Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sheep In A Pack Of Wolves

Matthew 10:15-33

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.  But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:16-18)

As he sent the twelve out, Jesus warned them that they would be in danger, like a sheep straying into a pack of hungry wolves.  If the sheep is to survive, it will be necessary not to get the wolves thinking about him as a meal.   To catch a meal, a snake moves very slowly and utilizes its protective coloration to avoid attracting unwanted attention and get within striking distance of its prey.   

Jesus said his disciples would need to exercise similar wisdom in reaching out to the world, but unlike the snake, they are not there to kill the target.   They were not to try to threaten their way like an old ram might, but like a dove, make it clear they intended no harm and posed no threat. 

They were to understand that because they were different people would consider them a threat, having them arrested and punishing them in an effort by religious groups to stop their message.  As a result of efforts to silence them, they would be brought before civil and political leaders as a demonstration of their rebellion against God.  Frequently we get discouraged, especially when we have little or no impact, forgetting that God already warned us most of them would not listen.

“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.  For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)

Rather than hiring lawyers and planning their defense when they were arrested, they were to depend on the Holy Spirit to speak through them, contrary to the advice most are giving today.  Unfortunately, most today are more concerned with preserving their lives and freedoms than they are that God’s power be seen.

“And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:21-22)

Even family relationships will not serve to protect those who serve God in that day.  Often family members will be the first to take offense and betray believers to the authorities.  Frequently the hardest people to reach are those of your own family.  They often resent what they perceive as trying to make oneself appear better than they are.   Caving in to the pressure indicates a lack of commitment to God on our part.

“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Matthew 10:23)

Part of being wise as a serpent is knowing when to retreat to avoid being killed.   Jesus in effect said there are too many who need to hear to waste much time or further antagonize those who refuse to listen.  We won’t have won everyone when the Lord returns, so we shouldn’t fail to tell some who might listen in our effort to reach people who aren’t interested.  Several times in the book of Acts, Paul left a city and went elsewhere to allow tensions to settle down.   It is what Jesus said to do.

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.  It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?  Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” (Matthew 10:24-26)

Many today think that since we have been saved, God should protect us from having to deal with the problems others have faced.  God allowed his sinless and only naturally born son be mocked and accused of being from Satan.  Do we really believe we are so much better than Christ that we should be let off from being treated the same way?  We ought to expect similar treatment, knowing that God knows what is going on and will straighten it out at the proper time.

“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.  And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:27-31)

Christ’s disciples were to simply speak openly what God told them in private.  They were and are not to allow fear of repercussions stop them.  After all, the worst the world can co is to kill us.  Their accusations cannot take away our salvation, and as Paul says in II Corinthians 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

As Jesus pointed out we are worth far more to God than a sparrow, and he takes notice when one of them is hurt.  He will do far more for us.

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

Jesus is not talking about a momentary yielding to fear such as Peter did at Jesus’ trial, when he denied the Lord three times and was still forgiven.  He’s talking about what we see in Hebrews 6: 4.  “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Like Judas Iscariot, they have been actively involved with the Lord, seeing his power and knowing what he offers yet turn away, denying his sacrifice for them.    They have consciously chosen to reject Christ, and he will not overlook that choice.

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