Archive for February 16th, 2021

 

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I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
JOHN 10:9

I think that right about now, we could all use some good pasture.

Humanity has a tendency to spend much of its time looking for good pasture. We do that in many different ways and with just as many different expectations. The unfortunate reality is that I think that few find what they think they are looking for. I would suggest that the core of this problem lies more in our definition of what a good pasture really is. The Gospel of John chapter 10 contains Jesus’ beautiful parable of the Good Shepherd. Jesus contrasts the voice of the Good Shepherd with that of the thief who comes to coax the sheep not to pasture but to destruction. He then makes a second comparison, the hired hand. The hired hand is not a bad person. He does not carry the stigma of the thief. His intent is not destruction but he is not the shepherd. He does his best to lead to good pasture and he does “his job” the best that he can but when the wolves arrive on the scene, he flees. The sheep are snatched up and scattered.

If you have followed me long you have read about Hupomone. This concept is beautifully applicable here. Our humanity wants to focus on the pasture, the circumstances of our lives. In fact we come to rely on the pasture and when the pasture doesn’t live up to our expectations we are devastated. We think that we have done something wrong or that God has somehow turned his back on us. The reality is that the pasture of circumstance, as beautiful as it can be is a changeable and potentially dangerous place. Bad things happen in pastures. Storms crash, wolves hunt, lions prowl and thieves lurk, all in pastures. They are attracted by the presence of the sheep. Sheep that are focused on the pasture miss the mark in two ways. Peter remarks on the first in 1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Sheep that are focused on the pasture are not alert. They do not see the danger coming. The second way that sheep who are focused on the pasture miss the mark is found in Hebrews 12, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Sheep that are focused on the pasture have taken their eyes off of the shepherd who is the true source of their health and peace.

The value of the Hupomone pasture is not in the circumstances but in the Shepherd. When we are focused on the pasture we can make very bad decisions. In the old testament the kingdom of Judah relied on Egypt during their rebellion against Assyria. Lot looked at the pastures around Sodom and Gomorrah and decided they were where he should be. A phrase that comes to my mind when I think of this type of pasture focus is…it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The flip side of the coin is demonstrated when the nation of Israel had just left Egypt. Things got a little tight and uncomfortable. Suddenly the pastures back in Egypt did not look so bad. It was only Moses’ Hupomone focus on God that kept them moving forward in the care of their loving shepherd. Then as they approached the promised land they sent out a dozen spies. 10 of the spies returned with the report that this pasture was too difficult. They took their eyes off of the God of the miraculous who had delivered them from Egypt. This resulted in 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

One of the greatest pasture stories in Scripture is found in Daniel 3. Three young men of Israel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to compromise their faith in their shepherd. Along with Daniel they had come to a pasture that made every effort to distract them from their focus on God. This culminated in their refusal to bow down to a golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar. As they stand before the King in this pasture at this time facing death in a furnace they say this, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if he does not, let it be known to you O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” God did indeed physically rescue them from the furnace but even if he hadn’t, these boys were (and are) safe in the hands of the Great Shepherd.

The best way to enjoy the pastures that God has for you is to enter through the door provided by Jesus Christ and focus on and follow closely the Great Shepherd. It is not about the circumstances of the pasture around you, it is about the Shepherd that you are with.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom”

Isaiah 40:11

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