The Shepherd Boy!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Today, as well as in the days of the Bible, a shepherd is looked upon as nothing special in society; just a common laborer with nothing of "real" value to offer to the world. He had no great wisdom to offer to the masses -- no great inventions to change the world -- no diplomas to hang on the wall. Yes, a shepherd was just a very ordinary person who usually smelled as bad as the sheep they watched over. Therefore, I chose the title "The Shepherd Boy" specifically to show how God always uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
Let us start with Moses as described in Acts 7:20-34: A man of greatness -- well educated -- powerful in both word and deed. Hearing the call of God within his heart at the age of 40, Moses went off to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. When Moses killed the Egyptian, he assumed the people of Israel would realize that God was going to deliver them from Egypt through him. Yes, Moses, the mighty Prince of Egypt -- powerful in word and deed -- educated for 40 years in the finest the world had to offer, would deliver Israel from Egypt. Yes, God had found a way to place Moses next to the throne of Egypt so he could deliver God's people from Egypt. What a great plan God had! Yes, what an awesome God we serve! However, there was just one problem: it may have seemed like a good plan to us, but it wasn't God's plan.
Moses found himself rejected by his people and had to flee into the desert, where God began to reeducate Moses for another 40 years by making him a shepherd. God humbled Moses until he could honestly say from his heart, "Who am I, Lord?" Exodus 3:10-11: "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'" Could God use (in the eye's of the world) such a worthless shepherd to deliver His people from Egypt, when he (Moses) failed to deliver Israel as a Prince of Egypt? Before God could use Moses as the Deliverer of Israel, God had to take Egypt out of Moses by bringing Moses to a place where he was no longer powerful in both word and deed.
In the same vein the story of Saul and David is also an interesting one. Although both Saul and David were chosen by God, God used this opportunity to teach all of us a very good lesson. Saul was a very large man, taller than anyone else. The prophet Samuel said in 1 Samuel 10:23-24, "Do you see whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people." Surely, a man of this stature could lead Israel to great victory over their enemies! Yes, just what the people wanted -- a man to lead them -- a man of great strength and stature. Although God chose Saul, we must also remember that God never wanted His people to have a king in the first place (1 Samuel 8:1-22). Choosing a man to rule over them instead of God: what a foolish, and disastrous decision.
Well, King Saul did not turn out to be a very good king. So after King Saul angered the Lord, God decided to appoint another king over His people Israel. God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse. When Samuel saw Eliab, Samuel thought he had found the new king. However, once again, man's choice was not God's, and we begin to understand the lesson that God was trying to teach us. God told Samuel that He did not look at what man looks at -- the outward appearance -- but He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6-7). Once again, God chose the lowly "shepherd boy" David, who in the eye's of the world, was a boy of no apparent significance.
I find it very interesting that we today still fall into the same trap of relying on outward appearances to make our judgments. For example, the pictures we see of Jesus are pictures of a very tall and handsome man. A man that if He walked by, heads would turn. We paint Jesus in this way, because He was the Son of God. Surely the Son of God would be a very handsome man, would He not? However, the Scriptures describe a very different Jesus. Isaiah 53:2: "For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." That's right, Jesus' appearance, or stature, turned no heads at all. Can you imagine what would happen if someone would paint an unattractive Jesus? Why, that would be close to blasphemy -- close to the unpardonable sin! I'm sure glad it was the prophet Isaiah who described Jesus as not being attractive, nor stately, so I would not be accused of blaspheming.
Don't you find it interesting that even today we associate someone's stature and beauty with both his virtue and worth? In reality those attributes really have nothing whatsoever in common with one another. Thank God that He looks at the heart and not the outward appearance. Don't you think we should apply God's wisdom in our own lives when it comes to picking our friends, our church, and our spouses? Should we not take the time to see into their heart? You may ask, "How do I do that?" You look at the FRUIT (Matthew 12:33). Don't misunderstand, I'm NOT talking about perfection; for only One is perfect, and that One is God. However, we can look at the general lifestyle as being godly or ungodly, forgiving or unforgiving, arrogant or humble, hating evil and loving good, and so on. When I chose a church, it was not for the pastor's charismatic appeal, but for his love of God and the truth, at any cost; i.e., I looked at his heart. But I digress -- let's continue with Jesus.
Now here comes Jesus, not a diploma to be found, a son of a lowly carpenter, one who works with his own hands. He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor an appearance that we should be attracted to Him. To make matters worse, Jesus was from Nazareth, which at that time, was what we now would call a ghetto. John 1:46: "And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'" People took offense at Jesus: Mark 6:3: "‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?' And they took offense at Him." If only Jesus had a PhD, was good looking, and had lots of charisma, then just maybe the people would have listened!? Could such an ordinary looking man, with no "formal" training, really be God in the flesh?
Now let's take a brief look at the disciples. Out of all the people that Jesus could have chosen from, look at who He picked: the lowly fishermen, a tax-collector (in that day the worst of the worst), the uneducated, and so on. Jesus chose no one of great statue or importance. Yes, God will always choose the foolish things in this world to confound the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29: "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God."
I see people every day falling into this trap of judging by outward appearances: people just accepting what someone says without checking out for themselves if what was said was true or not; accepting what they were taught just because that person may be charismatic, has a doctorate, or some other attractive attribute. On the other hand, I see people rejecting what someone had to say, because he was somewhat ordinary. If this is the case, then who today would listen to Jesus!? And what about John the Baptist who was so poor he ate locusts, wore clothes made from camel hair, and just maybe smelled a little like a camel? Who today would listen to him? People every day are getting into trouble, because they are attracted by the external and disregard the heart inside.
So we discover from these stories in Scripture that God is not impressed at all by our charisma, education, or attractiveness, as God looks only at the heart. What am I trying to say by all of this? First, if someone comes into your life, do not accept, or dismiss them by their outward appearance, but take your time to know their heart. Do not believe anyone, even with a doctorate, without checking the Scripture first to see if what he had to say was true or not. Anyone who teaches should just facilitate your growth in God and not be your sole source of wisdom. Do not be duped into a state of passivity by outward appearances which have the resemblance of wisdom, but in reality are not wisdom at all.
Second, if you have an advanced academic degree, do not rely on your degree for your wisdom. In the eyes of God, a degree means absolutely nothing if your heart is not right. 1 Corinthians 13:2: "And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." In contrast, the Apostle Paul, well educated -- a Hebrew of Hebrews -- a Pharisee of Pharisees, counted it all as dung to know Christ (Philippians 3:4-12). The Apostle Paul was even embarrassed to talk about his "qualifications"; instead he wanted to boast about his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:22-12:9). Therefore, my advice to those who are more learned than I is: do not lay hold of (rely) on your education, but treat it as dung, in order that you may lay hold of Christ.
Third, for those of us less educated: put away the thoughts of inadequacy as you read 1 John 2:27, "And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." And again in Acts 4:13: "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." Spending time with Jesus is the beginning of wisdom.
Therefore, do not say as Moses said before the burning bush, "Who am I," and invite the anger of our Lord (Exodus 4:10-14), but just lay hold of Jesus. Remember, it has always been, and always will be, God who gives the power to change lives -- the Holy Spirit -- to both the great and the weak in the eyes of the world. Zechariah 4:6: "Then he answered and said to me, This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts." In other words, let the wise become as fools that they may lay hold of Christ, and let the foolish say, "I am wise because I laid hold of Christ."
May I invite whosoever to go to God's seminary!? Psalm 51:10-13: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. THEN I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee." It matters not if you are well educated in this world -- nor if you are eloquent in speech -- nor if you have a lot of charisma. But if you can appropriate Psalms 51:10-13 in your life -- in your heart, you will have a very effective and successful ministry. Maybe not as the world defines success, but nevertheless in the eyes of God, your ministry will be successful indeed. Then just maybe you will hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." After all is said and done, that is all that truly matters.
Isaiah 66:1-2: "Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,' declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.'"
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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