LOWING CATTLE AND BLEATING SHEEP
How blessed and marvelous is a dedicated church whose members are on fire for God! Their motive and purpose is to please God, and to influence others toward Him. They understand that Christ is the head of the church, the Savior of the body, and that His Word is sweet, even so highly desired as the very bread of life. In my mind, this was the status of the early churches of Paul’s ministry. I think of Ephesus in particular having had the privilege of visiting that ancient city. Ephesus fell into decay and is no more. The zealous church that the apostle planted there is also gone, having suffered marginalization, persecution, and pressures from a godless, but religious society. It is interesting to note that only a few decades after its birth, the church received stern warning from Jesus in the words, “I have somewhat against thee…” Though commended for some spiritual assets, the charge must have been stinging to their hearts. They had busied themselves with religious activity instead of the necessary, personal, one-on-one relationship with Christ Jesus; hence, they were told “. . . thou hast left thy first love.” Rev. 2:4. Simply put, they were engaged in religion, but their motives were misdirected. Could they turn a deaf ear to the Lord? Could they continue as a church that way? The answer is “yes” but they would not be a church belonging to the Lord Jesus. They must remember from where they had fallen, repent or else they would lose their candlestick (be severed from Christ as His body). This problem did not end with the Ephesians. It goes on in wholesale manner today. All of God’s people need to re-think Samuel’s confrontation with Saul when the king declared he had done the will of God. Samuel asked, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” I Sam. 15:14. The prophet then replied: “. . . Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” I Sam. 15:22 Church activities may involve a lot of misdirected motives! But, God is pleased when His people return to their first love: a personal relationship with God and His Holy Word. Forget the fat cattle and sheep, and the “sacrifices” to the Lord that cost you nothing! Let the Creator’s Word reign supreme in practical obedience to its meaning!