“Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
A flock . . . a little one!
God the Father. . . and His good pleasure!
The Kingdom . . . His gift!
The above given fragments of the text, rightly understood and in their proper relation to each other, spell a peace and tranquility for the Church of Christ in the midst of the world, that no poverty can disturb, no overwhelming foe can possibly diminish. Essentially that puts heaven in the soul; gives songs in the night and causes smiles through the tears of the weary trudging pilgrim—gives hope in deepest despair.
For, that apparently there is all reason for doubt and despair none will deny. This will become evident when the addressees are understood from their name and as to their calling. Taking their name of “little flock” in conjunction with the context, cf. verse 22, it is plain that they are the disciples of Jesus. Disciples are those that imbibe the teachings and follow the directions of their leader and therefore, in this case, the followers of Christ. . . His church.
That church, essentially one throughout the ages, is, a “flock”. A scriptural and very apt description of the church, this name is. A thoroughly scriptural term as applied to the church, for such she was already called in the Old Testament scriptures time and again. Beautifully, in the form of a personal confession, you have this expressed in the opening words of Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd.” It is also the repeated testimony of the Lord Himself when He denotes the relationship between Himself and His people as, e.g., in Ezekiel 34:31, “And ye, My flock, the flock of my pasture . . , .” In the same chapter this prophecy of the Lord already makes mention of the coming great shepherd, who shall feed them and so they shall be saved. Cf. vss. 22, 23. In the prophecy of Isaiah this is marvelously portrayed in verse 11 of the fortieth chapter in these words: “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and shall diligently lead them that are with young.”
And when the Shepherd did appear He in His discourses apart from the text under consideration, often used this figure. How He portrayed Himself as the good shepherd, spoke of His labor as gathering the lost sheep; gathering His own, who knew His voice, into one fold!
And how applicable this natural figure is to the Church of Christ! Points of comparison abound. As a flock is a unity, so is the Church. The many sheep, varied in characteristics though they may be, belong together. So, too, the believers form a unity and essentially are one. Though oft it is torn apart into all kinds of opposing segments. They are one flock, are fed by one shepherd; graze in the same pasture . . . .
In a flock there is variation of adult and young; strong and feeble. In the Church, as manifested in this world, there are the oak trees and then smoking flax; those demanding strong meat and those requiring milk.
Further, and this aspect is repeatedly emphasized by our Savior, there is the peculiar relationship between flock and shepherd. Sheep follow not strangers; know them not; do not recognize their voice—but gladly, spontaneously recognizing the shepherd’s voice, follow him wherever he leads. So the Church, disdaining the subtle imitation of speech of pseudo shepherds, immediately react with zeal when the voice of shepherd Jesus resounds and they unhesitatingly follow. . . . “knowing” His voice.
Finally, and this element seems to be vital in this connection, the flock needs a shepherd for its protection and very life. Pasture he finds to sustain them his power and knowledge he utilizes to their defense and safety. How true spiritually! Where would the Church find pasturage, if He did not give it? Upon what could possibly the “sheep’s soul” feed, if it could not, assuredly say: “Thou hast the words of eternal life”? And how could she ever hope to continue safely and not fall prey to lurking foes abundant, if He were not the good . . . the faithful shepherd, who, even in the laying aside of His life for His sheep was the MIGHTY one?
This latter idea, of dependency, is accentuated by the further descriptive word “little”: To emphasize this idea of “littleness” the Holland translation gives the diminutive form of flock and renders the expression in full: little flocklet.
And how truly this characterizes the cause of Christ!
True, one cannot escape the fact that often the Church is presented as numerically beyond man’s comprehension . . . . and called an innumerable host. Such is already the instruction of the Lord in His promise to Abraham, prophesying that his seed should be as the stars of heaven (the sum of which who can tell?) and as the sand of the sea shore (what mortal would attempt to render account of them?) for multitude.
And as this prophecy becomes reality it is even so! So on, in Revelation, views the Church at any given point of time in history as one hundred and forty-four thousand strong. Sealed these are unto the fold of Christ, separate from the followers of the beast. Multiply that by the fullness period of “one thousand years”, and you must receive an inkling of the vast number of Christ’s flock that is as a vast sea, whose united hallelujahs echo and reecho through the mansions of glory forever. Truly, how great, the army of saints as through history and in their final cumulation, they go marching home!
And yet . . . small . . . little! How insignificant their number, comparatively speaking. Small in comparison with the world at any given time. When millions find their grave in the deluge, by those waters a mere remnant of eight souls is uplifted from among them! Many nations there were in the time of Abraham, but only one family was called from among them all. The “minority of a remnant” continued to characterize the number of the flock in all of Israel’s anxious history. As to the new dispensational manifestation of this flock—how easily numbered was it at its inception; how sharply it has contrasted ever since with the hosts of the children of darkness. The one striking fact, when throughout the ages this flock stands directly over against the vast majority that will have none of this strange, this peculiar movement, is that it is so small, so very, very small! For let us remember well that the line of demarcation between what is nominally church and the openly wicked world still fails to give the true picture. That line runs right through the church institute! All is not “flock” that runs under its banner. Within the church institute reformation after reformation only tends to make the fact of the “littleness” of the flock to stand out all the more.
And finally, from the nature of the case, and according to the word of our Lord, how small in comparison even that great throng soon in glory is, with the still greater number of the damned. We cite this not to give occasion for criticism of God’s wonderful ways. It is given because that too, is the testimony of the word that cannot lie. “Wide and broad the way is leading to destruction and many travelers it has . . . narrow the way that leads to glory land . . . and few there be that find it.
To this “little flock” Jesus addresses the words: “Fear not”.
That admonition certainly is not superfluous.
O, we realize, the lesson first of all, to the disciples and the Church, in these words regards care as to eating and raiment. That is clear from the context. And surely, from the instruction as to God’s intended and surely to be realized good pleasure, peace must permeate the soul of each of His sheep, also in regard to things natural and temporal. For the shepherd cares! He will realize the good pleasure of Father. Then there is no cause to fear.
But we want to add that just exactly because of these glorious facts, there follows too, the assurance that ALL is well in EVERY respect . . . in all circumstances of life.
How to explain this? What the sure basis for this “fear not” can be? Whence the certainty that ALL fear is uncalled for?
There is, and there can be, only one answer. And that answer lies in the fact that God is WHO He is. That means, that first of all, we must not forget that here the very Son of God is speaking. How different His word from the empty word of attempted comfort of mere man. There is power in this speaking. He is the TRUTH, His word shall surely stand! With all the implications and details involved: Fear not . . . ever . . . in any way or respect!
But there is more too. Even the “little flock” after all is God’s creation. O, as long and according to the measure we deem the Church to be the work of men, the result of our gallant efforts and great sacrifices (?) . . . it must be plain that the least adversity drives to despair. And well it may, for the “house of men” shall tumble to ruin surely! But, how different when that flock is exclusively His product and handiwork; the realization of HIS design! The flock is small, not in spite of His efforts to save more, or in spite of His promised design to save if only “many” will take God at His word! It is small because He wills it so! Each manifestation of decimation is God’s own work! According to His counsel it is God that severs one large segment after another and makes his flock “little”.
And from that point of view, being little is, if occasioned by truth, a sign post that we are in the right way and not a cause of lamentation. Fear not, therefore, as little small, insignificant movement—for your being so is altogether according to pattern. God’s design cannot but be attained. Even the hordes of darkness are subservient to that.
That end or purpose of God is expressed in the glorious intention, the good pleasure of our Father: “to give you the kingdom”.
How all embracing that good pleasure is as to content; how irresistible as to its power!
The content is the giving of the kingdom. No, not the promise of receiving A kingdom among many kingdoms; an earthly, even though excelling kingdom. Of such there are many, there have been and shall be others. They, however, because they are of time, this worldly, soon fade away and the one succeeds the other, only to be pushed into oblivion by its crowding successor. Such a kingdom carnal Israel always longed for and never received. For such, in its own peculiar conception, the apostate church of today yearns and strives. . . with attending failure . . . and that is her undoing!
Nay, this kingdom is THE kingdom. It stands in a class all by itself. There is no other like it. There can be no comparison from any point of view between this and other kingdoms. Who would be a king to even dare be compared to the Lord of glory, the king of THE kingdom? The mere thought is blasphemy. And though it is true that here the subjects are not the noble or the rich. . . what subjects in another kingdom are to be compared with the heavenized subjects of this? Seek wherever you will, throughout all the vast universe for the most ideal and beautiful place for a kingdom. . . where can possibly be found a sphere anywhere near approximating the realms of glory? No it is the kingdom.
And concerning that one and only kingdom God has eternal designs as to its disposition. He will give it away. It is gratuitously brought into possession of this little flock. And the glory of it all is, that it is not a mere intention as man intends actions. It is “Father’s” good pleasure. That makes it sure and certain forever. For, Himself says, that He shall do ALL HIS GOOD PLEASURE.
And as to the actual deed of “giving” that kingdom there can be no doubt either. We have the realized gift in Christ in principle and the kingdom by the work of His Spirit is placed “within” us. Further, His giving is all the continuous work of shaping the little flock. For, in a sense, the giving of the kingdom and the calling into being of the flock is identical. Still He gives, preparing for the final entrance. He takes from us what cannot enter; He adds what is meet. And finally, when the last “little sheep of the little flock” has been brought into the fold . . . HE GIVES . . . forever to be heirs of our king in His kingdom.
Because the above is all immutable, all is now also safe. Little flock, whose very essence is His divine, causal creation, who are what you are because of His eternal design, whose ever faithful shepherd is God’s own Son, whose testament is title to THE kingdom as eternal heirs: Why worry? Fear not!