The King, His Sheep, and the Wolves
There are brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world today who are suffering beatings, losing their earthly possessions, losing their families, losing their jobs, and losing their lives because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Matthew 10:16-20 (KJV)
It is interesting the way our Lord uses the likenesses of “sheep” and “wolves”. Sheep our weak, always in need of protection, and need of a shepherd to lead them to the right place for grazing, ie. feeding. A flock of sheep without a shepherd will eat in a place until there is nothing left to eat, and then, starve. The wolf, on the other hand is strong and often vicious. The vicious temperment is the thing which Jesus is wanting us to see. They protect themselves, they hunt for food themselves, and in our case sheep is their food.
In our study here the disciples/apostles are the sheep. Those who would follow Jesus are likened to the sheep. It is said that Jesus upon seeing a group of people saw them, “as sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Jesus is our Shepherd. He leads us to still waters, green pastures, gives us peace and leads us through valley’s of death. His rod is used for our correction and our comfort. (See Psalm 23).
Anyone who would tell us, “O, the Christian life is a breeze. It is really easy. There is no difficulty in all the world for the Christian” is living in a fantasy land, and is deceived or out and out naive. The reason I included that last statement is because I preached a sermon in a church a few years ago, on the struggles of being a Christian, and following the message and the end of the evening service, one dear lady of the church came up to me, and quickly told me, “I have not found the Christian life to be difficult, but rather fulfilling, and a joy”. I think I told her that I could agree with the latter part of what she said, but that there was still difficult times being a Christian. Jesus is warning us in the text of just that. There are people who are going to hate, and despise us, because they hate and despise our Shepherd.
The wolves of course represent false teachers who would teach things contrary to the gospel of Jesus. They actully seek to destroy those who are true to Christ and the truth, and the Church of the Lord Jesus. They bring in the “damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1) which Peter the apostle writes of. These teachers/preachers know that what they say is not in keeping with Biblical/orthodox Christian teaching. At the least they have themselves been deceived by the enemy of Christ. This is why the true followers of Jesus Christ must be vigilant to present the gospel and the whole counsel of the Word of God (Acts 20:27).
When we are treated with such vehement hatred, and disdain we are to respond as Jesus would and did. Jesus tells us, “Be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. As for the wisdom of serpents they do not seek the attention of men; but rather are prone to avoid attention. The following is commentary from John Gill from the e-Sword version of his commentary:
- The serpent is a very sharp sighted, cunning creature, and uses various arts and stratagems for its own preservation, and especially of its head; and is so far to be imitated by the followers of Christ, as to make use of all proper methods to preserve themselves from the insults and rage of men, and not expose themselves to unnecessary dangers: and, as much as in them lies, they should be careful to give no just occasion of offence, or irritate, and provoke them to use them ill, and to avoid all snares and traps that are laid for them; and, at the same time, maintain the innocence and harmlessness of the dove, being free from all wicked cunning and craftiness, without rancour, malice, and wrath; not meditating and seeking revenge, but meek and humble in their deportment, leading inoffensive lives, and proceeding in the course of their calling, though liable to many insults, and much oppression.
When we look at a dove we see a bird which is so quiet, peaceful, and genteel. The dove as most people know is recognized as the symbol for peace all over the world. For the Christian the dove is a symbol of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is to rule our hearts, even when we are being persecuted.
There will be times that we will be delivered to the judges, and we should trust the Lord to give us the words to say. Trust Him completely, and not be worried about what the world says as we go about doing the will of our Lord and God. All Christians should count it a joy to be brought before kings and governors, because they need Jesus as Lord and Savior too. The Holy Spirit speaking through us does not come without us working at studying, reading, and applying the written Word of God in our lives. When the Word of God is needing spoken it will be there in our hearts and minds, only if we have hidden it there (Psalm 119:11).