Oct 08: 1Chr 24-25 | Eze 34 | Philippians 1-2
Reading 1 - 1Ch 25:1
"David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals" (1Ch 25:1).
Interestingly, the priests and Levites here are designated by a military term: they are, in effect, the "captains" ("sarim") of the LORD's "host" or army ("tsaba"). In other words they are "warring the warfare" of the Temple! Just as the whole nation of Israel was organized into the semblance of an elaborate military encampment in the wilderness, the tabernacle -- where the glory of the LORD dwelt in their midst -- was the "campaign headquarters.
This figure of speech -- of the worship and service of God being a military service -- is also prominent in the NT, where for example Paul exhorts Timothy: "I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight" (1Ti 1:18), and tells the Corinthian brethren: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2Co 10:3,4). In fact, he pictures the believer in the likeness of a Roman soldier, fully equipped and armed to fight the battle of faith (Eph 6:11-17).
And thereby the deadly nature of the enterprise of the Christian life is underlined: those who follow Christ are engaged in a fight to the death against sin, both inside and outside!
Reading 2 - Eze 34:7-10
"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them" (Eze 34:7-10).
It was the shepherd's responsibility to make good any loss that resulted from his negligence -- this was alluded to by Jacob in talking with his father-in-law Laban: "I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself" (Gen 31:38,39).
In the spiritual realm, a similar responsibility rests upon the spiritual shepherds of God's flock -- who are to warn their charges of imminent danger, so as to save their lives (Eze 3:18). So believers are exhorted: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account" (Heb 13:17). Those who serve in such a selfless way will ultimately receive the commendation of the Chief Shepherd when he appears: "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers -- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1Pe 5:1-4).
As the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus accounted for the entire flock placed in his charge: "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled" (John 17:12). A tremendous responsibility rests upon those who assume the authority over the ecclesial flock -- for surely they walk in the footsteps of the Master. Such duty should never be undertaken lightly.
Reading 3 - Phi 2:12,13
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phi 2:12).
"Working out our salvation" can sound so much like "a mistaken form of muscular Christianity", unless we remember that God "energizes" us in this work (v 13)! Our work (the Greek "katergomai") is an intensive labor; God's work is an "energizing". All together, this describes the way in which "we are laborers together with God" (1Co 3:9; cp Eph 2:10).
"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phi 2:13).
How does God work in us? God could act in some mysterious (and ultimately unknowable) way directly upon our minds. But then how would we differ from automatons, or robots, preprogrammed and responding without free will? On the other hand, God creating or redirecting circumstances in our lives; and causing trials which may strengthen character; or even opening our minds to certain positive and spiritual thoughts -- any or all of these could surely have the same effect to change us for the better... IF we are exercised thereby (Heb 12:11). The difference being: in these instances, we have the choice. Whether or not we ARE exercised thereby is (or certainly seems to be) entirely up to us.
God CAN work any way He chooses, for our ultimate good, and for His ultimate purpose. Who are we to tell Him how He should operate, or limit what He does? But, logically, it seems that God will not (generally? or ever?) act in a way to override the basic principles of His self-revelation. And it does appear that He wishes us to CHOOSE Him, out of a feeling of love and reverence.
Why should He need, why should He even want, to force us to choose Him (which is a contradiction in terms, anyway)? -- He doesn't NEED forced obedience or coerced "love"; that would be no choice at all, and could do Him no honor.
Look at it the other way around: Suppose I pray, "God, make me a better person without any effort on my part -- just 'reprogram' me that way, please!" Isn't that the same as saying, "God, just fix me, but don't make me a part of the process." IF He did such a thing, would that new "thing" be me, or something else?