Friday, November 16, 2007

Sheep and Goats

I will be teaching from Matthew 25:31-46 in the Singles Sunday School class this week. This is a very familiar passage with very memorable imagery. And, if you are a fan of Keith Green's music, you have an additional appreciation for this passage.

What strikes me about this passage is how it is similar to Ezekiel 34 when God speaks out against the shepherds (kings and leaders of Israel) and how He will separate the good sheep from the bad sheep. But back to Matthew 25:32, "He will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." You see, these animals would graze together. The shepherd would take them out together, but when they came back, we would separate them into their own pens, the sheep to one side, the goats to the other. Sheep are more valuable to the shepherd. They provide wool for many seasons and meat. The goats provide milk and meat. It seems the main point that Jesus is wanting the disciples to understand is that the Shepherd knows His flock. He will return to judge everyone and He will know who His followers are.

How will He know? He will know their heart. If they are true followers of Christ, their heart will be right and they will want to serve Him. This heart issue should lead directly to their actions; that they will be known by their fruit. A true follower of Christ will want to share their lives with others, helping those in need and sharing the love that God imparted on them with others.

Conversely, the sheep know the voice of their shepherd and will want to be near Him. I have watched shepherds walking through fields in Scotland and Ireland and when the sheep see the shepherd, they run to him, rub against his leg and talk to him. The same should be for Christians and Jesus. We should always want to be near him, reading His word and talking to Him because He will supply all our needs.

What is the two-part reward that is reserved for the sheep? The sheep, or Christians, are blessed by God, the Father. The Greek word for "blessed" is a plural noun, so it means all the ones that God has rewarded. The second part is that we will inherit the kingdom. If we have a true salvation experience, then we are given eternal life. Inheriting the kingdom and eternal life means the same thing. But the amazing thing is that God knew man would mess things up when He created the world and He already made plans for us which included salvation through Jesus Christ and eternal life. He prepared a way for us from the foundation of the world.

The next time you have a chance, watch some sheep and think about yourself and the Good Shepherd.

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