I would like to tell you of a shepherding practice that is used when a lamb continues to wander away from the flock. In order for the lamb that keeps wandering away to learn to stay with the flock, the shepherd uses his staff and actually breaks one of legs of the lamb. Then he splints the leg and carries the little one over his shoulders for a good bit of the healing time required.
The lamb is carried this way as they go about the daily life of whatever sheep and their shepherd do. All the while a special bond is being made.
When the day comes that the shepherd removes the splint from the leg of the lamb, the purpose of what may seem to be an abusive act comes into focus.
That little lamb will NEVER wander away from his shepherd again! In fact he now gleefully leaps about in the area near the shepherd. The very hand that had caused his pain, comforted him through it, lovingly cared for him, and gave him a real appreciation for all that the shepherd provides.
So now, when you read in the book of Isaiah ” All we like sheep go astray, each to his own way”, and the LORD is the keeper of them all, I hope that you will remember this illustration.
There is a reason for our pain. If we won’t stop wandering away, the shepherd will pursue our closeness in some other way. That’s just how much He longs to be close to us. Isn’t that neat?
Right now the wind is really howling outside my office window. It makes me think about the storms of life and about the sermon at church today.
The sermon was about Jonah and how he hired a boat to take him in the opposite direction of where God had told him to go. Jonah understood that God was telling him to go to Ninevah to give them the message to repent from their great wickedness and that God would then show mercy on them. Jonah understood, but that is not what he wanted. He wanted God to punish their evil, not show mercy. So when faced with doing something other than what he knew he should do, Noah ran away.
How many times does that happen to you? You have already set your course and God throws a Ninevah assignment at you.
What did happen to Jonah? Well, the poor sailors that were transporting him were threatened by the very same tremendous storm that God brought up to stop Jonah’s defiance. Once it was revealed that it was Jonah’s fault that they were in danger, the sailors asked Jonah what they must do to appease God’s wrath. Jonah instructed them to throw him into the turbulent sea.
You see, Jonah would rather die than just tell the sailors to turn the boat around and sail to Ninevah. But God kept pursuing Jonah and helped him complete His assignment by providing alternate transportation in the form of a giant fish that swallowed Jonah whole.
Swallow a man whole you say? There isn’t a fish that big. Well, my God is the God of all creation and I believe that His Word is true, so I believe that He did send that giant fish on a mission of its own. I would imagine that the fish wasn’t real keen on swallowing this guy, but at least he obeyed.
So three days of pondering in the belly of that great fish probably had some impact on Jonah’s acceptance of the mission. And the fact that when he was spit out by the fish, it was onto the shore of the land God had told him to travel in the first place… well, that should have been a major clue. No matter what YOU want, it’s what God says that needs to get done.
So here are some questions to ponder:
What assignment have you been sent on with which you have refused to comply?
Why not just do it? Fear…. stuborness… inconvenience… pride?
Do you see sudden storms or alternate routes arise due to your defiance or denial of who is really in charge?
What is it going to take for you to accept the mission?
As I am about to go through another surgery, I am viewing it as an assignment. I am laying aside what I was striving to do: “I NEED to get a paying job, do more for my family, pay endless bills, clean up my office, update my computer, clean up the clutter and prepare our taxes.”
Yep, it’s time to turn this ship around . . . it’s going to be God’s way. I’ve never been very keen on the smell of fish.