"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 22, 2010
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
We've often heard the expression, "Wow, what a coincidence!" It's often used when something extraordinary or unexpected happens. Perhaps you meet someone for the first time and find out that you have mutual acquaintances. Or your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and a mechanic is the next person who drives by and stops to offer assistance. The dictionary describes coincidence as "a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection". But with God directing our steps and orchestrating our lives is there really such a thing as coincidence?
We can see over and over again in scripture how God divinely directs events and the placement of individuals so that His perfect plan comes together. If you've ever watched a huge orchestra perform, you will notice the conductor will cue in the various instruments to come in at the appointed time so that a piece of music is beautifully and perfectly executed. Picture if you will God being the conductor of this magnificently enormous orchestra of life, and He cues in various circumstances and events to occur at the exact precise moment, and orders the steps of mankind so that His will can be accomplished. Throughout history, since the beginning of the world, God has been intricately designing and creating in the hearts and lives of man to bring about His perfect plan for each generation.
A wonderful example of a God created "coincidence" is found in the Biblical reference to shepherds. Genesis 4:2 names the first shepherd as being Abel, the second son born to Adam and Eve. He was a keeper of the sheep. Cain became angry because God accepted Abel's offering and not his, and he killed his brother. The scripture says that God respected Abel and his offering, which was the firstborn of his flock. So we read that the very first shepherd had the respect of God.
Before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, he was a shepherd; at least for a few years. Exodus 3:1 says, "Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God." It was while Moses was watching the flock of sheep that he had his burning bush experience. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush was burning with fire, but was not consumed. God called to Moses from the midst of the bush and spoke to him regarding leading the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. In the back of a desert, all alone with a bunch of sheep, Moses had a genuine God experience that changed his life as well as changing history for the Israelites.
There is even a well-known shepherdess recorded in the Bible, although that is not what most people remember her for. Genesis 29 tells the story of Jacob making the journey to visit his uncle Laban. He saw a well in a field with three flocks of sheep lying by it. He asked the shepherd if they knew Laban and they answered that they did. "Look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep." Verse 9 says, "Now while Jacob was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess." The scriptures say that Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance, which is not the image we generally picture in our minds when we think of a shepherd. Jacob fell in love with her and told Laban that he would serve him seven years in order to marry Rachel. As the story goes, Laban tricked Jacob and after the seven years gave him Leah, the oldest daughter instead. Jacob had to work seven additional years for Rachel. I always felt sorry for Leah because she very likely was forced by her father to deceive Jacob and marry him, then after Jacob finally married Rachel the scripture says that he loved Rachel more than Leah. Rachel spent a lot of years envying her sister because she bore Jacob's children and Rachel was barren. Finally God hears Rachel's cries and opens her womb and she gives birth to Joseph, who ended up being second in command over the land of Egypt with only Pharaoh having more power than he. She died immediately after giving birth to Benjamin.
Without a doubt, the most well known shepherd in the Old Testament is David. We read his story in 1 Samuel 16. Samuel was sent by God to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons to be Israels next king following Saul. After looking over Jesse's sons that were brought before him, Samuel asked if he had any more sons. "There yet remains the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." Apparently Jesse didn't even consider the possibility that David could be anointed by Samuel to reign as Israel's next king. Yet God told Samuel, "Arise and anoint this one; for this is the one!"
The best known Psalm was penned by David and we can see his background as a shepherd coming through as he wrote: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters."
When Jesus is teaching in John 10 He refers to Himself as being a shepherd. Verse 11 says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Verse 14, 15, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
In fact one of my favorite parables is found in Luke 15:4-7. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing? And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep.' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
So I don't find it surprising that when Jesus was born that God chose a group of shepherds to proclaim the news to. "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you: You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." The shepherds left their flocks and hastily made their way to Bethlehem and found the newborn baby Jesus.
We can see the relevance of shepherds throughout history. Even today many times pastors are referred to as being shepherds caring for their flocks. The pastor cares for the spiritual needs of his congregation and does his best to care for and love the people. Just as a shepherd watches over his sheep in order to keep them protected, makes sure they have food and water, and that none are lost, a pastor gives much the same care to the church he serves in. He preaches sermons to provide spiritual nourishment and tries to warn the people of the "wolf" coming in to steal them away. He loves his flock and tends to their needs, to the best of his ability.
Not only can we make the correlation between God and shepherds, but we can also see how He orchestrates events to occur in particular places. The children of Israel were held in bondage in Egypt, which is where God sent Moses to deliver them from Pharaoh. Yet Egypt is where Joseph is sent by God to serve in order to preserve his family during the famine years. Joseph went through a lot of difficult years, but he persevered and eventually ended up serving over all Egypt with only the Pharaoh having more power then he. When Herod was looking to kill Jesus, Joseph, the father of Jesus, fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and lived there until it was safe to return to Nazareth.
Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to choose a king out of the house of Jesse, and anointed David there. Jacob and his household were on their way to Bethlehem when Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and died. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for the census and Jesus was born there. They then lived there for some time after the birth. Shepherds came to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus.
There is so much interconnection made in the Bible where you see the hand of God at work and realize it's not just coincidence. God had a plan from the very beginning of time and orchestrated events to fulfill His purpose. Even today He is still at work in the lives of every man and woman. So next time something happens that makes you think, "Wow, what a coincidence!" stop and consider the possibility that it's not coincidence at all, but is God ordering you steps and bringing His plan to pass.
I find it interesting that most of the shepherds Loretta listed were the youngest children (or younger sister or youngest brother). We like that because Loretta and I are each the youngest of our siblings. Generally, throughout the Bible, the oldest brother is honored above all the other siblings. He received the blessing and the inheritance. Usually, it was the oldest son to become king after his father died.
But God tends to mix things up. "The first shall become last and the last shall become first." The youngest gets the dirtiest job, tending the sheep. But in some cases, he also receives the greatest blessings.
Of course, in our society, kids don't usually get preferential treatment just because of the order they are born first. Truth is: the youngest generally gets the easiest time. So we don't expect the great blessings, either.
This month I'll be sharing family recipes for Christmas -- some from myself and others from other family members.
Microwave Peanut Brittle
1 cup raw peanuts
1 tsp. Butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/8 tsp. Salt
Stir together peanuts, sugar, syrup and salt in 1 1/2 quart bowl. Microwave 4 minutes. Stir well. Microwave for 4 additional minutes. Add butter and vanilla to syrup mixture. Return to microwave for 2 minutes. Add baking soda and stir until light and foamy. Pour onto buttered cookie sheet. Makes 1 pound.
Oh come let us adore Him -- Christ the Lord!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon