A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #4
"And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goes before them"
AS WAS POINTED out in the preceding chapter many sheepfolds
are polluted places. Even the environs around the sheepfold often
become barren, trampled, and eroded by the passing to and fro of
the flock. So if they are to benefit from the outlying fields and
meadows they must be put out to pasture.
A good shepherd simply does not permit his stock to linger
long on the barren, contaminated ground around the corral. There
is nothing of value there for them to feed upon. The corral is
essentially a place of protection during darkness.
The diligent owner will be up at dawn to put his flock
afield. This is a self-imposed discipline. He must bestir himself
before the sun breaks over the eastern skyline, but this he does
gladly and willingly for the sake of his sheep.
A reason for this is that because of the aridity of so much
sheep country, he simply must get them out on grass early to
benefit from the dew that lies on the herbage at dawn. Often this
is the only moisture available for the flock. Frequently in these
semidesert countries there are no clear running streams nor
placid pools of water where they can be refreshed. The total
moisture intake to maintain body metabolism and vigor must come
from dew-drenched vegetation.
Another point of interest is that this is the coolest time
of the day. The atmosphere is moist and fragrant with the night
air that has settled over the land. The heat has mostly
dissipated during darkness. Mosquitoes, flies, and other insects
are semidormant, less active, allowing the sheep to graze
Turning to our lives we find that much the same principles
hold true in our quiet times with the Master. It is noteworthy
that most of the truly great men and women of God through the
centuries are those who have met with Him early in the day. It is
significant that so many of His most intimate "saints" have been
those who literally allowed themselves to be "put out" into fresh
fields of intimate association with Christ at break of day.
It is in these still hours that the quiet dews and
refreshing presence of God's gracious Spirit descend upon us. It
is then that the frantic world is still. It is then that the
clamor and conflicts of our complex lives are quieted. It is then
that we sense our own spirits can best be silent, responsive, and
sensitive to the stimulus of His own strong Spirit.
(If you are not called of God to see the true light of His word,
then you continue in blindness, no matter what hour of the day it
is, morning, noon, or night. You may have a "good start to the
day" as the saying goes, if you pray and study in the morning,
but many have not come to the knowledge of the truths of God,
JUST because it was morning. Sometimes Jesus took quiet time with
God AFTER a long work day in healing and preaching. Personally,
I've done most of my study time and writing time in the evenings,
even late at night, when things can also be quiet and restful -
Our Shepherd, our Lord, our Master Himself, when He was here
among us as a man, delighted in these quiet hours in communion
with His Father. The gospel record confirms how often He slipped
away to be alone in private prayer and meditation. It was the
time of refreshment for His soul; the time of restoration for His
body and uplift for His spirit.
It is not always easy to be up and alert at an early hour.
It demands a degree of self-discipline which is more than many
can meet. But it is the interlude of enormous benefit to those
who will allow themselves to be "put out" to this extent. So
often, especially when we are weary, the comfort of our warm beds
is so appealing. The natural, normal inclination is to simply
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of
the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that
travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. (Prov.6:10-11;
(But as Keller has pointed out, a shepherd must at times be up
before the rising of the sun, so the sheep can have the dew of
the morning. So giving yourself the time to do most of your study
and prayer before the day begins for you and your sheep, may have
you meeting yourself as you go to bed. I'm sure David the
shepherd had times when most of his study, meditation, prayer
life, was during the day, as his schedule with his sheep varied.
Quality time is also important, not just quantity. There have
been many a person who has spent hours in the morning studying
etc. and have not become a better theologion or have grown in
grace and knowledge of our Lord. For some the morning will be
the best time in their working life, for most of their devotions.
For others it may not be the best time. The proverb quoted above
is not teaching that you should have little sleep. Modern science
has proved everyone should get at least 8 hours sleep per day, to
have a healthy mind and body. The proverb above is about
overdoing sleep and being lazy. Each person must work out what is
best for them, for the major part of study and prayer and
meditation, within their working schedule and duties of life,
and that may vary from day to day or week to week - Keith Hunt)
The impoverishment which comes to us is often much greater
than we are aware of. Not only is it in a spiritual dimension,
but it is equally so in mind and body. The reason for saying this
is because the early hours are among the best of the day. It is
then we are rested. Our minds are alert; our bodies are
refreshed; our spirits are still. We are fully prepared for
whatever new and fresh experience our Lord may have in mind for
us. And if we deprive ourselves of this opportunity for a
first-hand encounter with the living God, then our total lives
are at a lower level than they could or should be.
(Especially in this modern world, this teaching of the morning is
best for major devotions is simplistic; there are today too many
factors to life (even for a shepherd in olden days) that have to
be taken into account for each individual, to ever put a dogmatic
stand on the idea that the morning is the very best part of the
day for main devotions. I'm not disagree with Keller per se here;
it is good to have communion with the Lord in the morning, but
some think ALL of their prayer life and study life should be in
the morning. I dis-agree with that. If you are a morning person,
then by all means use the morning for most of your prayer and
study with the Lord. But not all of us are morning people. Most
of my study and meditation in the Word is in the evenings. I just
happen to be an "evening guy" - unlike most I guess, my mind
seems to be alert and sharp in the evenings. Then today with work
schedules and shift work, you have to figure it out for yourself
which time of the day is best for you to have most of your
prayer, study, meditation work with the Lord - Keith Hunt)
It is the alert person who in a positive and distinct way
presents himself or herself at dawn to the great Shepherd of the
soul, who flourishes under God's care. In a dramatic way the
course of the entire day's events are established. A strong,
pervading, impelling awareness of God settles over us. We become
acutely aware that we are, by a decisive action of our wills,
putting ourselves at His disposal, to be put where He wishes
during the day. We realize that we are going out into the turmoil
of our times; into the chaos of our society; into the broken
world of our generation, not alone but with Him.
(Again, schedules of work, home, children, vary with each person,
and can change for some people from day to day. Quality time is
always better than quantity time. And the Lord is always there no
matter what time of the day you have to do most of your in-depth
devotionals - Keith Hunt)
It is because of this knowledge, this awareness, that, as
God's people, we can be put out into a troubled generation with
strength, serenity, and stability. It is He who puts us into the
place of His appointment. It is He who will put us into the green
pastures of His choosing. It is He who will make even our most
desperate days of benefit to a beleagured world. This He will do
even to the refreshing of our own lives.
Why then, it may be asked, are so many of us reluctant to be
put out of our little lives? Why are we so loathe to have our
life habits disturbed? Why are we so unwilling to be put out
either for the benefit of ourselves or the welfare of others -
including our Master Himself?
The answer is rather startling, yet simple. It is largely
because most of us are stubborn and selfish. We find it much
easier and more comfortable to confine ourselves to the familiar
little round of our old self-centered lives. We are so enfolded
with the comforts and conveniences that have conditioned our
existence that we are reluctant to have our constricted circle of
living disturbed. Our days may be drab and dry, as barren as any
eastern sheepfold with its dust, dung, and debris, but we will
not be put out of it.
Some dear souls are fully aware that this is so. In a way
they come to almost abhor their own dry existence. But instead of
allowing themselves to be put out they turn inward to indulge in
endless self-pity and boredom.
Somehow they feel it is no fault of their own that they are
caught in a confining little circle of hopelessly selfish living.
They are so preoccupied with their own petty interests that the
idea of being drawn out to new fields and fresh experiences is
both unwelcome and frightening.
They have ears, yet they are deaf to the pleas of perishing
people around them. They have eyes, yet they cannot see the
broken humanity, homes, and hearts all about them. They have
spirits, yet they are shriveled, shrunken, and atrophied with
self-interest, unable to sense the needs and heart hunger of a
sick society, a world groaning in despair.
To such our Great Shepherd comes, intending to put them out
where they can count for something substantial in His economy.
Let us look at this whole concept in a practical and simple way.
Let us remind ourselves that because our God has been all over
the ground before He knows what He is doing with us. He does not
put us out into places or experiences where we are caught in a
crisis. There are no crises with Christ. He has all
foreknowledge. He is totally familiar with every circumstance
that will or can confront us.
It follows then that wherever He chooses to put us it is for
Him familiar ground. We are not going out blind. We are setting
out under His guidance. Our confidence is in His faithfulness to
find the places where not only we, but also He and others will
benefit most from our just being there. It is not a case of
relying on our wits, intelligence, or insight. Rather, it is a
question of unquestioned reliance on His utter reliability to put
us into the right place at the right time in the right way.
Because He is all-knowing and all-understanding and totally
trustworthy we can depend fully on His faithfulness to do that
which is best.
Now this applies to every aspect of our lives. In no way is
it or can it be confined to just our spiritual experiences. With
God, every aspect of life is totally sacred the moment He touches
it. There is no distinction in the mind of God, as there is in
ours, between secular and sacred when He has a dynamic part in
it. He desires that the total round of our little lives be lifted
out of the mundane round of impoverished days, to the lofty and
broad sweep of living to our fullest capacity under His control.
He wants to broaden our horizons. This is true because He
declared unequivocally, "I am come that they might have life, and
that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
What does this involve in basic terms? In Christian thinking
there is too often a tendency to deal in abstract values and
intangible ideas. Let us get down to basic human behavior.
Perhaps we can begin with our bodies, our physical makeup.
If in truth I am God's person; if Christ has in fact entered my
life, my body belongs to Him: He resides there. My right to do
with it as I choose has been abdicated. It is now the residence
of His gracious Spirit who is entitled to be sovereign in its
conduct and care. I no longer have any right to misuse or abuse
it. It is not to be overworked, overstressed, overfed,
overindulged with drink, nor overcharged with sex.
As the sheep of Christ's care this body is to be under His
management. It is to be put out of the confining, restricting,
damaging environment of just four walls and cramped quarters. It
is to be exposed fully and freely to the benefits of fresh air,
sunshine, clean water, wholesome food, moderate exercise, and
adequate sleep. These are provisions made for it by God. I should
be willing to be put out to see they are met. This will benefit
not only myself, but also my family, friends, and anyone else who
encounters this healthy, wholesome, energetic, vigorous person.
Turning to my soul with its mind, emotions, and will,
precisely the same principle applies. This is my person, now
indwelt by the living Spirit of the living God. I shall not
permit it to be cramped and contaminated by exposing it to such
dusty trivia as newspaper propaganda, pornography, cheap debasing
literature, hours of low caliber television programs, or rubbish
from the mass media.
Instead, God's Spirit will lead me to expose myself to the
finest in art, literature, and music. He will put me into
situations where my mind can be improved and my soul can be
stimulated with that which is beautiful and noble and lofty. I
can and will become a person of broad interests, noble
aspirations, and enormous enthusiasm because I belong to Him and
He wishes to put me out into wide fields of fruitful and useful
endeavor to benefit my generation.
The same is true in the realm of my spirit, where I commune
with Him. In the deep intuition of my innermost being where I
"know him," Christ comes to enlarge my life and the understanding
of His will.
He leads me to browse widely and ruminate richly in His
Word. He puts me out to touch a hundred or a thousand other lives
by His direction. He enriches my fellowship and contact with
those outside the little circle of my sheepfold. In short,
because He does all this it is possible to make an impact on my
generation out of all proportion to my one little life - because
He is in it with me.
To be continued
CERTAINLY, the main thought here is that the Lord wants to LEADS
US OUT into fine spiritual pastures. You must ALSO WANT IT! You
must be HUNGRY for it, praying to Him to lead you into more grace
and knowledge. You must DESIRE and REQUEST from Him that the Holy
Spirit will lead you into all truth. I cannot over-estimate
having this attitude; you must SEARCH the Scriptures; you must
PROVE all thing, and hold fast to that which is good and correct.
All truth will not be given to you in just ONE big scoup; it will
come often a little here and a little there. As you are given it,
as you accept it, as you live it, then God will give you more.
There are wonderful green pastures out there that our Lord is
eager to lead and guide you to them.
Many of the studies on this Website are the product of years of
deep searching, meditating, and prayer. It has only been time and
God's revealing in His time, that the truths of theses studies
have been born. What you see here is devotion times over many
hours and years, even decades, of continuing to love God's word,
to search God's word, and to be CORRECTED by His word. And I can
verify with decades of living all of this, that Jesus was and is
ABSOLUTELY right in promising us that the Spirit would come and
would lead us into all truth. You just have to make it clear to
Him that you WANT and YEARN and DESIRE with all your heart and
mind, the way of the Lord in all the spiritual grace He can give
you. Sometimes that crying out may need to be done with literal
tears. I've had to do that at times over the years, you probably
will have to also. Such crying to the Father will not be ignored,
He will send the Spirit to lead you into all truth, and with that
comes peace and gratitude and contentment, as only possible when
you KNOW who God is and when you KNOW you are walking with Him on
the straight and narrow path that leads to the Kingdom of heaven.