1 Chronicles 24-25 / Ezekiel 34 / Philippians 1-2
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
The partnership Paul felt with those to whom he intended these letters indicates a kind of vulnerable appreciation for those who shared the same burden. He knew that they were genuinely devoted to what he was called to, so he could feel a relief from the world which probably always felt like it was caving in on him. Their loyalty and devotion to each other, because they were bound up in the same cause, was a gift that the Father and Son gave to these sons to make them feel safe, like they had others in the world who were committed to the same deal.
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
In the world of humans and their self-interested wild animal behavior, living their little self-contained lives, this has a refreshing feel to it; like an atmosphere of camaraderie and working together for something that actually matters. It's a comfort because it sits in contrast to the world of sick, isolated humans who hide in their little self-propelled bubbles of their own existences, behind their huge walls of defense, thinking their lives are so inherently valuable and they're all going somewhere, when the only place they're actually going is into the ground where everything goes.
For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
How can they do anything but that, considering the condition they're completely given over to. The oddly exasperating thing is that's the last thing they'd ever be able to truly admit to, ironically because of the same walls they need to protect. That is a process which happens on a subliminal level within themselves, so they aren't even thinking about when they're doing or, and definitely not in touch with the process enough to even be able to see it, let alone admit to it, which means (if they're being honest) that they want to escape out from underneath it.
The good news for those recipients of this letter, in that time period just after the Son and Father were united (before the abomination was finished) is bad news for the present time. The level of camaraderie, community and brotherhood that comes out in these chapters is so high because that was possible for Paul and the Philippians, because they were being given gifts to allow them to know something and were being driven to do something about it.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
It came to them *only* because of the supernatural condition they were under, which was the promised new covenant given because of the work of the son who set the family of sons free from the grave—which was holding them captive—so they could be remembered by the Father to raise them up. The Son gave the Father His family, which is His purpose and desire from the beginning of the world, to have. This condition was predicted by Jeremiah, who said that God would put His law and commands directly into the hearts of "His people."
It was a kind of antidote for another type of condition that the humans were under—the sickness that Israel continually suffered from—the inability to ever be able to be pleasing to God, their repeated mistake of being drawn away to doing whatever they wanted, and forgetting to remember Him. God wanted this super high level of devotion and faithfulness to Him, coupled with this other single-minded concern and care for the brotherhood of the "Israel of God," as is exhibited by Paul and his urging the first century believers toward the same kind of love, care and concern for each other as he had for them, esp. in this letter—even to the point where he had given everything else up for their sake, which is the opposite of how that animal nature is prone to being, doing and acting.
...being confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
What was the good work? What was happening in the first century because of the work of the spirit wasn't the enhancement of what the animal craves, for the particular individuals' sake, that they be given some special strength and power to become great, or special, which is the desire to be worshipped (the egotistical component of the animal, going back to the helper who wanted to be special because she had the ability to know good and evil like God, instead of trusting that the Father knew what to give them and that that was what was good for them). That's the misguided interpretation of the animal instinct that wants to preserve its own ability to be honored and respected by the other humans, which as a craving in the humans is a huge and powerful phenomenon.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man."
It ranks right up at the top of that list, along with the urge to love and run after money (because it brings a feeling of security to the animal mind, which is driven by fear) and the urge to obey the lust cravings that magically well up within the animal. It's why you see religious leaders standing up in front of crowds of people to be honored and respected as some kind of self-appointed teacher, shepherd and pastor. The lie they conspire with one another to hide behind is that it's good and okay to do because they're doing the work of their gods, which is pure animal cunning which creates entire systems of conspiring and hiding together in the darkness. That's the human way of interpreting what those actual leaders in the first century were like and what they actually did (skewed by the animal cunning and deceptiveness to make the interpretation work for themselves) and then acting on that skewed interpretation.
He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
Jesus knew what was inside the humans, but the humans weren't aware of their condition of being repulsive to God because of the nature they were bound to, the condition that Jesus was kept from, which allowed him to know what was in a man, what his nature could have been like (if he were given over to it), and what those men wanted from him. That was not in agreement with what he wanted—to be pure in his heart and true to the Father, to do His will and to purposely not be respected and honored by the humans, which would have been giving in to the animal which was tempting him to follow it. That was the second part of the temptation, to prove to the humans that he indeed was the Messiah who would have been the most honored and respected Israelite which could be imagined.
It was his right, as God's anointed, to take up that mantle and position among the people, to be their leader, to assume that honored position as the long-awaited Son of David. However, the Father wanted him to go another way, one by which he would be able to prove his love and devotion to the Father by his obedience to the gentle whisper of the Father's voice inside his heart. If Jesus were a god already, there would only be one way to go; because he was a human (the firstborn Son of all the humans who will ever become sons to God their true Father) he had two ways to go, which declares that genuine choice he had to keep making—for the Father whispering to him and against the animal instinct yelling at him—all the way through his life. He knew that he indeed was the subject of Ezekiel's good shepherd imagery:
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
However, to be that shepherd he couldn't go his own way, but had to choose to be conformed to what the Father asked him to be, which was not following what he may have wanted to grab hold of and command for his own self's service.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
He says, "I know that I am the good shepherd of Ezekiel's word, but my work as shepherd is not to be as the humans would have me to be, but to listen to the command of the Father—to which I am the only one privy—who tells me to lay down my life for the sheep, and only then can I save them and lead them into the land, which is the real relationship between them and Him. My work as shepherd is to lead them all to Him, to be with Him where He is, which is His enduring will and purpose, and the only way I can do that is if I lay down my life, for His sake and theirs."
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
A central message of the good shepherd was that the son could be freed by the transformation away from the constraints of what was in them—constantly pulled by the ring in its nose so that it was only able to love and serve its self—to a being who was not under that curse any longer. They were being called to the process of transformation from a creature that couldn't love to one that could. However, just as the good shepherd had to go through this process in a very specifically prescribed manner, so also each son is guided by the teacher who shows him the particular way he needs to go to get to the Father.
They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.
The purest example is Jesus. One once removed from his experience and closer to our own, is Paul. Yet the process was the same for both and has to be, as Jesus is the firstborn of many brothers who must go through the same process (undergo the same baptism) in order to become sons to God and brothers to each other.
You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.
Although he was different in a few respects—born of the spirit from conception caused him to be able to remain unstained by the animal—he was still able to be tempted to choose to be led by that nature, the point of the temptation showing that he didn't choose the animal, to the Father's delight, and the reason for the celebration in the spiritual world. The spirit worked quicker on a man like Paul at that time because of the joy and celebration in the spiritual world since the Father and Son were united and the giving of the new covenant was at hand, working together with Joel's word about the spirit being poured out.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
" 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.' "
Then after just a little while it started to slowly fade out, as the abomination started taking hold, becoming more complete as the land was made desolate of that condition of being inhabited by the spirit of the renewed body of God, in the sense of Jesus' addition to God's being. The slow momentum toward a restoral may be happening now as a kind of mirror of that time with a long period of darkness in between as it slowly gains force, which may culminate in the Lord having a proper bride waiting for him when he returns. On the other hand, his return could have only ever be referring to his coming back for those he loved, when he came back to them in his new form after having been made One with the Father, to inhabit their bodies as the Father had inhabited his own, fulfilling his promise to them to not leave them as orphans.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.
The level of concern for the brotherhood and family of God is reflected in Paul's sentiment in many of his letters. What the leaders of the hoards of religious institutions fail to recognize and realize is that the condition which existed in Paul went away, and it isn't available for the humans to just latch on to because they want to. There is no willingness that I have observed to admit it's not here now. If the assumptions of the christian leaders are correct, then the christian institutions are especially the places, after all these years of the evolution of that condition, where that same love and concern for the brotherhood and family of God should have been perfected by now. Yet if we take even a cursory survey amongst those who claim to know the way to God, there's nothing there but false sentimentality and intention.
Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
The reason this is so is not because they aren't trying hard enough, but because it went away. They act for the most and overriding part, not like Paul but like every ordinary run of the mill human animal in the world, religious or not, merely trying to survive in the many ways it's totally driven by instinct to survive. We know about this condition not because we have been separated from that condition, or are above it; but because we are that condition and we comprehend its totally consuming grasp it has on us to drive us by instinct to be a certain way—self-protecting, self-admiring fearful little animals who always want to hide from what we are in our true selves, the hidden parts of our hearts we keep locked behind our thick walls of defense.
So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
It just plainly doesn't exist, and the discrepancy of sentiment of Paul vs. modern church leaders is pretty transparent by anyone willing to be honest about it (themselves being the last, since they have so much too protect). That's why the sheep roam from church to church, looking inside them for what they hope to find—what seemed to drive and motivate Paul—but never being able to find it, so never being able to commit to any of them. The reason isn't because they are lacking in some thing they can just fix (what the leaders tell them, which plays on the fear and ignorance inside), and so can be reformed to being as Paul was. The reason is because the ability to be that way—under the terms of the new covenant—went away when the abomination happened, which cause the desolation of the land of that condition being available. God went away, which Daniel predicted and Jesus reaffirmed.
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
God could testify because the truth of Paul's devotion lived in his heart, and he knew only God could truly see into it to determine the extent of Paul's devotion and faithfulness to God's family. Paul was totally given over to being a shepherd and leader of the brotherhood, because he was gripped by that condition of being inhabited by the life force of the new Father/Son being, and under the new covenant promised by God through the mouths of His prophets. There was nothing about Paul in his ability to be or attain to that level of servant that he was—he was gripped and held there by that love and willingness of Jesus to please the Father.
I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
The Son had this section in Ezekiel brought into his mind while he grew up before the Father and learned about the leaders of Israel versus himself the good shepherd—what the Father wanted from them as commanded from Moses. This section of OT scripture, along with the stories of Abraham, Moses and David; was highly influential in teaching him about what God desired from a man who was after His heart, what He wanted from a shepherd and why the humans were so unable to ever give Him that level of faithfulness and loyalty to Him and His purpose. The humans so often took God's purpose and instead of conforming to it, tried to conform it to their own evil purpose as animals who were concerned about their own survival and self-preservation and promotion.
When he dealt with the leaders of Israel he saw the same thing being done by the men condemned by Ezekiel (God) in chapter 34. They were rich and looked after themselves, while the sheep roamed about unprotected. They didn't turn the hearts of the people toward God, but exploited the sheep for their own gain. They didn't help the sick or bind up the brokenhearted; they overlooked them in their desire to fulfill their own will, opposite to what was the heart of the law of Moses—that is, to love God with all their heart strength soul and mind, to be so concerned about the brotherhood of the people of God that they cared and were concerned about their brother who was also under the law as much as they loved and cared for their own struggle. They didn't overlook the poor, destitute, sick, widows and orphans because these were just a burden to them, but lifted them up and took care of them because they were children of Abraham, special and unlike any other people.
There was this choice they could make, to either gravitate toward the good, what God wanted for them and kept promising them in the law; or to be led by the evil that was within them, to choose what Adam chose, not what God offered them but what was naturally in them to draw them away from Him. And they constantly chose the latter, choosing themselves over God and their brothers. And by their actions, they taught the others to be like them, leading the other sheep astray. They didn't teach the sheep to be pure and devoted to God, nor did they lead them in the path that led to the Father, but instead taught them the values of man, what is in the humans instinctually—to be concerned about themselves and the way of the humans, which is to always cave in on the black hole of the self, never having enough, never feeling assured enough, never feeling safe so they always have to get more, have more and concentrate more on what they need to get for themselves.
The animal nature in its purest definition lives to drive its host to survive at all cost and to use whatever it can to do it, and then justify itself as to why that's the right thing to do. What God is looking for, amongst all those who are under this condition, is one who is honest, who recognizes his evil and his inability to escape from that condition, who wants to find the truth and doesn't accept the lie that everyone is telling him, esp. the leaders who claim to know the way to God, yet who cannot know because that way hasn't been made available to them because of their presumptuousness, and their assumption that God is so stupid, naive and simple.
The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him—may your hearts live forever!
The sheep were a burden to them instead of a responsibility, the opposite of how Jesus was and what he actually did, the opposite of what the humans instinctually are driven to be able to be. Instead of taking for himself the kingship of Israel (which was his right as Messiah, the temptation he thought about having), he did the thing God told him to do—be a shepherd for 12 lowly, ordinary men—then he died for them and the rest of God's family so that they could be redeemed. Instead of living for (saving) himself, he died for (saved) the others. That is a true perfection and value of Jesus, that he was responsible to the Father and did His work instead of his own. But the humans, because of the animal instincts that are naturally in them, are all geared toward the opposite of that. That is what makes them evil and unclean, unable to be brought near to God or ever be in His presence because of what they are by instinct.
At the age of 12 he mistakenly initiated the work. He was probably ready at that point to become king of Israel. He knew who he was, so it would have been easy for him to decide it was time to get things going. He knew that some of the kings had also been very young when they were installed over Judah. However, in reality, he had 18 more years of patiently enduring while he learned how to choose the right way and reject the wrong way, to learn who he was and to be prepared by God to do the work of the great shepherd. Moses had to be retrained and re taught for 40 years.
Moses and David were examples of good shepherds who had hearts pointed away from themselves and toward God and His interests. The instinctual animal that drives us can only think about itself and what it needs all the time and constantly strategize about how to get it. The good son develops a heart like his Father, and becomes something different than he would normally become or want to become under the animal's influence, because that power is in him to be transformed from animal to son. Every son, as Paul is trying to encourage the Philippians, becomes a shepherd of God's people according to his love for God and the brotherhood of His sheep—not for his own gain but purely out of love for his Father and the consuming interest in His interests.
God loves a soft heart because it says that the owner knows he is nothing before God, and is willing to become nothing or anything—whatever God wants to make him. He knows that there is nothing inherently good in him; and that he is willing to have his heart changed for the sake of the Lord, for the sake of His interests and not his own. True repentance about his lowly state is fueled by gratitude—a true understanding not of privilege, but that he should be destined for the grave and nothing more, forgotten by God like an insect.
"I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. "O LORD," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' " Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
This was a test for Moses, to allow him to choose the right way, to show his loyalty to God and His possession. The fact that God wanted to start over with Moses instead of Abraham probably sounded like a pretty palatable thing for him at the time. The people wearied Moses, they aroused the anger that made him sin against God. It certainly would have been easy for Moses to start over by himself, to lose this pack of disobedient ingrates that caused him so much work and pain, and caused him to sin against God in an angry rage. But he chose instead to intercede for the people who caused him so much grief. His reaction showed that his heart was given over to being that shepherd who God wanted him to be.
I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.
David was a good shepherd, he led God's people toward him, seen in the renewal taking place under David's leadership as recorded in the Chronicles accounts—unlike so many of the leaders of Israel and Judah before and after him. Still, David could only be a copy because of that condition he was plagued with. He had already been dead 350 years when Ezekiel wrote this, so of course it's not about David himself, but the better thing he could only be a copy of. David and Moses point to the Lord, the greatest shepherd, who took care of the sheep that he was given. He went against the animal in him, which can only take care of itself. He did the hardest work, which saved all of God's sons. He took responsibility for killing the animal nature that rules over man, and provided an escape from death for those whom God loves.
He took responsibility for His Father's interests over his own, because that very thing is what strikes at the heart of the animal nature, God's enemy. The Son of God didn't befriend and love his Father's enemy. Instead he learned to recognize the same enemy that His Father did. The good son learns to love what his Father loves and hate what his Father hates. That makes them good sons, because the good son takes responsibility for his Father's interests and His struggles. He takes His work and fight—His life—onto his own shoulders and does the work of his Father.For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
I used to say "I love the Lord, and I love my Father," when I prayed. Now I say that I want to love the Lord, I want to know, understand and experience the love of God. I want to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God," because I don't know those things. The animal nature and instincts that live in me are always at work, making me choose myself, making it impossible to be as Paul was, so totally given over to the brotherhood. For one thing, there is no actual brotherhood that exists today as it did in Paul's time, only the hope of its eventual return, the hope of true community and true fellowship because of being filled with the knowledge of the true God and Jesus.
Until that time, there is no hope but to hope for something better than what exists now, being driven by those natural instincts to love myself. The reality is that my flesh, my animal nature, is always making me serve and love my self; pulling me toward the earth and my needs, so that I cannot love God or anyone else. I can only say I want it with my mouth, because I can't even mean it in my heart; that natural pull toward self-preservation and fulfillment is so strong and so embedded even right into my thoughts that there's no escaping it, since it's that close to me, since it is me. Just as soon as I've said it, then I turn around and think about how to please myself without even thinking, and I know that that is the curse I am under, and it's real, not made up, and that is the real truth about who I actually am.
For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.