THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
BY: GEORGE R. HAWTIN
The long day of toil was over for David, the stripling son of Jesse. The sun had kissed the Palestinian hills a fond good night and was gone beyond the western horizon to bless and gladden other lands. The Lord with rosy pigments painted the glowing sunset on the canvas of the sky while Mother Nature with gentle fingers drew the shades of night across the windows of heaven. Deep shadows creep along the country lanes; The birds are winging homeward to their nests. Bright little lights wink out from window panes, And bid the weary toiler home to rest.
And, when each sheep had passed beneath the shepherd’s rod and not one lamb was found to be missing, David, the shepherd and sweet singer of Israel, sat down to meditate, to sing and to play. The song the Holy Spirit inspired his shepherd heart to sing was this:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou an with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou prepares” a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
With the possible exception of the Lord’s prayer we would be right in saying that this psalm is the best known, the most frequently quoted and dearly loved of all the writings of the holy scriptures. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Because all scripture is given by inspiration from God and is profitable in so many ways, every child of God should seek to fill his heart and mind with all its holy truth. The great benefit in storing the word of God within the heart is manifested in that it cleanses the spirit, enlightens the eyes, and gives knowledge to the simple and understanding to the saints who walk in the ways of the Lord.
As I waited before God this morning, the words of this psalm came like a ray of dawn over the meadows of my heart. For months I have been praying that the Lord would especially lead me, together with all His elect people, in these perilous times that herald the close of the age. Surely everyone who has a serious thought must know how important it is in these days of tribulation to be led by the Holy Spirit. Make no mistake about it! Let the message ring clearly within our hearts, for God has declared, and none can alter the decree, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.“ (Rom. 8:14) They are the ones who will be possessors of the mind of Christ and they will stand tall among God’s sons on that wonderful day when He speaks this word to all creation: “Here am I and the children (sons) whom Thou hast given Me.” “Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone that bath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matt. 19:28-30)
In the twenty-third psalm it can be plainly seen that the Holy Spirit is taking the events in the working day of a shepherd in Israel as an inspirational basis for the words of the psalm. Each event and activity of the shepherd’s day was turned into a delightful allegory, vividly portraying a spiritual truth, every one of which should comfort our hearts as daily we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. It has always been a delight to me to discover how men and women from all walks of life find spiritual meaning from the details of their own occupation. The farmer tells of the miracle of a seed that was planted in the ground. He speaks of the preparation of the soil and the marvelous increase of the harvest. In his work he sees the corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies and beholds the increase that comes forth in its image. The physician speaks of the marvels of the body – the head, which is Christ, and the body, which we are. The architect thinks of the wonders of God’s creation and how all things are designed by Him, and we can hear the astronomer breathing forth the words: “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou an mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” (Psa. 8:3-6)
It is no wonder, then, that Jesus spoke of ravens, and sparrows, and lilies, and corns of wheat that fall into the ground and die, of sunrises and sunsets, of fig trees, and hens that gather their little ones under their wings; of shepherds and sheep and folds for flocks, of men who build their houses on the sand and others who build upon the rock; of sowers that go forth to sow their seed in every place, and of oxen that are led away to the watering on the Sabbath day, and much more besides.
Thus spoke David, the shepherd son of Israel, as he likened the varied activities of his day to our earthly journey through the valley of the shadow of death to the eternal abode in the house of the Lord, of which I will later speak more particularly. David was a shepherd and he knew that sheep have very little sense of direction. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” said Isaiah the prophet, Sheep, left to themselves, are prone to wander and go astray. This young man, who so early in life had learned the hardships of a pastoral life, knew full well that the greatest requirement in a shepherd is to have a shepherd’s heart. He had learned by experience that great truth uttered centuries later by Jesus, the Son of God, “The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” (John 10:13) This David is the man who, as a stripling, stood before king Saul of Israel, declaring his ability to fight with Goliath of Gath. and the words he uttered were these: “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he bath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.” (1 Sam. 17:34-38)
David had a shepherd’s heart. He was no hireling or striker who would not work an hour overtime without double pay. Many a night he had sought for sheep that had gone astray and many a day he had bound up the sores of the wounded, pouring in oil and wine to heal them. Thus it was that as he thought of his work as a shepherd of sheep, the Spirit reminded him that there was one great shepherd in heaven on high who was the leader and pastor of all mankind. With his heart bursting with the truth of the message, methinks he picked up his harp and sang in the Spirit, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” What David was singing for himself he was singing for all those who put their trust in the Lord, for Jesus Christ the Son of God has declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, who giveth His life for the sheep.
During the months that have passed there has come into my heart a longing to be rid of all unnecessary and superfluous things – unnecessary words, unauthorized works, and all human programs. The scripture is very explicit in its statement, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The things we do and say when we are thus led by the Spirit of God are never idle, useless, or superfluous, for the Lord is our shepherd. As the days pass swiftly by and we find ourselves treading the path that leads through this present valley of the shadow of death unto the sunlit hills of the kingdom age, many things give us much concern as we go. Paul once described the difficulties of the way by saying, “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” (2 Cor. 7:5) However brave our hearts may be, we soon discover that all who are called to the sonship which His gracious foreknowledge has ordained will find themselves encompassed by enemies and in the good fight of faith often thwarted, defeated, and beset by many fears until we learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in the living God, who raises even the dead. We must learn that it is through our tribulation and seeming defeat that we begin to see our true calling. We must come to understand that God has not called many wise men after the flesh. He has not called many mighty nor many noble. If, indeed, He has, I do not seem to know who they are, and, when such are called of Him, all their earthly glory must be abased.
Rather than call wise men after the flesh, God bath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise – that is to say, the things which the world deems foolish – even as it has been written, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Cor. 1:25, 27) Even the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who have been saved such preaching is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Thus it follows that, after mankind has made the discovery that he cannot be saved from sin or delivered from death by his own wisdom, but through the foolishness of the faith we preach he finds peace and forgiveness with God, then the cross, which hitherto had seemed foolishness and a stumbling stone to his earthly wisdom, is found indeed to be both the wisdom of God and the power of God. “There was a little city and few men within it, and there came a great king against it and beseiged it and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.” (Eccles. 9:14-18)
“The Lord is my shepherd,” David sang, and centuries later Jesus, the son of David, the Son of God and the promised Redeemer, re-echoing the truth that David spoke, said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” Many were the perils of sheep in the Holy Land. There were wolves and bears and lions, poisonous snakes, thorn bushes, rushing streams, cliffs and rocky terrain. The shadow of death was ever present. It is into such a shadow as this that we through the wisdom of God are being led from day to day. Whether we are ready to accept it or not, the fact remains that the difficulties of the way are ordained by the wisdom of God, and these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
“He that entereth by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” (John 10:3) These words are founded upon the fact that in the near east sheepfolds often were built to accommodate the flocks of several shepherds, but there was never any danger of the sheep becoming mixed or lost to their shepherd because each one possessed that God-given instinct to know the voice of its own shepherd. They steadfastly refused to follow a stranger. That is why Jesus said, “A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5) At the beginning of each day “the sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:3, 4)
Many centuries ago the apostle Paul wrote, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world…” (I Cor. 14:10) To that statement of truth we can say a very sad Amen. There were many voices in the world in his day, and I think their number must have multiplied an hundred fold in our day. Voices! Voices! Voices calling us here and there to do this or that, everyone with a doctrine, with a tongue or a revelation, but so few who follow Christ, knowing only His voice! “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ” was the divisive clamor of the Corinthian church, and Paul, rebuking their factious spirit with the severity of which he was capable, enquired of them, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or are ye baptized in the name of Paul?” I suppose that even the Corinthians would have been horrified at such suggestions as these. Nevertheless they still persisted in their schisms as the Christians do today. Paul did not stop with this scathing rebuke! He showed them the wickedness that lay beneath all this variance and rift within the camp when he said with no uncertain voice, “Ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:3, 4)
Oh that God’s people would consider that Paul and Apollos and all other men who are called of God are nothing more than ministers by whom they believed and not a Christ to be followed! When Christians follow a man, however good that man may be, they make him a false shepherd, a false prophet, and a false christ because they persist in following him instead of following Christ and being joined to Him who is the only head of the body. This wicked spirit of “I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos” fills the world today. The names of sects, denominations, and famous men are legion and every one of them becomes a false christ because each and every one of them conveys the impression to his followers that only if they follow his particular way can they be saved.
Christians today for the most part are not following the Good Shepherd. They are following religious systems, and those who are not following systems are following famous men. It makes my heart ache when they talk to me or write to me, and I am usually struck dumb in their presence as I listen to their childish prattle. If men and women become followers of me, what will they do when I pass from this earthly scene? However true I may have been before God, doubtless I have become a false shepherd to them if they have followed me instead of Christ. Well meaning people often write me, requesting me to tell them the story of my life, explain my background, my religious persuasions and all the rest. I am not particularly ashamed of my past, but I see nothing special about it. It is no more worthy of praise or comment than is theirs who write. I, too. am a sheep of His pasture. I seek, as they, to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes. What can any saint desire more than this, since He is the Shepherd of us all, who has given His life for the sheep that He might give His life to the sheep?
Some years ago I went to visit an old friend who lay dying in the hospital. We had been farmer boys together down on the Saskatchewan prairies. In his mid-thirties the year 1935 he had been convened in a meeting my wife and I held in a little country schoolhouse. “Brother Hawtin,” he said, “God has given me a word of wisdom that I would like to pass on to you.” These are the words he spoke: “Look not at the past; it is forgotten. Nor peer into the future; it will yet unfold. But live today in the eternal present, for where the Lord is it is now, today.” I was so impressed with these words that I hastened to write them down lest I should forget them, and for some hours I walked in a daze as they gripped my head. Oh that God’s people would forget the past and all the blunders and errors and sins of the way! The past is a thing forgotten just as surely as He has buried our sins, never to be remembered against us any more. We have been redeemed by the blood of the everlasting covenant. The will He made He confirmed by the shedding of His own blood, signifying that He died that He might give His life to us. How good it would be if preachers who have been saved from lives of sin would cease from the vanity of advertising their past crimes to draw crowds to their meetings! Do they not know and will they never learn that “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret”? Eph. 5:12. It is not the parading of the rottenness of the flesh that brings men to Christ. But Jesus showed the way when He said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.
We are living in perilous times. I doubt that in all time since the foundations of the world so many strange voices have been heard calling the saints to follow them. I speak the solemn truth when I tell you that there is some inborn wickedness in the heart of every man, whether small or great, that craves for disciples to follow him. We can almost hear the hurt in the soul of Paul, who, after speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, warned them of this danger in the following words: “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts. 20:39, 30) What an obnoxious situation this is! Yet we must face the fact that every denomination and sect from the least to the greatest is a sheep stealer and all the great names in this sick, abortive, modern evangelism are continually seeking to draw away disciples after themselves. Seek to follow only Christ, my brother, and, when you follow only Him, you will make the blessed discovery that you are not only in harmony with God, but in fellowship with every believer who also follows only Him.
It was never my privilege to be a shepherd of natural sheep, but I had a very dear friend who had spent most of his life in that occupation. He could interest me by the hour, telling me the remarkable ways of sheep. It should be in our interest to know that, though healthy sheep follow only the voice of the shepherd, a sick sheep will follow the voice of a stranger. This, then, must be the reason Christians follow organized religion instead of following Christ and Him alone. They have become sick from starvation and spiritual malnutrition. They have lost their grip on Christ, the Good Shepherd, and they have turned to following hirelings whose care is not for the flock, but for the fleece for building up their own earthly kingdom.
I wish I could tell you some simple formula by which all men could know the voice of the Good Shepherd and by which they could easily distinguish it from every other voice, but no such simple formula exists. We come to know the voice of Christ only by hearing it Just as a mother can distinguish between the voices of her children by continually hearing them, so also by hearing do we come to know the voice of Christ as distinct from other voices. It is a spiritual understanding which cannot be mistaken if we live in contact with Him. He it was who said, “My sheep know My voice.” There is only one way they could possibly know that voice and that is by hearing it in the depths of their spirit. Again I say it is a spiritual thing – not that He speaks in audible tones, for He seldom does, but there is an inner voice that comes from an inner contact, and I can explain little more than that.
If we would hear the voice of Christ speaking to our spirit within, it is of utmost necessity that we give ourselves to seasons of fasting and prayer. Fasting cleanses the body and enlightens the spiritual eyes of a man, bringing light and understanding to his head. Fasting has the effect of breaking the bondages that tie us to this corrupt world system and all the things that belong to it so that our spirit is liberated from the flesh to go out to meet with God. Fasting loosens us from the power of the flesh, which is the physical body. All passions and desires of the physical flesh resist and stand in the way to hinder the growth of the spiritual man.
A healthy person can easily fast for ten days or three weeks, not only without harm to the body, but with very much spiritual benefit. Diseases of all descriptions can be cured by a long fast simply because the body has time to rid itself of the poisons it has accumulated for decades. But the physical blessing is as nothing compared to the benefit attained in the spirit, for in fasting and prayer the inner man hears the voice of God and comes to know in secret the sound of His voice and not the voice of strangers. You will have trouble the first time or two you fast; make no mistake about that. The eating habit holds your inner man far more in bondage to the flesh than you ever dreamed possible. Indeed, your communion with God during the first five or six days of a fast may seem to be less than nothing, but it is afterward that the benefit will be realized. Even Jesus, when He fasted forty days, was tempted sorely of the devil, and I suppose the sorest temptation of them all was this: “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The temptation to break your fast by eating is very real, especially with beginners in fasting. It is a temptation that should be resisted with great spiritual resolve. You will probably feel as though you are ready to die, but your condition is well described in the words of Paul, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)
Learn to listen to the voice of Christ and by listening you will discern that it is the voice of the Good Shepherd. Give ear to His voice much more than you do to the clamoring voices of men. You will be surprised, when you wait before Him, to see just how many wonderful things He will drop into your heart. His voice is a still, small voice that can only be heard when all other voices are stilled and when personal ambitions fade from your heart. When the soul is hushed, the spirit stilled, and the ceaseless demands of the body are put to naught, then the voice of the Good Shepherd is heard speaking in His holy temple, which is your inner man, revealing His truth, manifesting His will, and transforming the spirit into the image of Him that created it. Someone once said to a man of God, “I would give all the world for an experience like yours!” “That is just what it cost me,” the man replied, and that is true.
The more you live in communion with Christ the more obvious will be the voice of strangers. I cannot explain this inner knowledge. You must experience it for yourself. The man who lives in harmony with the Spirit of God is able to smell the rottenness of the flesh, even at a distance. I have heard unholy men praising the Lord, but my spirit recoiled from them – not that I knew their manner of life, but I sensed the emptiness of their spirit. I have heard men preach good sermons, but I knew they had neither part nor lot in “this inheritance.” Never give heed to a showy outward appearance however good it may look or sound, for false prophets wear rough garments to deceive and grievous wolves come dressed in sheep’s clothing. Learn to know the voice of strangers. If they are out of touch with Christ, the Spirit will not bear witness to them. Once the Spirit has failed to witness for them, you must steadfastly refuse to try to persuade yourself to favor them. I do not mean that you must always understand a man’s message or that his message must harmonize with old tradition, for often times words that you do not understand may have the joyful ring of truth. They will be in harmony both with God’s word and the Holy Spirit within you.
“The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Rom. 13:12-14)
“When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” (John 10:4) Not all people are the Lord’s sheep. Jesus Himself once said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” They were His because by His blood He purchased the whole world, for God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. The completion of that reconciliation, however, takes ages of time, though the price has been paid for every man. Not until the dispensation of the fullness of times will God gather the “all things” into Christ. Eph. 1:10. Christian people make a great mistake when they imagine that it is God’s will to gather all mankind into the fold now. God has no such intention. His intention is first to gather in an elect “in Christ” company. How good it would be if men could see, however dimly, the implications of the term in Christ! It means so much more than simple justification by faith! To be in Christ means to be included among those many brethren of whom it is written, “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29) These are the true body of Christ and the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, Eph. 1:23, or, as Weymouth says, “The completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.” We have been guilty of using the term “in Christ” with deplorable looseness. There is a primary sense in which all Christians are in Christ because they are believers and are justified, yet on closer examination the in Christ are shown to be a very elect sonship company, all born of God, who are being transformed into the very image and likeness of Jesus Christ, that first begotten Son.
It is not God’s intention nor is it even God’s will to bring all mankind into the fold during this present age. This sad notion that the Father would, if He could, save all men in this age has thrown the entire age of grace into turmoil and disorder. Well-meaning people have worked themselves into nervous breakdowns in their efforts to get all men and all nations to receive Christ now, in this age. They have added greatly to their confusion by teaching the ridiculous and untenable doctrine that would have us believe that all who are not partakers of God’s grace in this age will be lost and that forever more. The utter stupidity of this widely accepted doctrine was set forth with great clarity by the apostle James, who, standing before the apostles at Jerusalem, plainly declared God’s intention, first for this present age and secondly for the age to come. These are the inspired and indisputable words He spoke: “Simon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles (nations) to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this (after He has taken out a people) I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:14-18)
The passage quoted above unfolds the plan of God, first for this age of grace – that is, to take out a people for His name, which simply means the “in Christ” people. After this company is made complete during this age of grace, the Lord will return (verse 16) and set up the tabernacle of David that is fallen down. This simply means that Christ and the in-Christed sons will set up the kingdom and reign on the throne of David over all the earth in one glorious kingdom, in which all will be set right. During that age of righteousness the residue of men will seek the Lord.
The word residue simply means the remainder or surplus after a pan has been separated or otherwise treated. (Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary). How beautifully clear and simple that is! It is the lifting up of Him that brings men to Christ. The elect are being separated now. These are the Lord’s sheep. The in-Christed ones are being prepared, not to go to heaven, but to reign with Christ in the kingdom of God, during which time the residue of all mankind will seek the Lord.
Should there be any doubt remaining concerning God’s intention for those blessed ages to come – the kingdom of God and the fullness of times – such doubt is fully allayed by that one last sweeping statement, “And all the Gentiles (nations) upon whom My name is called.” I shall not try to differentiate here between the two phrases the residue and all the Gentiles, but I think this passage, as translated in Weymouth‘s original, throws much light upon it. This is what he says. “Afterwards I will return, and will rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will set it up again; that the rest of mankind may seek after the Lord – even all the nations which are called by My name.” The rest of mankind includes all nations of men on the face of the earth which are not Israel nations – Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Africans, and many others. The nations which are “called by My name” are the Israel nations, all of which at the present time are nominally Christian nations with the exception of a small segment of Judah.
Now you are going to demand, “But what about the people who have already died and have passed from the scene without even hearing of Christ?” I reply in the words of Paul: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” What is the resurrection for if it is not for judgment? And what is judgment but pure justice? What is more just than that the eyes of the blind should be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, and that they should hear that one true message, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us (the in-Christed) the word of reconciliation?” (2 Cor. 5:19) Oh that Christian people might pray for the spirit of understanding that they might see that our omniscient God knows His own business! He knows what He is about. His purposes have not been foiled and frustrated by a devil who was created by God Himself for the specific purpose of resisting His will. The devil was a murderer from the beginning. He never was the anointed cherub that we have erroneously made him to be. He has no power at all except what has been delegated to him that God’s people may be made strong in resisting evil and that they may be complete overcomers in all things. Temptation is an absolute necessity to strong spiritual growth.
We cannot be overcomers without temptation. God never intended His people to be pansies, but mighty pillars of strength, capable of overcoming evil in God’s name and fully equipped to restore the whole universe to the image of God. Let Christians abandon Babylon‘s nonsensical notion that would liken God and Satan to two powerful and clever wrestlers, contending with each other for the universe and the souls of men. Only God is almighty! Only God is omniscient, immutable, omnipresent and eternal! The mightiest nations are but dust in the balances with Him and, when they have fulfilled their purpose, they are dusted off as a woman would dust her mantel-piece. “… The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” Dan. 4:17 Mighty nations who defy God are permitted to continue only as long as He wills. Then they are dusted off as chaff from the balances when their baseness has served its purpose in purifying the people of God.
Learn, oh man of God, that it is the Lord who rules. It is the Lord who purposes and who brings His purposes to pass. None can stay His hand or say to Him, “What doest Thou?” His will is supreme in all earth and heaven and, when He says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, then let us preach no sermons about God’s will being frustrated by the puny will of man. When He says it is His will that all should come to repentance, then rest assured that His will shall be carried out in every detail and that every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall confess to God that Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. No man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps I have wandered away from my subject, but I have done so that it might be seen that the Good Shepherd is faithfully doing His work. He is the shepherd of all mankind and will faithfully gather the last sheep into the fold. The Lord is not satisfied even when ninety and nine are in the fold. He seeks the lost until He finds it and will bring them all in their own appointed time and in their own order. The church system— Babylon, which is confusion and disorder – has taught that the majority of men will be lost, and this is supposed to be “good tidings”. The system has taught and still is teaching that for every one that will be saved ninety-nine will be lost. They have reversed the parable of the ninety and nine. Matt. 18:12. They have one sheep in the fold and ninety-nine lost, not only in the hills, but in hell, and that forever. The words forever, everlasting, and eternal do not belong in the Bible. The words aion and aionian, from which these words are translated, mean age or age-lasting and have nothing to do with forever and ever. It is impossible for an age to be forever simply because an age belongs to time.
This is the day and the dispensation when Jesus, the good and great shepherd of the sheep, is calling His own sheep by name. “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of Him.” (I Cor. 8:2,3) The people who love God are the ones Christ knows by name. He has a special eye for them; they are the special objects of His care. They are being prepared now above all others. Not that He does not love all others, but rather that their time for special calling and attention has not yet arrived. The time for the other sheep will come, but first of all He must take out a people for His name.
See then what the Good Shepherd is doing in this present hour. These sheep which He knows by name are being led out. He “leadeth them out,” He ‘putteth them forth.“ John 10:4 I cannot resist repeating the fact that we are living in the end of the age. All the governments of the world are Babylon. All the church systems of the world are Babylon. The Roman system is Babylon. The Protestant system is Babylon. The former is the mother of harlots; the latter, the harlot daughters. The union between the two systems is Babylon the great. All is confusion. All is disorder. That the whole world system, whether political or religious, is collapsing even the blindest man can see. Every pillar is rotten, every foundation standing on sinking sand. Riches are corrupted. Garments are moth-eaten. “The gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them is a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.” James 5:3 The governments are rotten to the core. The morals of the people are collapsing. Families and homes are broken down. Famines and pestilence’s stalk the earth with increasing horror. Earthquakes are becoming more severe. Hail stones as large as soft balls have fallen here in Saskatchewan. Men’s hearts are failing them for fear and for looking after the things that are coming on the earth, for the power of the heavens is shaken. If there ever was a time when mankind needed a shepherd, it is certainly now!
Let us notice this truth more closely. “He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out.” This is the day John saw at Patmos in which, at the end of the dispensation of grace, Christ would be calling, “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.” (Rev. 18:4) Every man that will heed that voice is being led out, led out of the world and out of the systems to follow God. I am sure that any man who will face the present situation honestly, prayerfully viewing the course of the age as it really is, will hear the voice of God calling, “Come out from among them and be separate.”
Because I am constantly exhorting Christians to abandon the church systems, people are continually telling me that I am bitter against the system. There is no truth in that. I have nothing to be bitter about. I simply see the situation as it is portrayed in God’s word, and practically everything I say is nothing more or less than a repetition of what the scripture has repeatedly stated. Can you condemn me for calling it a harlot system when God’s word describes it as such? Is it wrong to call people out of a building that is collapsing, even though that building be the Tower of Babel itself? I must confess I care very little what people say or think, but I care greatly for the message that God has put in my head.
Those who are called by His name are being led out, and, as it is said in verse 4, “When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him and they know His voice.” Be assured of this: The Good Shepherd of the sheep, who is calling us to come out, has also promised that He will go before us, and those who will obey Him may assure their hearts that, when they start to follow Him separate and apart from the disorder and confusion of all systems of religion, they will come to know Him more intimately in a few short weeks than in all their previous lifetime. Surely the blindest man can see that there is no spiritual growth in the church system! Their tendency is always backward. What denomination since time began has gone forward to greater light and understanding? Only in numbers do they increase. In all else they backslide until their people have a name that they live, but are dead.
“When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them.” These are the words of Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, and how similar they are to the words of David, who said, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake?” Here, walking in the light of His presence, we find ourselves treading in green pastures. There is plenty of food in God’s word and the amount left over increases with the increase of the number who eat it. The more there are to eat it the more there is left over. It is like the loaves and fishes which, when blessed, fed the hungry multitude – five thousand men besides at least as many women and several times as many children – but when they had eaten all they could after their three days of fasting, there were left over twelve baskets full.
There is much beautiful truth in the words of David, “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Shepherds of the east are very careful about their names. They do not become good shepherds by having a bad name. They do not want to be known as hirelings nor cowards in the face of danger. They do not want to be careless of their sheep, leaving them sick, in danger, of half starved. This is what David had in mind when he wrote the words, ‘for His name’s sake.’ And let us remember that this whole psalm is prophetic. It is really referring to Jesus Christ. He who leads His people out has a special eye for them for His own name’s sake. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. This is the ultimate in goodness, and all else that we could mention is secondary to that. All the riches of God in Christ Jesus come to us through the death and, above all, the resurrection of the Good Shepherd of the sheep. “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” (Psa. 34:10)
David ended his beautiful psalm with these words: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” For want of space we must regretfully pass over much of the teaching and beauty of this psalm to conclude with the significant words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The house of the Lord is really the body of Christ. House in scripture very frequently means household. For instance, we often read such statements as these: “There was war between the house of Saul and the house of David.” or “Is there any left of the house of Saul?” Also we often read of the house of Judah or the house of Israel. The meaning cannot be mistaken. It means family or household. Thus it was that, when David said’ “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” he knew that he was a member of God’s family and thus a member of God’s household. He knew that he was a part of that mystical body of Christ, that company of younger sons that were to be born. The house of the Lord is “the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1) It is the place of which Jesus spoke when He said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” (John 14:20) It is the place of which Paul spoke when he said, “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (I Cor. 3:9) This is the house Peter so beautifully described when he likened the elect believers to stones in God’s house, saying, “Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The very corner stone of that house is none other than the first perfected Son, Jesus Christ, who Himself was of the household of David. Matt. 1:1. Our Lord Jesus Christ referred to His own body as the temple of God, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” (John 2: 19) and explains that He spoke of the temple of His body.
John 2:21. Every saint should remember that “His body” does not consist only of the flesh and bones which formed the human tabernacle of Jesus of Nazareth, but of that whole household of His saints, who by one Spirit are baptized into one body. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:4-6)
It is true that there is but one body and that body is the body of Christ. It is true there is but one baptism, and of that one baptism the apostle has said, “By one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body… and have been all made to drink of one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:13) Therefore we are “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” (Eph. 5:30) This is His glorious body. He who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, is the head of His body, the church. Col. 1:18. He is not head of denominations and sects that call themselves the church, but He is the head of the true church, the true ecclesia that are called out to follow Him, who are baptized into His body and made members of His house, the holy temple of the Lord.
We must forget about denominations and sects when we speak of the body of Christ, for they are not the church but the harlots of the Babylon system. There is but one body even as there is but one Spirit and one God and Father of all. Learn to see beyond the visible things of man’s building into the realm of the invisible, for there we will see the house God is building. The works of man shall be thrown down so that there will not be one stone left upon another, but the house of God shall never fall. The mystery of the true church, the body of Christ, is the mystery that has been hid from ages and generations. It is the secret of God’s mind from the beginning, but that secret is now being made manifest to His saints, “to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles (nations); which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)
God hath put all things under the feet of Christ (we saints who live in the end of the age are the feet), and gave Him (Christ) to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. Eph. 1:22, 23. The true church, the true body of the saints, composes the fullness of Christ.
We must learn by the Spirit that Christ consists of both head and body. Jesus Christ, the oldest Son, is the head. The head is first born. The elect and chosen sons are now coming into His likeness. They are the body. Without them there would be no fullness or completeness of Christ any more than a man would be complete if he were a head without a body or a body without a head. It is this glorious body that is going to fill the universe with the government of God. It is His glorious body that filleth all in all, or, as Weymouth so beautifully puts it, “God… has appointed Him universal and supreme Head of the church, which is His body, the completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.” Eph. 1:23 (Weymouth)
This is “My Father’s house”, the house of many mansions, of many, many living stones. This is the house of which David spoke, saying, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psa. 84:10) To this statement my soul sings a thousand Amens. This is the house of which the good shepherd of Israel sang when he saw its glory at journey’s end. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, THE [George R. Hawtin] 1