Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sheep,Goats and Wolves

So I have been looking at the things that Jesus said after his victorious resurrection to prepare his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the last post we talked about Jesus being clear that he died for ALL mankind. That he forgave ALL mankind. That every man has a contract signed with the blood of Jesus that now awaits the agreeing signature. We discussed how Jesus told his disciples to do the same...FORGIVE!{John 20:21-23} That especially now given the power of the Holy Spirit we have the ability to both bind and loose. We should be binding no man that has already been forgiven. What we should be doing is feeding and tending. Feeding and tending who?

"He said to him, "Feed My lambs."...He said to him, "Tend My sheep."...Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep." John 21:15,16,17

This is a famous set of verses spoken to Peter by Jesus after the resurrection. John 21 tells us that one day the some of the disciples were all back doing what they had done before they met Jesus. They were fishing, but not catching any fish. So a man{Jesus} yells from shore to cast on the other side. They caught a huge net full of fish and the net didn't even break. {Remember when they first met Jesus did the same thing but the net broke}. Anyways the men come to shore with their catch and there is Jesus with a fire going, bread and fish already cooking. See Jesus didn't need their fish to eat, but he needed them to catch for themselves. He told them to bring the fish that they had caught to the table as well. Then the famous conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times he asks Peter if he loved him. Just as the three times that Peter had denied. So Jesus said if you love me then this is what you are to do...feed and tend my lambs and sheep.

Now I think it is hilarious that there are Christians out there who think that these verses only pertain to the church. That anytime it talks about sheep that means Christians. First of all when they were spoken to Peter there was no church and there were no Christians. For all intents and purposes all mankind was on an even playing field. All mankind had just been bought by the blood of Jesus. So now the job for the disciples was to tend and feed all mankind to bring them into relationship with the Shepherd and teach them to follow his voice. To act as shepherds on behalf of the Shepherd.

"As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:15-16

"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd." Matt. 9:36

Now what I want to point out here is the Greek word translated as "sheep" in the New Testament and in both these verses. The word is probaton. This word has given me quite a challenge in the last couple of days. It would be easy if the definition in the Greek was simply "sheep" but in fact it isn't. According to the Greek Homeric Dictionary{non-christian} probaton means droves or flocks. According to the Liddell/Scott Greek-English Lexicon{non-christian} probaton means anything that walks forward, flocks of small livestock ie: sheep and goats or animals used for sacrifice. Now here is the definition according to Strong's Lexicon{christian}.

probaton πρόβατον G4263
1) any four footed, tame animal accustomed to graze, small cattle (opposed to large cattle, horses, etc.), most commonly a sheep or a goat

a) a sheep, and so always in the NT

What I would like to know is why it is ALWAYS sheep in the New Testament and how do we know that. {If anyone knows ancient Greek please comment!} Because if probaton can mean both sheep and goats that totally changes the verses. Now it is also well known that sheep and goats were usually herded together. Both in the Hebrew culture and the Greek culture. BTW all of the pictures in this post are of sheep and goats together.

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks{sheep & goats}, And attend to your herds...The lambs will provide your clothing, And the goats the price of a field; You shall have enough goats' milk for your food, For the food of your household, And the nourishment of your maidservants." Proverbs 23:26-27

Now, if probaton means both goats and sheep we need to be tending and feeding both goats and sheep! Just as Jesus was tending and feeding both goats and sheep. Meaning Christians and non-Christians both spiritually and physically. Tend means to minister. Minister means to attend to anything that may serve anothers interests. Feed means to provide and nourish. I have found no where in the new testament that we are to treat goats any differently than sheep. It is the wolves we are to fight not the goats.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Matt. 7:15

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Matt. 10:16

The wolves are the ones that seek to kill and destroy the probaton; the sheep and the goats. The wolves are the enemy, that is the Devil. We need to be protecting both the sheep and the goats from the wolves that would come to kill, steal and destroy. Fighting against injustice, poverty, disease and war. Remember folks our battle is not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers of the spirit realm {Eph. 5:12}

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly...But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep{probaton}, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep{probaton} and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep{probaton} and scatters them." John 10:10,12
In John 21 we were called to be shepherds to the probaton. This isn't just a call for pastors or missionaries. Jesus said "if you love me...feed my sheep". So if we claim to love God then we should be feeding and tending Christians and non-Christians, sheep and goats. We should be protecting both against the plans of injustice from the enemy. We should be ministering to open their ears and hearts to the voice of the good Shepherd. This was the call church! Not just to set up our own special clubs to sing and pat each other on the back each Sunday. Not just to gorge on the Word to the point that we are so fat that all we know how to do is get in theological arguments about it. Or so fat we can't even get up from the table and move the Word into application.  The world is in desperate shape starving to death and being feed falsehood by wolves. Meanwhile the church is fighting about who the sheep and the goats are! I read yesterday how a shepherds could easily tell the difference between the sheep and the goats in their flock ...the goats always have their tail in the air and a sheep's tail always lays flat.

"All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left...For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matt 25:32-33,42-46

Can we really call ourselves righteous or say that we love God if we do not do what He did? We must feed, tend, clothe, shelter, heal and protect both the sheep and the goats spiritually and physically. Be a witness to the goats not a hindrance. We must stop fighting the goats and start fighting the wolves; meaning the devil. If we keep walking around with our tails in the air thinking we are better than or more righteous than or just can't be bothered, we are going to be mistaken for goats. Lay your down your tail and act like a sheep if you want to be counted as one. We must stop wasting time arguing who is the greatest.  Instead we need to get as many goats as we can to lay down their tails too.

This isn't only about helping the poor, the needy and the widow.  This is helping those who are lacking in anything.  This is about helping the stranger, meaning anyone that is different than you.  Anyone of a different religion, theological background or doctrine.  Anyone from a different country.  Anyone with different gender than you or sexual identity than you. This is about helping the imprisoned, not just those in jail.  Those that are bound with the chains of adicction to drugs, sex and gambling.  The naked being anyone that is laid bare spiritually.  So basically EVERYONE on the planet! Be a witness and testify the love and goodness of the Shepherd that ministered, nourished and layed down His life for the probaton. Jesus asked us to take it from there and lead as many as we could in through the correct gate.  Getting through the gate is only the beginning.  We have responsibility to care for the flock of ALL the sheep and goats. For if we don't, who will?

 

3 comments:

  1. Amazing article! Thank you.

    God bless you.

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