We have all been trying to interpret what the various messages mean for us, but it sometimes seem as if the goals are either to apply the idea before its relevance and its unique connection to reality are discovered or to find some metaphorical application of everything we read. The instructions about holiness and removing uncleanness, for example, have no place in an informed environment when the procedure ends in someone being stoned to death. The proclamations about what God is and the actions he engages in are also major turning points. The filters we use for separating the enduring pieces of revelaton from the expected, desired, and probable. We will see that rightly-dividing however will affect a verse, a sentence, a paragraph, and it does take courage to separate faith and life from fear and works.
As judge God will not be found accusing and seeking the condemnation of anyone. Despite the loud claims for capital lunishment as the ultimate verdict againts wrongdoing it has no place in civic – much less Christian – society.
The shepherd and his shepherding
“The Lord is my shepherd” states what is. He does not stop being my shepherd, no matter what the sheep’s condition or situation. The actions the shepherds performs are many, all in recognition of the sheep’s needs.
- (I) lack
- makes me lie down
- leads (me)
- makes my soul return
- (I) walk
- (I) fear
- (he) comforts
- you prepare
- pursues (me)
- (I) dwell
The thirsty sheep may not be in the field to eat the grass but Yahweh is still shepherd. The sheep may not see or even recognize the overflowing cup, but Yahweh is still shepherd.
A similar relationship between fact and action, between what is and what happens appears in the Lord’s sayings about the identity iof His disciples. When he says “You are the light of the world” he states what is, not what we can try to become. We are well aware of what light’s functions are. If we do not believe that we are light or salt of living stones we will never consent to the mysteries flowing through us. Lamps do not light themselves, and their light streams as naturally as a fig tree bears figs.
Separating the trust from the fear
The difference between what one does and who one is cannot be corrected by trying to adjust what one is. That requires a creative/redemptive act. When I lack, I know I am his sheep. What God says is, is. Accepting that fact seems to be the hub of fearful and unfruitful lives. We cannot get a glimpse of the actions God initiates on our behalf if we do not fully embrace what he says is the framework – He’s our shepherd. When our life is being drained, when we are in death’s valley, we have our shepherd and he is with us. In this frame, Immanuel comes alive for the believer and there is no condition that separates the beloved from the Lover.