Friday, April 25, 2014

shepherds need not apply

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Genesis 46:1- 47:12
mark this: Genesis 46:34 --
"...for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians."
Q- So the Egyptians don't like sheep. What's the big deal?
A- The Bible doesn't say that. It says they don't care for any shepherd.
Q- Okay, so Egypt didn't like shepherds 3500 years ago, what does that have to do with me?
A- It's got everything do with you (presuming you live on planet earth).
Q- Huh?
A- Let me 'splain.
First of all, there is more than culture differences going on here, but that is the level where it starts. Jacob and his family were shepherds. What started as a few speckled, spotted and black lambs (1), quickly grew to a sizable herd that took a large extended family to tend. That worked well in Canaan, but not so much in Egypt.
The Egyptians, for whatever political, cultural, religious or other reasons were not that big on sheep. Joseph, being accustomed to life in Egypt, gives his dad and brothers the heads up before their big meeting with Pharaoh. He knows the big "so what do you do for a living" question is coming, and instructs his family how not to embarrass themselves. (Although many people think that Joseph was being shrewd here and making sure that the Israelites would remain set apart from life in corrupt Egypt.) And so Jacob and company end up in Goshen, the fertile northeastern part of Egypt, and apart from the main population.
But more than explaining how the Israelites got to where they were at the beginning of Exodus, this one little line gives us great insight to our own world. In the Bible, followers of God are constantly dealing with the tension in living in a world that doesn't care about God. And in the Bible, "Egypt is a symbol of the world system and it's bondage (2)."
Sometimes the world tolerates God's people, sometimes it persecutes them, sometimes it could care less about them. Egypt ("the world") was content to let a faithful and faith-filled Joseph save their posteriors from starvation. But once Joseph's descendants became too many, Egypt's response was enslavement and genocide (3). One thing is consistent, the world does not want God telling it what to do. Remember "every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians."
A shepherd by definition is one who directs, corrects, and leads a flock. The world wants no such shepherd.
But let's stop talking about the world and make this personal. Each one of us is born "an Egyptian." Not one of us want anyone telling us what to do or where to go, naturally. We want to be our own shepherd (even though we are just sheep!) But our own stubbornness and refusal to be led has been our undoing. "We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us have turned to our own way. (4)"
In response to our wandering, God sent us, not a map or GPS, He sent us a Shepherd. The word declares that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. How is that so? Because the Good Shepherd lays down His life to the sheep (5). Everyday, I can choose to submit to His care and instruction. Or I can go the way of Egypt, the way of the world, the way of every human heart and tell the Good Shepherd to take a hike. These are the only two options.
Just remember, Jesus made one thing clear: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (6)." I can read Psalm 23 over and over again. I can acknowledge that Jesus is the Good Shepherd until I am blue in the face. The question remains, do I listen to His voice?
(1) Genesis 30:32
(2) Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete OT. p. 60
(3) Exodus 1:9-16
(4) Isaiah 53:6
(5) John 10:11
(6) John 10:27

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