“Look, the Lamb of God!” – John 1:36 NIV
This short sentence caught my notice, “I pray, not wish because I have a God not a Genie.” God compared to a Genie, strange? To think of it we could get easily confused. I know of only one God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. But I know of at least two genies. One was from the Middle Eastern folklore. Aladdin had a magic lamp. The genie appears when he rubbed the lamp. The genie would compliantly appear saying, “What is your wish my master?” And the genie would grant Aladdin his wish!
The other genie was from the American TV sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie.” An astronaut, Captain Tony Nelson found a mysterious bottle. He opened it and released a genie called Jeannie. She was not quite the counterpart of the genie in Aladdin. She just needed to wink and her master’s wish would be granted. She would of course try her best to please her master by giving him all might wish for except that she was an attractive woman and had her own mind.
That was how we sometimes treat our prayers. The prayer list is our wish list. But God is not a Genie. So keep your wishes for your genie and your prayers for your God. Put bluntly, whether you are thinking of Aladdin’s Genie or Nelson’s Jeannie you are talking about slaves serving their masters. Let’s be clear. God is not our slave. God is our creator. He is our Savior-Redeemer from our slavery to sin. To help us get to know Him better, God describes himself as our Shepherd. He cares and provides. The Apostle Paul says, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.”(Philippians 4:19 MSG)
Why did God speak of Himself as a Shepherd instead of a fisherman or a hunter or whatever? In my view, it was because God saw us as his sheep, his lambs to be precise. This is a precious picture of our relationship with God. You know what God calls his son Jesus? That’s right, “The Lamb of God” – (John 1:29, John 1:36). It is a precious relationship because the Shepherd-Lamb relationship explains His Father-Son relationship with us too. God is Shepherd and we are His sheep, His lambs. This Shepherd imagery establishes that father-son bond. This can be found in the very first book of the Bible where the word lamb appears for the first time. Remember this conversation between Isaac and his dad Abraham?
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”- Gen 22:7 NIV.
Notice the words, “Father,” “my son” and “the lamb”. There is no question, the Shepherd is about the Father, the son (the Lamb of God). What a privilege that we should be God’s sheep or lamb along side Jesus, God’s Lamb and God Himself as our Shepherd.
The second mention of lamb in the Bible is in Exodus. God instructs Moses and Aaron while they were still in Egypt, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house… And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” – Exodus 12:3,7 KJV. This is the Lord’s Passover. The blood on the doorposts pictures the power of the blood (in anticipation of) the blood of the Lamb of God upon the cross). In love, God shepherds an entire herd of sheep (the Israelites) from bondage out of Egypt. The shepherd is responsible for his sheep. When we think of God as our Shepherd we know that God cares for us, just as we find in John 10. Sheep without the care of a shepherd are exposed to all sorts of danger. God calls His leaders (priest, pastors, elders or cell-group leaders –shepherds) to feed His sheep, to be guardians of his flock.
The sad truth is, shepherds may fail. The prophet Ezekiel speaks clearly on this subject on God’s behalf, “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 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…” – Eze 34:7,8 NIV. Take note of the phrase “my flock lacks a shepherd.”
As a church pastor or group leader (no matter how humble that role may be) we are called to be shepherds. Ezekiel says that God’s flock lacks a shepherd, why? Because“my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock”. You see, our church members, our flock of sheep may have problems. So, they go to their shepherd-leaders (to you and me) for help. But what happens when the shepherd-leaders themselves have problems? They lose their authority as shepherds. So, their flock is left without a shepherd. While we care for the sheep let us not forget that shepherds are appoint a part of the flock too. Here’s a great exhortation to all shepherds from the Apostle Paul, “28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock… 31 So be on your guard!” – Acts 20:28 – 31 NIV. Shepherds need to keep watch over themselves.
Jesus himself took great care of his leaders (shepherds). Do you remember the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand? Many of us would start from Mark 6:34.“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” We overlook the fact that Jesus cares for his shepherd-leaders – his apostles – the Twelve too. We seem to forget why Jesus was on the other side of the lake. Let me take you to just three verses earlier, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they (the apostles with Jesus) did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”” – Mark 6:31 NIV. The apostle Paul clearly established this very same principle on the importance of not just the flock, but the under-shepherds when he says to the elders from the church at Ephesus, Keep watch over yourselves. The leadership (under-shepherds) comes first or we will have the situation of a flock without a shepherd.
Then comes “all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God” – Acts 20:28 NIV. It is Christ who appoints and gave us pastors. John Piper concludes that, “The New Testament only refers to the office of pastor one time (Ephesians 4:11). It is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the care and feeding of the church as God’s flock, just as “bishop/overseer” is a functional description of the role of elder perhaps stressing the governing of the church. Pastor and elder and bishop/overseer refer in the New Testament to the same office.” (John Piper, “Elders, Pastors, Bishops, and Bethlehem” Sunday Evening Message MARCH 2, 1987.)
While we expect our elders and pastors to care for our needs, may I urge you to stand by them. Care for them. They need your care more than you think! It will make a big difference to have a caring flock; as it will be; for us to have a caring shepherd-pastor. Believe me, your elders-pastors need your prayers most urgently than you may think. It is your plea for God’s grace, that will provide us leaders with vision and a ministry that grow from strength to strength.