SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

A reader asks: 

What is the meaning of the similarity in the expression of Micaiah found in I Kings 22:17, “Israel scattered upon the hills as sheep having not a shepherd,” and that ofMatt. 9:36, “the multitude scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd”? 

These two expressions obviously point to similar occasions. 

In I Kings 22:17 these words are spoken in connection with the prophecy of Micaiah concerning the tragic end of wicked king Ahab. As you know, Ahab had begged Jehoshaphat to join him in war against the Syrians. Jehoshaphat foolishly consented, but not without fear and trepidations. It may have been a common practice for Jehoshaphat to seek the approval of Jehovah before going to battle, but in this instance when the alliance with wicked Ahab was bad enough, but besides that, he was also risking his own life and his army in battle, he was especially eager to seek the approval of the Lord. Ahab was well prepared for such a situation. Scripture informs us, that even though Ahab had made the Baal worship the national religion of Israel, he himself still had his own prophets of Jehovah, which he also consulted. (verses I Kings 22:22, 23). These prophets knew how to cater to the whims of the king by speaking the things that Ahab wanted to hear, while still, as tool of Satan, they pretended to bring the word of Jehovah. There was one exception, of whom Ahab said, “I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” Evidently he had quite recently spoken the Word of the Lord to Ahab and was therefore placed in prison. Now he is called out of prison to warn the king that he will die in battle, and then he is sent back. As a warning to Ahab Micaiah says, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house.” saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In the previous verse we are told that Jesus went about all the cities and villages (of Galilee) teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease among the people.” Mark informs us that at this time large crowds of people forced themselves upon Jesus, giving Him little time to be alone. (Mark 6:33). Among these people were those who were merely interested in seeing signs and wonders, or were hoping that Jesus might deliver them from the power of the Roman government by setting up an earthly kingdom. But there were also elect children of God, who were weary and heavy laden because of the burden of their sins and hungered after the true Bread of life. These starved and languished under the empty teachings of the scribes. When they heard Jesus preach concerning the kingdom of heaven, and saw His preaching confirmed by His miracles, they pressed upon Him, seeking their salvation in Him. Yet the time had not come for the full revelation of salvation. Jesus still had to suffer and die, arise again, and ascend to glory. It was on Pentecost that the full blessing of salvation came to these hungering souls with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Therefore Jesus was filled with compassion for them, for they were still like sheep without a shepherd. In the verses that follow He says, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” 

In Matthew 9:36 we read: “But when he (Jesus) saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In the previous verse we are told that Jesus went about all the cities and villages (of Galilee) teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease among the people.” Mark informs us that at this time large crowds of people forced themselves upon Jesus, giving Him little time to be alone. (Mark 6:33). Among these people were those who were merely interested in seeing signs and wonders, or were hoping that Jesus might deliver them from the power of the Roman government by setting up an earthly kingdom. But there were also elect children of God, who were weary and heavy laden because of the burden of their sins and hungered after the true Bread of life. These starved and languished under the empty teachings of the scribes. When they heard Jesus preach concerning the kingdom of heaven, and saw His preaching confirmed by His miracles, they pressed upon Him, seeking their salvation in Him. Yet the time had not come for the full revelation of salvation. Jesus still had to suffer and die, arise again, and ascend to glory. It was on Pentecost that the full blessing of salvation came to these hungering souls with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Therefore Jesus was filled with compassion for them, for they were still like sheep without a shepherd. In the verses that follow He says, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” 

Both of these passages actually refer back to Numbers 27:16, 17. There Moses had come to the end of his earthly ministry and would soon pass away. As a faithful servant of Jehovah he is concerned about the future welfare of God’s people. Therefore he pleads with the Lord, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may lead them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” From this passage it is evident that the worst thing that can happen to Israel, or to the church of God at any time, is that they are as sheep without a shepherd. A faithful shepherd leads the sheep out of the sheep fold to allow them to graze in green pastures. He also leads them back to the safety of the fold. Ahab failed to do this. In fact, he did the very opposite, leading Israel away from God into the arid desert wastes of Baal worship. Therefore the Lord would kill him in battle. The prophet Micaiah obviously is not concerned about wicked Ahab, but is concerned about the sheep of God’s flock who wander about the hills like wasted, lost sheep. There was a similar situation at the time of Jesus, since the scribes fed the people stones for bread. Therefore these hungry souls pressed upon Jesus, and Jesus looked forward eagerly to His accomplished work on the cross, that He might ascend to the Father to send forth His Spirit upon the church at Pentecost. Today there are many lost sheep “of the house of Israel” who wander about like sheep without a shepherd, scattered and driven apart by false teachers. Well may we pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. The end of the ages is drawing near. 

The same reader who sent in a question about Matthew 9:36 also asks: 

“Does Matthew 9:37, 38 emphasize in connection withMatthew 9:36 a famine of the Word or a shortage of laborers (preachers) or both?” 

In the context in which Jesus speaks of praying for laborers in the vineyard, it can well be said that the emphasis falls on the famine of the Word rather than on a shortage of laborers, or preachers. Verse 36 speaks of the fact that Jesus had compassion upon the multitude, because they were harassed and spent with exhaustion, they were like sheep without a shepherd. The teachers in Israel were like hirelings who allowed the sheep to scatter and wander about in confusion, failing to lead them in the green pasture of the Word of the prophets. Whereupon we read, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” 

From the point of view that God supplies the laborers for His vineyard, there can never be a lack of laborers to carry out His divine purpose. God’s cause never suffers because God fails to supply it with preachers or under-shepherds of Jesus Christ. But the point of view of the text .is exactly that those whose duty it was to feed the sheep in Israel failed in their calling. They were false teachers who led the sheep astray, committing them to the dangers of thorns and thistles and wild animals in the wilderness in which they hopelessly wandered. The true sheep of Jesus Christ were fully aware of this, so that when they heard Jesus speak they eagerly heard Him, longed to hear more, clamored with spiritual hunger for the Bread of life. When John the Baptist came preaching and teaching, thereby opening the door of the kingdom of heaven, the true people of God were like the violent who stormed into the kingdom. Thus also when Jesus came, they recognized the fact that Jesus spoke with authority, and not like the scribes. Jesus is deeply aware of this hunger for the Word, not only among those who crowded upon Him at the moment, but also among all the true sons of Abraham. The church saw the dawning of the new day, and eagerly awaited its coming through the cross and resurrection, the ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Even though they did not fully understand how and when Christ would enter into His kingdom, they did long for that day. 

In this connection a few remarks are not out of place. 

First, God is the Lord of the harvest. He gathers His own harvest by sending out laborers to work in His vineyard. A person must be called and qualified by the Holy Spirit to carry out this work. 

Second, God requires of us that we pray that He may send forth laborers. It is through the prayers of His church that God carries out His work. He does not work independently, but creates in the hearts of His people the need and the prayer, and also answers those prayers in harmony with His will and the desire of His people. Think, for example, of Hannah’s prayer for a son, or even on Revelation 8:1-8

Third, this implies that the church at all times, but especially in such crucial times of apostasy in which we are living, eagerly desires and prays that the Lord of the harvest send forth laborers, in order that the Word of God may be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, God’s church may be gathered and preserved, and His kingdom may come. True mission zeal is motivated by the longing for the coming of the Day of the Lord. 

The same reader who sent in the previous questions about Matthew 9:36-38 also presents this question: 

“Matthew speaks of the instructions in preaching and also of the giving of power which Jesus gives to his twelve disciples. Did the disciples go out to preach at this time? If so, how is this possible, seeing they did not understand the cross until after Jesus’ death?”

Matthew 10 implies the calling to the disciples as recorded in Matthew 4:18-22, just before Jesus delivered the sermon on the mount. Now Jesus sends these disciples out to preach, entrusting to them the divine power to cast out unclean spirits, cleanse the lepers, heal all manner of sicknesses and diseases, and even to raise the dead. (see Matthew 10:1, 8). Obviously the power to perform these miracles had to serve as a seal on their preaching. 

There are at least three things that must not be overlooked. 

First, the disciples must not bring their message to Samaritans and gentiles. Even though the time was drawing near for the gentiles to be gathered in, and for the church to become universal, this time had not yet come. Verse 5. 

Second, the twelve must preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, that is, to the elect of God among the Jews. The field of labor was limited to Galilee and Judea. Verse 6.

Finally, the specific message entrusted to the twelve at this time was, that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Vs. 7. This was the contents of John’s preaching as he prepared the way for the coming of the Savior. Now, as Luke puts it, the kingdom of heaven is come nigh unto them. Luke 10:9. This is God’s kingdom. And therefore it is the kingdom of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ. It is spiritual and heavenly in character. Its citizens are the broken of heart, the poor in spirit, who mourn because of their sins, the meek who hunger and thirst after the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus, the merciful and the pure of heart who have peace with God and enjoy the hope of eternal life. That kingdom Christ would establish through His death and resurrection, and through His ascension when He would sit at the right hand of God on God’s throne. That was the message that the twelve were told to proclaim to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Regardless of whether the disciples understood the details, or even whether the lost sheep understood the details, the message was clear, the kingdom of heaven was at hand, even drawing nigh. The true believers were being spiritually prepared for the new dispensation that was soon to be ushered in on Pentecost. Those who believed that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, could rejoice in that expectation.