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Plenty of people believe in God. Not enough, unfortunately, follow God. Contained in the POETRY section of Lostpine’s website is an inscription found in the Lübeck Cathedral in Germany. In 1173 Henry the Lion founded this cathedral to serve the Diocese of Lübeck. The Romanesque cathedral was completed around 1230, but between 1266 and 1335 it was converted into a Gothic-style building with side-aisles raised to the same height as the main aisle. Today, the city of Lübeck is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. Inside the cathedral is an inscription:

Ye call Me Master and obey Me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow Me not,
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not,
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me mighty and honor Me not,
Ye call Me just and fear Me not,
If I condemn you, blame Me not.

A simple poem but thought-provoking words.  The poem makes one wonder how could Germany, a country apparently filled with such a rich history of Christian faith, be responsible for two horrid world wars? How do seemingly godly people go so astray? Could such a thing happen again? Is such a thing happening again?

Much of our world is busy teaching, “Seek first man’s kingdom and the stuff of this world.” Jesus’ words are the antithesis of these, and it is one reason why we see a growing hatred for Christianity. The utopia that our world seeks to develop is earthly and man-made. Christians, instead, look to Jesus where they find a more perfect and lasting kingdom.  Since the  time of the incarnation of our God back into our world, our world is no longer the same. All have a choice! For those who place their faith in Jesus, the “perfect and lasting kingdom” is already here but, unfortunately, it exists in our imperfect world. Only faith separates the two worlds from each other. The Bible is quick to point out that leadership, those given responsibility for our journey together through our co-mingled world, will be held accountable to God. Ezekiel tells us:

(Ezekiel 34:1-8) 1 – “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. ‘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, ….’”

Ezekiel’s verses are directed at leaders of his time, any leaders with authority over people’s lives. The sheep in their care are clearly the people. The prophet is promising the removal of the false shepherds in preparation to the raising up of a Good Shepherd. Ezekiel is pointing out that the sheep were scattered, and carried captive, and became a prey to others, even though many of the leaders were of God’s own appointing. The persons with responsibility over the people did not do their duty; the “shepherds” fed themselves and did not feed or protect God’s flock.

In the case of Israel, this was further exacerbated because the people of Israel failed to observe the terms of God’s conditional promises to them. Israel exhibited again and again its refusal to obey God. As a result, they did not enter the peace, prosperity, and eternal possession of the land God had promised them. God had withheld His blessings, ultimately separating Himself from them by casting them out of the land He had promised. God punished the Israelites for their disobedience by deferring the fulfillment of His promises. This deferment did not make God unfaithful to the people because His promises to them were conditional, based on their obedience to His Laws. Jeremiah also used a similar statement!

(Jeremiah 23:1-4) – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture! declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: ‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the Lord. ‘I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the Lord.”

To fully understand Jeremiah’s words, it first helps to determine who the shepherds of today might be. When we think of those in a shepherding role, pastors of churches as well as the governing bodies of our churches, elders and deacons come to mind. However, it goes further in that every husband is a shepherd to his wife and parents are shepherds to their children. Teachers are shepherds to their students. An employer is a shepherd their employees. An older child is a shepherd to younger brothers and sisters. Anyone who in anyway leads anyone is a shepherd who is responsible for the care of another. You sort of get the idea; the claim of godly leadership is conditional on the success of the journey and the responsibility of leading people runs deeper than just politics. Jeremiah says it is not just the leaders but everyone who is a shepherd is being held accountable.

We should understand that God is the ultimate good shepherd Jeremiah speaks of and that Jesus, because He is the incarnate God, is our ultimate head shepherd here on earth. (John 10:11 – 11) – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Yes, Jesus laid down His life for us and we are forgiven. But to claim that forgiveness, requires a few things of us.

(Mark 16:14) – “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”

Jesus was not the type to rebuke His disciples over something small. In the next verse, Mark 16:15, we get the commandment to go out into the world and share the Gospel, the Great Commission! Look closely, however, at verse 14. We rarely remember the verse preceding the Great Commission. Jesus’s rebuke is for two things, “their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe the witnesses.” This is good news for all Christians. It clearly shows that the responsibility for each of us is NOT whether someone believes us or lacks faith in the style or quality of our testimonies. Our duty is to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to share what our lives were like before and after we became part of Jesus’s family.  We are today’s witnesses and that my friends is the good news! For the others, those who do not believe, God has a plan. I like Jesus’s plan much better.

Contemplations

  • What is your sphere of influence? Who do you lead with your ideas?
    • Ideas to Explore: Who are the people that would listen to your opinions and alter their actions? What are the basis for where you get your opinions and have you overlaid them with Scripture? Are you the type of person that is easily influenced by others or the media in your opinions? Have you thought about how God would grade your advice and counsel?
  • Are you a fan of history and do you search to find trends today that we have historical evidence on?
    • Ideas to Explore: Attitudes on drugs. Sexuality and our children. Educational standards. To your list of ideas and beliefs, how do you think God feels about them?
  • How have evil people taken over a Christian country before?
    • Ideas to Explore: Loss of 1st Amendment rights. Censorship. Control of the press. Removal of a citizen’s ability to protect themselves from the government itself. Control of financial institutions. Marshal law. Over regulation of daily living. Have you ever done research to see what history teaches us about how a country like Germany and how they lost their Christian focus?
  • When regulatory changes for any reason (environmental, COVID, safety, etc.) impact one specific group of “sheep,” any group really, causing hardships, what is the responsibility of the other groups? Is this what Ezekiel and Jeremiah were talking about?
    • Ideas to Explore:
      • The group proposing/making the change?
      • The government, federal/state/local?
      • The community in which the impacted “sheep” live?
      • The Church?
      • The parties benefiting from the change?
      • The impacted parties, the “sheep?”
  • When people in power profit from their positions at the expense of the “sheep,” is that right, wrong?  What should the people do under those circumstances? Is this what Ezekiel and Jeremiah were talking about?
    • Ideas to Explore: What ethical standards should apply in government and business, God’s or the worlds? Does someone’s past history of “working the system” impact your opinion of them? When people promise they have changed, how do you personally validate their change?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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