Numbers 4 / Proverbs 1 / Luke 15
How long will your simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
The waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
Parable of the lost sheep (response of the good Shepherd)
The good shepherd goes after the sheep the Father wants him to find, to bring him back into the Father's flock. It is his work to find the sons then teach them to be as he was, the good Son who knows his Father and loves Him more than his own life.
The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again (so that he, in pure spirit form, will be able to find and bring the other sheep [us] to the Father).
The subject matter of the second parable—sandwiched in between the other two— illustrates what the humans love, displayed by their response to losing it, as compared to what the good shepherd and the good Father love because it's valuable to them (that the Father's will, to have a family of sons who love Him, be done). The humans love money more than anything because it is the most tangible way to satisfy the eternal need they are bound to, which is to survive the best they can at whatever level is available to them. Money is the best way to do that, which is why everyone loves it so much. Throughout the history of the humans, money has been what is so valuable to them because it gives them what they love and saliently satisfies the survival cravings. I know it's true because I see how money satisfies the latent cravings in me to feel safe; I can feel how it gives me a secure and good feeling when I have some.
What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.
The response of the good Father tells what He loves most in the deepest part of His heart, which is the currency of God. To have His son, whom He loves, yet whom He thought was dead for all practical purposes because he rejected Him and went the way that the Father hated, is everything to Him. The Father has Jesus, the good Son, by His side forever. The son who understands this kind of currency as the Father does is free from the love of money, because he understands that money is inherently useless and not valuable at all except in the animal mode where its survival is the most and only real important thing. That is a condition that underlies everything else, what lays over the top of that fundamental survivalist condition so that everything is based on and colored by it. That condition of love from the Father's perspective is not a common animal experience. It is beyond the animal's grasp, so unheard of and not experienced by the animals that it's beyond valuable.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Jesus the good Son is the One who gained redemption for all of the men from the OT whom the Father knew and loved, yet were unclean and unable to be redeemed because of their unclean animal nature. Now He is gathering the rest of the sons to Him, which is the work of the good Shepherd, to pull them out of the world and allow them to have the nature which can recognize their Father's great love for them—His desire that they be by His side, along with Jesus, and along with the sons from the other generations.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Those commended for their faith are the sheep whom the Father desired to be redeemed and brought into His family. The writer knew that he was one of them because Jesus, the living word, Solomon's voice of wisdom, told him what was true versus what was a lie. The most important thing he knew was that he was part of God's real family of sons. Only when we are all together will God be able to rest, in peace with His complete family of the sons whom He loves by His side, all safe and sound and not in danger any longer of being lost to the world, the flesh and the lies of the snake.
He continues next with an exhortation to "throw off everything that hinders," like a marathon runner would throw off heavy garments which weighed him down, which opposed him in his reaching the goal of the finish line. The finish line is a good analogy, because in the same book the writer is arguing about entering the rest, to which everyone is looking forward—the Father and Son, the angels, and the already redeemed members of His family. After the runner finishes the race, then he rests.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The usual response from the humans when they read this is a desire to throw off sin in order that they might become some great man of God or some other thing that appeals to the internal cravings to be someone special, acceptable, noticeable—the leader, warrior or teacher who is admired above the rest. That is throwing off the artificial sin to dive head first into the actual sin which is hidden from him. That is the response prompted by the animal nature, where everything goes through the filter of what it can do and get for itself, and the gratification of the egotistical portion of the animal—to feel like one is acceptable somehow—is strong and persuasive. It doesn't let up until it gets what it wants. The son on the other hand, with that animal nature being lifted off him, has a different filter. For the son, everything is done according to his desire to respond to and find more of the Father's love, to be a good son for his good Father; and the Father is lifted up as the One who is great, not the son. There is only one who is the model for this that we know of.
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.
What the son is exhorting is not being "good" in any other capacity than in being a good son for the Father's delight, doing what the Father wants him to do—so that the good Shepherd can find the son, and the good Father can redeem him. The ultimate motivation of the son and the Shepherd is that God will have His family of sons with Him, by His side, safe from harm forever. This is God's will, His purpose. When people say about things that happen to them that such and such was or wasn't God's will it is a perversion that emanates from themselves, because they think of themselves so highly. God's will is that His family is with Him where He is, and it shouldn't be reduced to such arrogant terms.
"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
The next thing that follows in the Hebrews argument is about the followers of Jesus the firstborn Son actually becoming sons to God. The chapter is about the discipline of a legitimate son. And what does the disciplining of a son of God consist of? Teaching him to be able to see and then deny the lies of the snake, things he learned as an orphan to love and count on to give him satisfaction and fulfillment. The things that seem appealing and enticing on that level, yet can only satisfy toward the same end—remaining an unclean orphan, wild and unaware of a Father who loves him. That's the difference to God between one of His legitimate sons and all the rest of the humans.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
It may seem weird and harsh that our Father would punish us for just being what we naturally are. However, it's more of a purifying than an actual punishing; it's a purging and quashing of the animal nature out of us so that we can be what He wants us to be, instead of what we want to continue to be. Because we are cursed with the nature that doesn't even allow us to understand that we're cursed, we actually look more like snakes than sons, and we don't even know it. And the snake will try to get away with everything it possibly can, because that's what its father the devil always does. Then it pretends it's not doing what its' doing, which is the hiding it must do to not be found out—the first thing the humans did after they "died." Its effects run through and through us like yeast in a batch of dough, all the way into our heart—in the deepest, most secret parts of us.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
"So that the lame may be healed," means, "So that the animal can be brought near as a sacrifice and turned into a son," so that "We may share in his holiness." We cannot be part of the Father's family or be brought near to him if we are a wild, unclean animal with the snake's nature which actually hates Him more than it loves Him, and can't even help it because it can't even see its condition. We can't see that that's what we are because of its existence in us, which is how deceptive and insidious it is, and why it needs to be removed. For the ordinary human it's good, because it's all about surviving; for the son it's bad, because it keeps him away from the Father. And the whole battle is an internal one.
The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you.
The work that Jesus does in getting us first to see the animal nature in us and then to recognize its effects is tremendous in itself. Then the process of slowly extracting it out of us through the suffering of losing what we love so much starts to take place. It's hardship and discipline and it has to be done slowly, steadily and methodically or we wouldn't be able to bear it. Taking a nature that is rooted and strong in a man and replacing it with the new nature is a very difficult and tedious endeavor, and it takes lots of patience, suffering and endurance on both parts. Nevertheless it is the only way it can be done, and it makes sense that it would be so difficult since the roots have to be pulled up so slowly so as to not kill the plant. It's the only way a human can be miraculously transformed into a son of God and become a delight to Him like a strong flourishing vine, rather than a burden like all the other weeds in the garden.
So it is our end, not to become great or spend our life trying to satisfy what can never actually be satisfied; but to lose that animal nature which makes us strive to be better and special amongst the humans, yet common and unclean to the Father, to assist the Lord in removing it from us so that we can actually begin to see and comprehend the Father's love for us and respond with our own love toward Him. It is to become a warm, clean child whose first response is to love its Father instead of a cold, slippery snake who just wants to hiss at and bite Him, to protect itself and hide because of the instinctual fear from which it cannot escape except by death.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
"When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
"The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. '
"But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. `Your brother has come,' he replied, `and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
" `My son,' the father said, `you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"