The True Shepherd

Shepherd

‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
Ezekiel 34:11-16, NKJV

Men, the Lord has turned His attention to the failed shepherds of Israel who allowed the sheep to go astray and be scattered. The Lord here promises to seek out His scattered sheep and deliver them from the places they’d scattered into in the “dark and cloudy days” (v12), speaking of the siege which they had survived. The Lord will bring them back to their own land and feed them on the mountains and valleys of Israel. In their homeland, given to them by God, Israel will feed on good pastures. The Lord Himself will regather the lost, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick, but He will judge the fat and the strong.

In today’s time, obesity is driven by inactivity. In those days, obesity came by abusing power, exploiting the underprivileged. Many “shepherds” or leaders, of that time had deserted truth and the heart of their positions for personal gain. We can liken the fat of their time to rich politicians of today. How does someone in politics, earning 150k become a millionaire in 3 years? The same way religious shepherds get fat with no crops or cattle of their own, by selling out their responsibility to lobbyists and special interest groups.

It would be irresponsible to draw conclusion for how God might act tomorrow by this passage alone, but we can say with certainty that God is aware of all injustice. Though the people have endured much in the past months of their captivity, the Lord promises a healing and strengthening.

Today, Jesus offers us that same opportunity to be healed and strengthened. Though much of the healing and strengthening comes in ways hard to recognize, He is faithful. Will we endure our time of captivity waiting on the Lord to act? Will we blame each other? Will we fight among ourselves? Will we recognize when God finally does regather our strength?

Move forward men, receiving the hope promised to our time as Israel waited on the promises to their time. As then, our time has much to repent from and a Lord who renews.

Vance Durrance

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Who’s to Blame

whos-to-blame

“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” –Jeremiah 10:23

I’ve been listening to a podcast lately—“The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Church” from Christianity Today. It particularly intrigues me. First, because Mark Driscoll was one of the first preachers I started following on podcast in my early twenties, when God started stirring my heart to a wholehearted pursuit. Driscoll encouraged me to this end, challenging my assumed doctrines and admonished me to “man-up” as a husband and future father.

But also, because I can somewhat identify with the story. I was blessed to be on the frontlines of a similar ministry that broke the bonds of tradition in the effort to refocus on the lost, thoroughly involved in the excitement of its newness and growth. In my ignorance, I overlooked irreverent ideas, and took part in theologically problematic decisions. And I was “blessed” to walk through the ministry’s collapse, all the while grieving all parties involved—including my own flawed force of foolishness and reform.

What I found most fascinating about the first episode “Who killed Mars Hill?” was that its conclusion was, well, everybody. From the lead pastor, to the leaders caught up in the excitement of growth, to angry detractors who flourished on controversy, to those mesmerized by a personality, to those who left without saying a word… we should hesitate before pointing a finger.

Except to one.

God.

And yet this angle was strangely absent from the program’s conclusion. Is not God the cause of the rise and fall of nations (Dan 2:21)? And can we not draw the conclusion that He is also responsible for the trajectory of every ministry, business, and personal empire? He is the one who kills and makes alive (Deu 32:39), determining the days of every human being (Job 14:5). He is the one who makes one poor and another rich (1Sa 2:6-7). Even as people plan their way, the LORD establishes our every step (Psa 16:9)—so far beyond our understanding (Psa 20:24).

Let us humbly ponder this profound truth, being careful to assign credit when things come together, or blame when things fall apart. Rather, let us look to the Maker to understand His purposes in all things.

“So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.” –1 Corinthians 4:5

Billy Neal

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Purpose

purpose

And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been captured!”

 Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the man came who had escaped. And He had opened my mouth; so when he came to me in the morning, my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.
Ezekiel 33:21-22, NKJV

Men, in the 12th year of Ezekiel’s captivity from the 1st siege against Jerusalem, someone from the final collapse of Jerusalem to the Babylonian empire escaped and came to Ezekiel saying, “The city has been captured!” In chapter 3:26, we recall that the Lord had caused Ezekiel to become mute, unable to speak except that which the Lord directed through the time of pronouncement of God’s judgment on Israel and the nations. Ezekiel expected a visitor with news the night before as the hand of God was with Ezekiel and his mouth became loosened.

In chapter 24:25-27 the Lord had told Ezekiel that someone would escape and report of Jerusalems fall, and at that time he would no longer be mute. We learn from this that much of our service to the Lord comes in seasons. This time of muteness lasted over 7 years in total as he was expected to prophesy only what was given to Him by God. The integrity of the prophecy was preserved by Ezekiel’s inability to speak otherwise. It also became a daily reminder that what had been asked of him was not yet complete.

Ezekiel will now step into a new role of more pastoral care as a wave of new captives enter into Babylon. We often think that special service to God should afford us new and amazing gifts. Here we find that special service to the Lord meant giving up the gift of speech in submission to His specific message.

Remember, that there was little to be noted as remarkable of Ezekiel from the beginning. He was probably bitter about being denied the priestly role he would’ve taken if not swept away in the first captivity. Still, God has used him mightily even if not how he’d expected and the Lord will continue to use him. Anyone who intends to walk with the Lord will find their expectations challenged. We may find ourselves disappointed and exhausted from the cost of service.

Move forward men, knowing it’s for a season, for a purpose larger than our perspective, and it will not likely match up with our personal desire. Yet, He is God, and His ways are higher. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Vance Durrance

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Circumcision of the Heart

Circumsion of the Heart

17 It came to pass also in the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

18 “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt,
And cast them down to the depths of the earth,
Her and the daughters of the famous nations,
With those who go down to the Pit:
19 ‘Whom do you surpass in beauty?
Go down, be placed with the uncircumcised.’

20 “They shall fall in the midst of those slain by the sword;
She is delivered to the sword,
Drawing her and all her multitudes.
21 The strong among the mighty
Shall speak to him out of the midst of hell
With those who help him:
‘They have gone down,
They lie with the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’

22 “Assyria is there, and all her company,
With their graves all around her,
All of them slain, fallen by the sword.
23 Her graves are set in the recesses of the Pit,
And her company is all around her grave,
All of them slain, fallen by the sword,
Who caused terror in the land of the living.

24 “There is Elam and all her multitude,
All around her grave,
All of them slain, fallen by the sword,
Who have gone down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth,
Who caused their terror in the land of the living;
Now they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit.
25 They have set her bed in the midst of the slain,
With all her multitude,
With her graves all around it,
All of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword;
Though their terror was caused
In the land of the living,
Yet they bear their shame
With those who go down to the Pit;
It was put in the midst of the slain.

26 “There are Meshech and Tubal and all their multitudes,
With all their graves around it,
All of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword,
Though they caused their terror in the land of the living.
27 They do not lie with the mighty
Who are fallen of the uncircumcised,
Who have gone down to hell with their weapons of war;
They have laid their swords under their heads,
But their iniquities will be on their bones,
Because of the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
28 Yes, you shall be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised,
And lie with those slain by the sword.

29 “There is Edom,
Her kings and all her princes,
Who despite their might
Are laid beside those slain by the sword;
They shall lie with the uncircumcised,
And with those who go down to the Pit.
30 There are the princes of the north,
All of them, and all the Sidonians,
Who have gone down with the slain
In shame at the terror which they caused by their might;
They lie uncircumcised with those slain by the sword,
And bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit.

31 “Pharaoh will see them
And be comforted over all his multitude,
Pharaoh and all his army,
Slain by the sword,”
Says the Lord God.

32 “For I have caused My terror in the land of the living;
And he shall be placed in the midst of the uncircumcised
With those slain by the sword,
Pharaoh and all his multitude,”
Says the Lord God.
— Ezekiel 32:17-32.

Men, Ezekiel continues the lament for Egypt now with the cadence of song. In this song their are similarities drawn between many nations surrounding Egypt including Assyria, Elam, Meshech, Tubal and the Sidonians.

Each of these nations had a strong military, great wealth, vast influence, and regional authority. Each of these “uncircumcised” nations had been viewed with shock by the remaining people seeing their defeat, with the dead littering the ground or in mass open graves. Egypt was a nation that practiced circumcision like Israel, but even so, they had stirred up the Lord’s anger such that they too would share the same shame as the defeated nations that Egypt despised.

The lucky few of v27 who are buried with respect to their warrior customs still bear the shame of their own iniquities. None of the national customs or the customs among warriors of battle will guard against the judgment of the Lord God. Romans 2:25 tells us clearly, “but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” Egypt, though circumcised, did not follow the ways of the Lord but exalted their Pharaoh as god, along with the many idols of that land.

We too will face either judgment or a time of accountability. There are no customs of men that may ease the weight and tension of our common fate except that which is provided through the Lord Jesus our Christ and Defender. From Romans 2:27-29, We are a “Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.”

Move forward, men, circumcised in our hearts and Spirit. May the old heart be cut out and a new holy heart, given by God, be placed within, that overflows with the goodness of the Lord our God.

Vance Durrance

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