jos. 24:15). But those words were never spoken to the unsaved man, without God and without hope in the world; these were the words of God's prophet to Israel, God's people, as they possessed the promised land! God has nowhere, in all the pages of His blessed Book, commanded unconverted sinners to "choose" between Him and anything else. DEAD MEN DON'T MAKE CHOICES.
And yes, the scripture does say, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, and He will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:6-7). But again, these words were never addressed to the unregenerated man who has no relationship with the Lord. They were thundered by the prophet Isaiah to GOD'S BACKSLIDING PEOPLE in a time of spiritual declension and apostasy. It is God's own people who must "choose" between God and idols, who must "seek" the Lord, and "return" unto the Lord; not the man who is lost and cannot find his way. Saints must return unto the Lord, but lost sheep must be found by the Shepherd. Thus it is that Jesus said, "For the Son of man is come to SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST" (Lk. 19:10).
In the true and eloquent words of another, "Christians blindly strive under the mistaken idea that, if they will only meet certain conditions, God will reply by bringing every man into the fold of Christ in this present age. My friend, this is a very great error. It is about as far from the truth as anything could possibly be. God does not intend to bring all men into the fold now. If that were His intention, He could do it with but one word of His omnipotence. When God's eternal voice speaks, saying, ‘Let there be light,' then light immediately floods the universe as it did in the beginning. There is no need for a candle nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light. That light could not be matched by ten thousand suns, for the light that shone out of darkness in the beginning is the same light that lightens every man that comes into the world (Jn. 1:1-10). It is the light that shines into the benighted souls, bringing the life of the ages to men who are sleeping in death. 'Lazarus, come forth!’ called the Lord, and a dead man sprang from his tomb to reply. ‘Saul! Saul!’ Jesus called to a disconsolate and determined persecutor, and he quickly replied, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do!’ And so will it be when He calls you, your child, your husband, or your wife with His still small voice, speaking to the inner ear. Whether it be John, George, Henry, Joan, Phyllis, or Louise, all will fall at His feet in penitence and brokenness the moment He speaks, crying, 'Here am I, Lord! What wilt Thou have me to do?" — George Hawtin.
To tell me, as I find in the Westminster Confession of Faith, that God had, by a predestined plan, so constructed man that he was born, and from all eternity designed to be wicked, and a vessel of wrath, that God Almighty might show His power by sending him to everlasting hell — that is the most infernal lie that man's tongue could utter, or type could print. That my God, the infinitely good and holy God, was the predestinator, and creator of multitudes of harlots, whoremongers, thieves, murderers, liars, to let them grow up, and to live and lust and die, and then glorify Himself by torturing them in eternal hell fire. Horrible! Blasphemous! I tell you that all the divines that ever hatched a cocatrice egg could never make me swallow that.
Write it between your eyes and never forget it. The Good Shepherd who came from heaven, and gave His life, will seek, and seek, and seek, and save, and save, and save, until He has brought all men back to God. This is the work of the Redeemer and the redeemed. I desire to make this perfectly clear, because it is necessary to do so. When Jesus came He sought for sinners, wherever satan had gone. He sent His disciples into the world to seek even farther for them. He seeks for sinners still. And He shall seek for them throughout ages yet unborn. The Good Shepherd shall seek them until He finds them. If He didn't, He wouldn't be the Good Shepherd! He will seek them on earth and in hell. "Whither shall I go from Thy presence?" the Psalmist asks. That question is unanswered and unanswerable. It has stood upon the page of scripture for three thousand years, and no one yet of all the myriads that have read it has been able to devise a reply. Heaven says, Not here. Hell says, Not here. It is not among angels, or demons, or the lost, or in the vast silent spaces of eternity. There is no creature anywhere not manifest to His sight. He who made vultures, able from immense heights to discern the least morsel on the desert floor, has eyes better than they. Then David says, ‘If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there!’ Someone once said, "I did, and He was!" Thanks be to God that He will seek His lost ones through all the Universe — through all the Earths and all the Hells until He has found and saved them all. He must seek until He finds.
"Where are you going, Shepherd?
To find My sheep.
How far will you go?
As far as My sheep.
How far may that be?
To the World’s end.
How long will you seek it?
Until I find it.
When you find it, will it come to you?
No, it will flee from Me.
Where will it go then?
To the rocks and the sand.
When will it stop?
When it can run no more.
What will you do then?
Carry it home.
Friends, you will never get away from Jesus. Jesus will follow you everywhere and demand your heart's surrender. I am so glad for a Gospel that is coextensive with, and greater than, the devil's work in spirit, soul, and body. I am so glad for a Gospel that is not limited to this age, but reaches out to all ages. I am so glad that this is not the last age, there are yet ages to come, and then that glorious age of ages, the dispensation of the fullness of times. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, the immutable Word of God has declared, God will gather all things into Christ, both which are in heaven and in earth, even in Him (Eph. 1:10). In that wonderful age of all ages every missing sheep will be accounted for as God gathers together in one the all things into Christ. I am so glad for a Gospel which tells me that God has made a way by which even His banished may return. I am so glad for a Gospel that is not limited to earth, but reaches into the depths of death and hell. I am so glad for a Gospel of Everlasting Hope, of Everlasting Expectation, and for the conviction and divine revelation that the miserable and the wicked shall at last be brought to repent of their sin, and to find their God and Father. I should not want to be an elder, or pastor, or leader, or teacher, of a people that would wish me to preach eternal damnation. I could not preach it, for it contradicts the plainest statements of scripture. It contradicts what I know of my Father's heart through personal relationship with Him. And beyond this, I could not preach it, for high in the heavens sitting upon the Milky Way is the blazing Sign of AURIGA, THE GREAT AND TENDER SHEPHERD, who throughout all ages of time and the vast endlessnesses of infinity will seek and save until the storm of judgment is ended and all men and all creatures in all realms are safe in His loving arms. Hallelujah! What a Shepherd!
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY
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