Monday, March 31, 2008

Psalm 23:3a The Shepherd as Savior


I have not abandoned my exposition of Matthew. I fully intend to get back to that. The past few weeks I had just been reading in Psalms some and had worked on Psalm 23 a little bit. Since I had done more work on it that in Matthew due to having gotten busier at work, I decided to post what I have done so far in Psalm 23. I pray that it will bless you.

in Christ

Once, when I was 6 years old, my Dad and I were at the beach in Fairhope, Alabama with an uncle of mine who was in town and some of my cousins. I followed my cousins out into the water and eventually found myself in water above my midsection. Quite suddenly, the undertow pulled my feet out from under me. At that point, I did not know how to swim and was on my way to drowning. My dad rushed into the water, scooped me up, and saved my life. He’s done that more than once over the years. There was absolutely nothing I could do to save myself. If he had not intervened, I would be dead right now. In much the same way, David describes the predicament of a sheep in a most dangerous situation.

A point that I think should be made here is that as we read this psalm with which we are so familiar, we really need to get into the head of a shepherd. As I had stated in the original post of this series, David Keller has written a book called “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm” which has provided me quite a bit of insight into this psalm and, admittedly, has shaped a lot of the material I have included in these posts. You can get information on this book here.
When I read this psalm, I usually thought of the phrase “He restores my soul” as meaning God gives us encouragement when we are down. I knew of Psalm 42:5 talking about David’s soul being cast down and of course I’d heard about people having their faces downcast. To me, it seemed pretty reasonable to assume that improving our mood was the topic David had in mind. Actually, that would probably be a pretty common interpretation in today’s me-centered, feel good, prosperity pseudo-Christianity. After all, according to most TV preachers, it’s all about you and your significance in God’s plan.

However, as I studied more about this term, I found out that it had nothing to do with making me feel better. That wasn’t even in the ball park. In fact, the situation David describes here is nightmarish to the sheep. A cast sheep is one that has been turned over on its back. This sheep is in dire straits. In fact, without help, this sheep will die a slow and painful death. When a sheep is flat on its back like this, there is no way for it to raise itself upright again. When 98.46% of your body weight (ok, that is a slight exaggeration) is contained in your upper body, you don’t have enough mass in your lower body to move your center of gravity. A sheep in this state is totally helpless. In addition to being at the mercy of predators, the gases inside of a sheep build up in its abdomen as described by David Keller so that the sheep will suffocate. This is no laughing matter. This sheep is going to die and there is nothing—I repeat nothing—that he can do about it.

Luckily, this sheep belongs to a loving and gentle Shepherd. The Shepherd restored this cast sheep. Now the sheep is free from its death trap. The Shepherd has saved the day.

However, notice that David says that the Shepherd “restores my soul”. David, therefore, describes his soul as being in the predicament of a cast sheep. He, too, is in a death trap and he, too, is unable to help himself. Friends, you and I were in that same death trap before we came to faith in Christ Jesus. The book of Ephesians tells us that we were dead in our trespasses. Now, we were in a condition much worse than the sheep. The sheep was helpless but it was alive at least. It didn’t have to be resurrected. However, you and I, prior to coming to faith in Christ, were dead. Not close to death, not nearly dead, not sick with a terminal disease. We were dead. There was no way we could save ourselves. There was no way that we could turn to Christ and repent of our sins. We all had turned away from God and had sought to go our own way (Romans 3:10-3:18). Because we were helpless and hopeless, God restored our cast souls. The English word translated “restores” is the Hebrew word “shub”. It means “to turn back” and in this case means to set right. Our soul was in the grip of death. God, in His mercy, elected us to salvation through His Son and gave us the faith to believe and repent thereby restoring or setting right our cast soul. We couldn’t have done it for ourselves. We didn’t even have the faith to choose to turn to Him. Apart from His love and concern as our Shepherd, none of us would be saved. However, because He is our loving Shepherd, He does “restore [our] soul[s]”.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Psalm 23:2 Our Security as His Sheep

As I noted in the last study of this wonderful psalm, sheep are difficult to take care. It takes a lot of work and a tremendous amount of attention to the details to provide a safe, productive environment for sheep to flourish. In the end, the condition of a flock rests solely on the shoulders of the shepherd tending that flock. Since we have a loving Shepherd, we can rest safely in His care. David, in the second verse of this wonderful psalm, describes what a blessing we have to be tended by such a kind and gentle Shepherd.

First of all, we notice the condition the Shepherd puts the sheep in. It says, in the beginning of verse 2, that “He makes me lie down”. This, from everything I have read, is quite a feat. Sheep are naturally skittish creatures. They re easily frightened and quite high strung. They do not relax easily. There are two reasons I would suggest for this constant state of agitation. First of all, sheep have no natural defenses. They do not have claws or big, sharp teeth. No one has ever heard of another person getting mauled to death by a sheep. They are not fast or agile. In fact, a 100lb sheep might well have legs of only 5 lbs. While I am joking a little about that, it probably is not too much of an exaggeration. Secondly, most animals probably consider the sheep to be very tasty. Your life in the animal kingdom is going to be very stressful when other animals are looking at you and thinking “Man, I bet that’d be good with some Dale’s” or “I’d like to throw that on the George Forman”.

Therefore, in order for a sheep to lie down as is stated in this verse, that sheep must be absolutely sure that it is 100% free from any danger. If the sheep is not in a danger free situation, it will not be able to rest. What David is saying, then, is that because the Lord is his Shepherd, he knows that he is safe and secure. He is not going to be harmed by his enemies. He knows that God will protect him and keep him safe. Isn’t that such a blessing for us to meditate upon as Christians? I mean, no matter how bad things get, no one can hurt us as far as anything eternal goes. Even here on the earth, we are blessed by His providence and protection. That is not to say that nothing bad happens to Christians. Rather, He is there with us in the midst of it. We too can relax and cast our cares upon Him, as Peter said, knowing that He is our Shepherd.

David goes on to describe the circumstances the sheep find themselves in. He says that the Shepherd causes him to lie down “in green pastures”. David, as a shepherd, would have known first hand the kind of hard work that involved. The area where he kept sheep was rocky, hilly, and oftentimes barren compared to what we would think of as pasture land. If a shepherd was going to provide pasture for his flock, he was going to have to work to provide that pasture. This meant hours of backbreaking, sweaty, painful work of clearing rocks, planting good grass, and pulling up weeds which were poor quality feed at best or poisonous at worst. A shepherd spent a lot of time preparing pasture for his flock in order to provide the best for them. This is a picture of the kind of hard work our Shepherd provides as He cares for the sheep. Not that it is difficult for Him to provide for our needs but rather that He is diligently, constantly working to provide for us. Of course, we know what grueling torture He endured on Calvary’s cross where He shed His precious blood for you and me. However, even before that, He was at work throughout human history putting the right people in the right places at the right times to accomplish His redemptive purpose. Not only does He provide green pastures for us as He provides for us materially, but even more so, He provided spiritual green pastures as He laid on His Son the sins of all who would believe.

However, this Shepherd not only provides food for the sheep but as David notes “He leads me beside quite waters”. Again, we must remember the climate in which David lived. We would probably describe much of the surroundings are barren and dry. The pools of water that you found oftentimes were polluted and undrinkable. Of course, that wouldn’t stop the sheep from drinking them. Like we’ve observed before, sheep are not known for their intelligence. If you give them two choices and one of them is good while the other is bad for them, the will more often than not choose the one that is bad for them. So, if you left sheep to their own devices, they would drink for foul, polluted water all day long. Therefore, as a shepherd, if you want you sheep to have clear, clean drinking water, you had to go out, dig the pools or watering holes, and fill them your self. Again, the picture we get is that of tireless, constant work to provide the best for the sheep. This Shepherd, David says, does not turn the sheep out to find this still, quite water on their own. Instead, He leads the sheep. He knows the way and He lovingly takes the sheep where they will be safe and provided for.

What a wonderful heavenly Shepherd we have who loves us and takes such wonderful care of His sheep. Praise His holy Name.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Matthew 4:23 Follow the Leader

As we saw in the last two blog posts on Matthew’s gospel, Jesus had called His first disciples into permanent service. Apparently He had become acquainted with them after His move to Capernaum but what was recorded in Matthew is their official call into ministry from the Messiah. These men would be sent on missions several times during the course of their ministry with the Lord. However, in verse 23, we notice that it is Jesus who is performing ministry. Let us observe how the Lord “did ministry” (man, I hate that term) and see if we can find applications for those of us living and serving the Lord today.

First of all, Matthew records that Jesus “was going throughout all Galilee”. The region known as Galilee was north of Jerusalem and was inhabited by mostly Gentiles. As John Gill noted in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, it was “a country mean and despicable, inhabited by persons poor, illiterate, vile, and wicked”. These people were considered to be backwards and socially were castaways. We find, then, Jesus begins His public ministry after having called His disciples here on what most people would describe as the wrong side of the tracks. Jesus went to the people who needed Him and He went to people that were considered outcasts. What a kind compassionate Savior we have. How often, though, do we fail to notice those all around us who would be considered in our society just like these men and women were? I fear it is far too often. Christ went throughout the entire region as He ministered. We should also look for opportunities to minister where we are without regard to the kinds of individuals to whom we are ministering. To many times, we look for people who are like us or to whom we might have things in common. I submit that the example our Lord sets for us is that we should minister to all people, even people we might avoid if we were making the choice rather than following the example of Christ.

Not only was our Lord going throughout all of Galilee, He also spent time “teaching in their Synagogues”. As Christ noted in Matthew 15:24, He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Of course, the salvation He brought by His death was not confined to any one race of people, but as we see Him ministering here, we find him going first to the Jews. While Matthew does not record here exactly what was taught, he says that Jesus was engaged in “didasko” (Greek-teaching). This word means “to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them” or to “deliver didactic discourses” according to Thayer’s Greek dictionary. In other words, He was trying to help these people learn the truth. The exact topic is not recorded here, but we can be certain Christ was teaching them about God, about Himself, and about the kingdom of God. As we minister to people, we should never forget to “keep the main thing the main thing”. We can get sidetracked about a lot of issues that may in and of themselves be important. However, nothing is more important in ministering to people than to show them from the scripture that they are sinners just as we are, that God demands a payment for their sin, and that Jesus Christ paid that sin debt on Calvary’s cross.

Finally, we notice that in addition to teaching, Christ was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom”. The word translated preaching is the Greek word “kerusso” and it means “to proclaim as a herald”. The picture that I paint in my mind is like a newsboy selling papers in a busy city crying out “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”. While when someone is teaching, there is some level of interaction between the teacher and student, a herald is not engaging in conversation. Basically, a herald is proclaiming a message for every person without regard for a particular response. Here it is: take it or leave it. While we certainly should look with compassion on folks who do not know Jesus as their Savior, we must remember that the Bible means what it means and says what it says. We should never compromise on the message or shy away from proclaiming it as the authoritative Word of the living God. As heralds we should proclaim the truth as revealed in scripture without compromise. As teachers, we should lovingly exhort individuals with the truth and help them to understand what it means.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Say What?

As anyone who has read this blog has noticed, I love the Bible. This website is dedicated to helping people hear God speak clearly through the exposition of scripture. I have posted a few links to other blog posts that I found particularly encouraging but primarily I post verse-by-verse exposition of God’s word. However, I do have some extra time on my hands here at work. I am between audits. I won’t actually start a new audit until next week and have nothing to do here but sit and read. Therefore, I brought some material to work with me to read. I’ve started a series on Psalm 23. This post is a review of an article written by a Catholic theologian about homosexuality and the Bible (bold added by me in the quotations). You can read his entire article here. I think it’s important as students of God’s word for us to take time to remind ourselves that there are those who name the name of Christ but reject His clear, divinely inspired word. The best way for Christians to refute garbage like this is to teach the Bible as meaning what it means and saying what it says.

Luke Timothy Johnson, in his article, claims that homosexuals are singled out by the church as immoral. He says:

“In my view, this scapegoating of homosexuality has less to do with sex than with perceived threats to the authority of Scripture and the teaching authority of the church. For those opposed to the ordination of women priests and bishops, or of married people, deviation from the uniform and steady practice of the church (glossing over the fact that it has rarely been steady or uniform) means starting down the slippery slope toward rejecting church authority altogether.”

I would deduce that Mr. Johnson equates the authority of the church with the authority of scripture which would make sense for a Catholic theologian. However, not only does he put the authority of the church on par with the authority of divinely-inspired scripture, he suggests that scripture itself is not the final authority. If, in fact, scripture (or in his case, scripture and the church) was the final authority, why would anyone perceive any threat to its authority? As we examine his essay further, we find out why he feels that way.

Mr. Johnson gives us a bit of refreshing honesty as he concludes on his view of scriptural prohibitions against homosexuality.

“I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality-namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order. “

Now that is the height of hubris. I mean, he doesn’t try to explain away scripture or reason his way around it. He flat out says that he rejects it. You would ask, I’m sure, “Well, if he rejects scriptural authority, what does he view as being the authority.” Rather than summarize or paraphrase, I’ll let him answer that question himself.

We are fully aware of the weight of scriptural evidence pointing away from our position, yet place our trust in the power of the living God to reveal as powerfully through personal experience and testimony as through written texts. To justify this trust, we invoke the basic Pauline principle that the Spirit gives life but the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). And if the letter of Scripture cannot find room for the activity of the living God in the transformation of human lives, then trust and obedience must be paid to the living God rather than to the words of Scripture. The church cannot say “yes” to what the New Testament calls porneia (“sexual immorality”); but the church must say yes to the witness of lives that build the holiness of the church. The challenge, therefore, is to discern what constitutes the positive and negative in sexual behavior. A start would be to adapt Galatians 3:28 and state that “in Christ there is neither gay nor straight””

I couldn’t make this stuff up. He actually says that if our experience contradicts scripture, we should ignore scripture. Then, to top it all off, re-write the bible. “In Christ there is neither gay nor straight” indeed. As disgusting as this outlandish view of scripture is, it is also sad. We should have compassion for all people who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and we should pray to God for Him to do the work that only He can do—draw them to Himself. Only He can grant repentance from this or any sin. We should remember that, if it were not for His mercy, we too would be bound for eternal torment in Hell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Psalm 23:1 Our Relationship with God

Bill Cosby, in one of his comedy routines, said that his father defined their relationship when he was very young. He was told “I am your father—I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me ‘cause I’ll make another one that looks just like you.” Now, this is quite silly and we can have a good laugh about it. There is, however, something about defining a relationship that gives one a sense of security. When you know what the boundaries and the responsibilities of a relationship are, you feel safe. In this manner, when David writes this most familiar psalm, we can be particularly encouraged as we reflect on our relationship to God and His love and care for us.

I should probably mention as I start this series that my interpretation of this psalm was greatly influenced by a book written by Phillip Keller titled “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”. You can find information about the book here. I strongly recommend it as a great resource to understanding what God meant when He inspired David to write this text.

I believe the first thing we should take note of as we examine this psalm is that David writes this psalm about a Person—specifically God. He begins the psalm by saying in verse 1 that “The Lord is my Shepherd”. The fact that he identifies God as his Shepherd should be of great encouragement to us as believers. This is the same Lord that made, and kept, a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:24). He displayed His power by freeing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 7-12) not to mention creating the entire universe by merely speaking it into existence (Genesis 1-2). This is a Holy God who judges sin and, as David would come to find out, forgives people when they repent. Suffice it to say, God has quite an impressive track record and it only makes sense that the Bible declares that there is no God like Him (I Kings 8:23). Considering the relationship that is defined by this psalm, the character of the One on whom David is depending seems particularly relevant. Therefore, we should remember that it is the Lord that David refers to as his Shepherd.

I think it’s pretty important to notice, also, that David is writing in the present tense. He does not say the Lord was his Shepherd or will be his Shepherd or that He might be his Shepherd but rather that He is David’s Shepherd. David made this rather bold affirmation of his relationship with God based on his daily walk with God. As we read in I Samuel 17:34-36, David depended on God daily as he carried out his task of tending his father’s sheep. When he faced dangerous situations, he knew through experience that God would be with him. What we have here, then, is not touchy-feely “You Best Life Now” garbage, but true saving faith grounded in a daily walk with God. It is not hope for the future or pining about the past but a present tense awareness of the presence of God in David’s life that leads him to write these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, in making this statement, David is acknowledging that he recognizes not only his position but also God’s position. By saying “The Lord is my Shepherd”, David is saying that he is a sheep. Recognizing who you are in relation to others is important in any relationship. For instance, the book of Genesis records that when a man is married he is to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Basically, his primary responsibility is no longer to his parents but to his wife. Failing to recognize that change in relationship can result in problems with his new wife to say the least. (By the way, I also believe the same principal applies for wives. That was an aside. You don’t owe me anything for that) David has no delusions about his role in relation to God. He is a sheep. Now, this is a humbling admission for him to make. First of all, sheep are stupid. I mean, these critters, from all accounts I have read, will go out of way to get themselves into trouble of all kinds. They need constant care and supervision. If left to their own devices they will invariably get themselves into trouble time and time again.

You know, that is a pretty good description of you and me. I mean, I’ve been saved for 24 years now and sometimes I have pretty good days. But it is just as often that I feel like the apostle Paul in Romans 7 and I feel like shouting “I’m doing the things I know I shouldn’t do and not doing the things that I know I should do”. If it were not for the mercy, grace, and providence of almighty God I would get my self in pickles so often they’d have to change my last name to Vlassick. It’s the same way with sheep. Being a shepherd is very hard work because you have to watch out for those animals tirelessly. God does just that. He never sleeps, takes a day off, or turns His eyes off of us who are His sheep even for a moment.

Because of this wonderful, loving care provided by our Shepherd, we can come to the same conclusion that David did. He said that because of the Lord being his Shepherd, “I shall not want”. Sheep don’t take care of themselves. Therefore, if their needs are provided, it is a direct result of the shepherd’s care of them. Notice the condition he expects to find himself in. He uses a Hebrew word “chaser” which is translated “want”. That Hebrew word means lack. David isn’t saying that he will always have everything that he wants; but that he will not lack things he needs so as to suffer want. That’s just a wee bit different take on God’s care of us than you would find from your typical prosperity theology preacher. Saying that we will not want in this context does not mean that we will be happy all the time or in a state of abundance. What it does mean is that God will provide what we need when we need it. There have been Christians who have been hungry or lacked clothing or shelter. That does not mean that God is not fulfilling His role as Shepherd. In fact, I’m not sure I could even speculate on why a situation like that would occur. I would suggest that more times than not Christians are provided for with the things they need in this life by a loving Shepherd who takes meticulous care of His sheep. Let us praise God for His love and protection.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

More Bible Blogging

As I've said before, no one can get too much Bible exposition. The blog Hip and Thigh is doing a series called "Gleanings from Job". Really good stuff. Check it out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Matthew 4:21-22 The Messiah calls disciples II

We can fake religion and piety. It’s possible for us to live like a Christian when everyone is looking. One thing we cannot do is generate saving faith within ourselves or create a desire to follow after God out of our own affections. How we respond when Christ calls is the “proof in the pudding” that shows whether we are truly one of His sheep. As we read these verses, we see the response of those with genuine faith to the call of the Messiah into service.

After Jesus had called Peter and Andrew, He continued walking “He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother” (Matthew 4:20). I think it is interesting to note how these men were spending their time when Christ came to them on His divinely journey. First of all, as Matthew records, they were “in the boat with Zebedee their father”. These men, like Peter and Andrew, were fishermen. Unlike Peter and Andrew, they worked with their father. They worked as a family in a fishing business and that business was probably quite profitable. At least, the Bible seems to suggest that the family was fairly well off. We note, for example, in Mark 1:20 that there were also servants who worked with them and their father. I would imagine, then, that these guys had it made. I mean, their dad was the boss, business was doing pretty well, and they would likely inherit the family business when he passed on. ]

However, we see that these men were not lazy, lecherous bums who were mooching off of their father. In fact, when Jesus saw them they were “mending their nets”. The English word “mending” translates the Greek work “katarizo” which can mean “to repair”. However, it can also mean “fully” or “perfect” (Luke 6:40). It could have been that these men were preparing their nets for the next time they would go fishing. In any case, they were busy. People who work for themselves in a business such as James or John never really seem to have time off in my experience. I had a Sunday School teacher at the church that I pastured who was a farmer. If he wasn’t in the field, he was repairing equipment. He was always working. I, on the other hand, now work 4 days a week and when I’m off work, I am off from work. I might check email to see if an auditee had answered back with some information I had requested but I am not doing any real work. Of course, when I get to work, I have plenty of things waiting for me. These men didn’t have supervisors and they didn’t have people telling them what had to be done. They knew what to do and were busy doing their work.

Jesus finds these men being industrious rather than sitting idle. Matthew records that Jesus “called them” without quoting the exact words that Jesus used. However, we see the response of these men in verse 22. Because they were His sheep, when He called, they responded with obedience. They left their comfortable life with their business and their father. In fact, they left immediately. Certainly, God expects us to love and care for our family. We should remember, however, that our highest priority is to serve Christ. There should be nothing—jobs, friends, family—that should interfere with our service to Jesus Christ. In fact when we compare our love for Christ to our love for others, our love for Christ should make that love look like hate (Luke 14:26).

Does our response to the call of Christ in our lives demonstrate that He is our highest priority and that our loyalty to Him is our first loyalty? Let us soberly ask ourselves that question as we reflect on these verses.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Matthew 4:18-20 The Messiah calls disciples

There are many things about God that fill me with awe and wonder. One of the greatest wonders to me is the fact that God choose to use fallen men and women as instruments through which He accomplishes His work. I mean, in and of ourselves, who among us could claim to have anything useful or worthwhile to offer God. For all our studying and all the skills and abilities we’ve developed in our lives, all of us are just about as much use to God as a sponge in the desert. Regardless of this, God chooses to use us and permit us to take part in the work that He does in this world. As we study this passage of scripture, we are reminded of how awesome an honor it is for God to call us to Himself for salvation and use us for ministry.

First of all, as we observed last week, Jesus had relocated to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. We find here yet another reason for Him to have relocated to this area. Matthew records in verse 18 that “Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee”. However, this was no simple stroll to stretch His legs. There was a definite purpose to this walk along the sea. He had a divine appointment with some men whom He had chosen for ministry. He had met these men and spent some time with them as recorded in John 1:36-42. However, at this time he found them “casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen”.

Isn’t it amazing that Christ would chose to call these men? They were not religious scholars. For that matter, they probably were not particularly intellectual. These are not men that the world would expect to be called as messengers of the most high God. They worked outside in the elements and worked hard for a living. They were typical blue collar guys. And here was the God that created the universe calling them into service. This is very encouraging to me. It should be encouraging to all of us. God chooses to use what men would call foolishness to make those that think they are wise truly look foolish (1 Corinthians 1:19). Praise God for being willing to use folks like me, you, Peter, and Andrew.

Notice further the call of Christ to these men. And as we pay attention to this call, I think it’s important to think about the call of Christ in our own lives. In John chapter 6 verse 37, Jesus said “All that the Father gives Me will come to me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” In other words, the call of Christ is an effectual call, meaning that it will accomplish its intended purpose. When God calls someone to salvation, they come to salvation. When God calls someone to service the will enter that service. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.(John 10:27). Therefore, when Christ calls these men into service, they respond because they are His sheep..

His call to them is interesting. He calls for them to “Follow Me”. If we are going to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must remember that He is the Master and we are the servants. He is the Shepherd who guides, leads, and feeds us who are the sheep. We are not independent agents who go where we want and do what we want. We are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). Therefore, the most basic requirement of any disciple of Christ is to follow after Him.

Notice further, that He calls them with a particular kind of call. He says “I will make you fishers of men”. The Greek word “poieo” is the word translated “make”. We should remember that what we are going to become for God is not something we become under our own power. God works to make us like His Son. Christ here told these men that they would be changed and He would do the changing. They were called to leave what was probably a profitable fishing business to become what He called “fishers of men”. Now, instead of fishing for sea creatures for themselves and others to eat, they would fish for men by preaching the Gospel to them with the hopes of saving them. They went from providing men with food for their stomachs to providing them with food for their souls.

Finally, we notice in verse 20 that “Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him”. To a fisherman, nets were paramount. You couldn’t go to Wally World and pick up a fiberglass rod and reel and maybe some hooks and lures. That sort of stuff wouldn’t have done the job anyway. If you were going to fish, you had to have nets. When they left their nets, they left their way of life. It’s as simple as that. For them, there was no turning back. The call of God was so powerful in their life that they left their very livelihood to go where Jesus went without knowing where it would take them. Let us pray to God for the kind of faith and boldness that these men had. We should follow their example to let nothing get in our way of serving God faithfully and proclaiming the Good News wherever we go.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.