THE SHEPHERD OF THE LAMBS
Sometimes it is good to 're-focus' our attention on the things that God has revealed as important to Him. Not that all things are not important, but sometimes some of the most precious things or 'people' are allowed to slip through the cracks for one reason or another. The enemy understands what these things are or in the case of this entry, [i]who[/i] these people are.
James is an interesting epistle. So much does it deal with 'works' that Luther felt the book to be non-canonical. Perhaps he felt the book in opposition to [i]faith[/i]. Yet, some scholars believe that James is one of the earliest epistles and written by the half brother of our Lord. This book is written from a unique perspective.
Before we look at our text in James, I want to point something out. Pharoah, who is symbolic of Satan himself, ordered that male children, when born, were to be killed by the midwives. The closing verse of Exodus chapter 1 contains these words, [i]Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live."[/i] We know this process as [i]infanticide[/i]. Why would the enemy of the Hebrews want the males killed, and why the children? It has long been the strategy of the enemy that if he cannot KILL them he will CORRUPT them. Hence, abortion and the modern day secular education system.
What is it about children that Satan has devised so many means with which to destroy them? What has allowed God's people to not fully appreciate the little ones? You will recall that even in the time of Christ the disciples would 'shew away' the kids that tried to come to Jesus. What was our Lord's reaction?
And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they [u]rebuked[/u] them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. (Luke 18)
This was the attitude of our Lord and it seems reasonable for James to write from a unique perspective of having lived with our Lord, perhaps, more than any of the others disciples, maybe even ALL of the others combined. And from that perspective he gives, what is to me, one of the most radical statements ever inspired by the Spirit to the heart of a ready writer:
Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
There is an echo from the Gospels, [i] I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' [/i] It is interesting that in the passage in James that the Greek word for 'religion' is [i]threskeia[/i] and it means "religious discipline." This opens us up to some interesting considerations, because the root word is [i]threskos[/i] which means the FEAR OF THE LORD.
What are the implications of this? If we draw a strait line through the facts we come up with a New Testament definition of the FEAR OF GOD and it is [i]to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.[/i] Notice the order of things in this passage. How could that be possible? Is the order even significant? I believe it is. Why? Because Jesus also told us that offending one of the little ones that believe in Him would be worthy of a millstone being placed around the neck and thrust into the sea. But, does this jibe with the Old Testament?
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
You may be wondering how this could be? "How is it possible that 'pure' fear of the Lord could be comprised of visiting the fatherless and widows?" I can understand how "keeping unspotted of the world" would fit. Why can't pure fear of the Lord be comprised of fasting and prayer? Maybe its because folk do as the Priest who passed by the battered and bruised robbery victim on the way to the Temple for what he believed was more inportant religious exercise? Maybe its because fasting and prayer are measures to build our relationship with God, that when that relationship begins to have its effect, and the heart of God and the heart of the seeker begin to beat in sync (as it were), the seeker will walk out of the prayer closet and into the FEAR OF THE LORD.
Where are they? Where are the fatherless and widows? How is the Church doing in terms of fearing the Lord? It is interesting to note the extreme number of children born out of wedlocke, whose fathers have little or nothing to do with the children. The inner cities of America are literal Mission Fields of children who have never heard the name of Jesus. The voice of our Lord beacons, "Suffer them to come... suffer them to come unto me..." visit them... Visit them... VISIT them! The nursing homes and centers are filled with widows. Many of them are former Sunday School teachers, Pastor's wives, song leaders, having served God for 50-70+years, and now...
Yet, there is almost a silent rebuke as folk often view kids as too much trouble. There are tremendous ministries to kids in cities. Sidewalk Sunday School, Church bus programs, etc. But who has not passed through a neighborhood and saw a little child playing in the yard on a Sunday. What about that Grandmother that is in a Nursing Home with one foot in the grave wondering if the Lord has forsaken her?
No, theres not a lot of glory in pure religion. Perhaps that's why its pure? Not many people write books about ministering on inner city streets to children. Not a lot of books on the subject of going into homes and getting little kids dressed for Sunday School while mom and dad are passed out in bed from a night of partying. But these folk don't need publicity, their a SHEPHERD OF THE LAMBS.
Robert Wurtz II