Wednesday, January 22, 2014
How to be a good shepherd ...
That's a little simplistic, isn't it?
It's been my observation from scripture that God tries to keep it simple, for our sake. It's when we complicate things by doing more than He asks of us that we invite into our lives problems we don't have to experience.
As odd as it may sound, one of the problems we bring onto ourselves is that of trying too hard. Sometimes, we just try too hard! We think we're going to do God a favor by helping him out beyond what He's asked by tossing in some of our own ideas and efforts.
This was a serious mistake experienced by one of the greatest shepherds in the Bible --- Moses. For forty years, Moses shepherded a few million of God's chosen people. From the moment he stepped in front of Pharoah on God's behalf, Moses had his hands full. But regardless of what came his way, he was able to overcome phenomenal obstacles by listening to God and doing as He instructed.
But when Moses stepped beyond that, and took matters into his own hands, he paid a significant price.
At first, he listened to God, and always found answers for the problems he faced. We see an example of that in Exodus 17, when the people camped at Rephidim. The problem at that point was a lack of water. No sweat, Moses just took the problem to God, who, ever so faithfully, had a solution for him.
"The Lord said to Moses, 'Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.' So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on," Exodus 17:5-6.
Moses faced more BIG challenges than most leaders today will ever face in a lifetime, but when he simply listened to God, and did as He instructed, everything worked out.
Then there was that time Moses tried too hard ...
The situation is almost a mirror image of that thirsty moment in Rephidim, only this time the Israelites camped at Kadesh, another place without water.
Still, no problem.
Moses sought help from God, and He provided it: "You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock," Numbers 20:8
Here was a significant problem that could be easily resolved if Moses would do only what God asked of him. But Moses tried too hard by doing more than God asked of him ...
"Then Moses struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill," Numbers 20:11.
The people got the water they needed, so what's the problem? It was the attitude of Moses, which usurped God's role by thinking he could handle this problem in his own way. He'd been in this kind of situation before, and last time it only took a striking of the rock with the staff to fix things. So this time, he dismissed God's instruction to speak to the rock and got a little theatrical --- two strikes of the rock!
By trying too hard, Moses stepped out of his shepherding role and infringed on God's role as provider and sustainer. The people were never blessed by Moses providing for them; blessing and provision had come by Moses being obedient to listen to God and do as he was instructed. When he stepped outside of that narrow obedience, it cost him dearly ...
"But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!'" Numbers 20:12.
God doesn't need his shepherds to go all free style! There's no need to make shepherding God's people any harder than it already is. Just seek God, listen to Him, and then do as He instructs. Nothing more, nothing less.
The outcome will be God being glorified, and His people (including you) being blessed.