Psalm 23 is one of the best known and most often quoted passages in the scriptures. David plainly says “The LORD is my shepherd.” In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. The sheep know his voice and follow him, and he gives his life for the sheep. Isn’t that adorable?
Neither author was thinking about how cute and cuddly little lambs are. We are like sheep, and it has nothing to do with cuddles. We are totally and utterly helpless. We cannot make it on our own. The psalmist is led to green pastures and beside still water because he could not find them on his own. The rod and the staff are used to guide and to correct, which we need because we are like sheep.
Some animals have sharp teeth or claws. Others are extremely fast. Still others have natural camouflage, or fangs, or stink glands. Sheep are slow, weak, nearsighted and have no natural defenses, unless perhaps their attacker is allergic to wool. God must have created them to be food for other animals. All we like sheep have gone astray. We need care. We need guidance. We must be fed, watered, guarded from predators. Which the Good Shepard does. Lambs are in fact adorable, but he loved us when we were unlovable. He loves us because… he loves us.
And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 1 Kings 3:7-9
Solomon was told to ask for anything and the one thing he asked for was wisdom. He was humble enough to realize the task of leadership was too great for him to bear alone and asked God for the wisdom and understanding in order to rule God’s people Israel. Think about the last prayer you prayed to God; what did you ask for? Continue reading
It is a rainy morning in NW Georgia, just like it is in much of the South and just like it has been for many days. As a matter of fact it has rained every single day for the past week. That’s good for the water table and our farmers this summer but rain has never been my personal favorite. Continue reading
“I serve a risen savior, he’s in the world today.” Those are the opening words to the hymn He Lives (Alfred Henry Ackley, 1933). Easter Sunday has come and gone, but Jesus is more than alive, he is risen! He was dead and became the firstborn of the resurrection. Jesus told Martha in John 11:25 that he is the resurrection. Death, hell and the grave have been defeated. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 Continue reading
And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:14-15
Pilate did not want to kill Jesus. Continue reading
The Bronze Serpent
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:4-9
So if you were bitten by a fiery serpent, all you had to do was look at the bronze serpent set on the pole in order to live and not die. We are not told how obedient Israel was in this matter but we can safely assume that some people did just that while others failed to believe it would make any difference… and died anyway. Like I say, we don’t know that for certain but we are given many, many examples of incomplete obedience. Now consider the parales: the fiery serpents represent sin. Because of our sin nature from birth we are all “bitten” by it and will die. All one must do to live is look in faith to the Lamb of God lifted up on the tree at Calvary. Look up and live, it’s as simple as that. And just in case it were possible to miss the symbolism of this Old Testament story, consider these words of Jesus:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15
Genesis 22 tells the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac. For clarity’s sake perhaps we should say almost sacrificing his son. Abraham was willing, able and just about to offer his son Isaac when he was stopped by the Angel of the Lord.
Abraham believed God and that belief was counted to him as righteousness in Genesis 15:6. Isaac had been born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, so Abraham had no reason to question God’s instructions. Hebrews 11 commends his faithfulness, so great that he believed God could restore Isaac to life. An interesting conversation took place as they hiked up the mountain together. Isaac noted they had wood and fire but asked about a lamb to sacrifice. Abraham said that “God will provide himself a lamb.” When Isaac was spared at the last moment, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns and sacrificed that as an offering of thanksgiving. He named the place Jehovah-jireh or the LORD will provide.
As we prepare to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ it’s hard to miss the parallels. We have in the Genesis account a father that is willing to sacrifice the son that he loves. They walked up the mountain together. And even though Isaac is ultimately spared we see the ram serve as substitute sacrifice. It was guilty of nothing but its blood was poured out. Now consider the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and recall the words of Abraham; God will provide himself with a sacrifice.