When one spends time in the bush looking at wild animals and their behaviour, it’s interesting what one will find. Naturally, one needs to be quiet and patient, for one could disturb wild animals very easily. We parked the game vehicle along a pathway next to a valley. There we were watching a single giraffe eating leaves from a tall tree. Whilst watching and taking pictures, a herd of impala crossed over from the thick bush into the valley. We saw many newborn impala. One could see the umbilical cord, proving they had not been born very long ago.
As they walked closer to us, a few zebra came along and started to chase the impala. We thought this was rather cruel … but then we realized the zebra were herding the impala away from us, guiding them back the way they came … into safety. You see, those zebra were very protective. There were new nursing mothers. Their babies were so fresh and weak, should danger come they would be helpless.
So, these zebra were protecting the impala. Our first impressions were wrong … but as we waited and watched, we realized the zebra were being kind and helpful. That is the animal world … to what extent do we practice this is our human world?
I am certain we try to protect our own, as in the family or close friends … and that is good, but what about in the Church of God (Kingdom of God)? Paul warns of spiritual dangers coming through false teachers or false apostles.
1Ti 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
Timothy might have been young, yet he was a pastor and a key member of the apostle’s missionary team. The reason Paul wanted Timothy to remain at Ephesus was to “command” those false teachers to stop teaching false doctrines and fanciful ideas that to them might bring flavor to the gospel but actual render “their gospel” useless. The word “command” is a very strong word. It is not a request, it is not a suggestion, it is not a plea … it is a command. Timothy has the full authority of the apostle, who is acting on God’s behalf to make this instruction.
When one thinks of being in the military, the drill sergeant would issue commands. His authority came from the officer commanding the regiment. That is, he had full authority to make commands that needed to be respected and obeyed. If he shouted the command “halt”, it meant that every troop had to come to a halt (stop) within the expected period. Failure to do would mean disobeying the command.
Timothy was to issue a command … but that did not mean the false teachers would necessary obey. Rather, the brothers and sisters within the church would hear the command and understand the reason for the command. Even if the perpetrators of false doctrines did not stop their teaching, the congregation would understand that teaching was false and not from the apostle and certainly not from God. That is the role and duty of the pastor/teacher, as well as the children’s and youth leaders as well as the Bible study leaders.
Firstly, they need to know and understand sound doctrine:
Tit 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it to be able to teach it.
It is in this way that he will be able to explain to the Body of Christ what false doctrines are and where they come from and how to avoid such teaching. We live at a time where so many have shaped their Christianity to suit particular objectives. The objectives could be to achieve power, status or to amass financial reward.
Churches have sprung up almost anywhere … and as said, to draw the crowds, they give people what they want to hear … not what they need. One cannot get away from our Lord’s emotions when He saw the people looking like lost sheep without being shepherded.
Matt 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The three very visual ways these people showed their need were that they were harassed, helpless, and shepherd-less.
They Were Harassed
They were traumatized by sickness, poverty and politics (of the day) … but more, even though unaware, they were in spiritual need.
They Were Helpless
There was absolutely nothing they could do about their situation. They needed help and they were at the right person for help, but they did not know what help they needed.
They Were Shepherd-less
They had the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Priests … but they had no shepherds because these “religious” leaders were like the bind leading the blind.
Jesus looked at these people in that environment and had compassion on them. He saw their real need, and this concerned Him. Maybe His compassion included anger because of the continued missed opportunities the religious leaders had.
This is where we find ourselves today. People have all sorts of needs. There are political needs, financial needs, land needs … and the list is almost endless. The people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd … and at best they are offered everything but what their greatest need is. They need, above all, Jesus and His Gospel. The problem is that so many false teachers are out there leading people astray … and there seems to be very few spiritual zebra to protect the spiritual impala from harm and danger.
Dear God, help pastors and mature Christians to protect Your people from all danger, for Christ’s sake. Amen.