A few weeks ago, in our sermon series in Luke’s Gospel, we considered the directive given by Jesus to the 70, whom He appointed and sent out two by two into the “harvest field” to prepare the way before Him: “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3)
Lambs among wolves is a terrifying word picture–a startling reminder that the mission of those sent would be impossibly dangerous. But the Lord was not using hyperbole to make a point. The enemies of God’s people–the powers and principalities of darkness in high places–are truly intent on our personal destruction and on wreaking havoc on the flock of Christ.
This past Sunday, I shared with our tiny congregation how overwhelming the power of darkness seems to be for me lately. There is no aspect of my own life, nor the life of any one around me that seems secure from attack. The road ahead for many of us is either uncertain or certainly hard. The howling of the wolves closes in at every turn. The ravenous teeth of hell are sharp on every side. Indeed, the flock of Christ is scattered and the lambs are torn.
Commenting on the Luke 10:3 text, Alexander MacLaren writes, “Lambs, ringed round by wolves with white, gleaming teeth, have little chance of life.” (MacLaren’s Expositions)
What hope, then, do we have against the onslaught?
There is only one hope. But it is sufficient. It is the love of the Shepherd for His sheep. Pay close attention to the words of the apostle:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (St. Paul, to the Romans 8:35-39, NIV)
This text does not say that God’s flock is immune from hardships. On the contrary, the apostle says we are more than conquerors “in” all these things. He quotes the Psalmist who says we face death “all day long.” The dangers and troubles and hardships of life and death come to all of us. God’s children are also not immune “from” the devil’s attacks. However, we are immune “to” them. That is to say, though Satan brings the full arsenal of hell against us, he cannot overthrow us. Though his wolves come to devour us, we cannot be destroyed.
MacLaren (on Luke 10:3) continues, “Jesus gives His servants full warning of dangers, and on the very warning builds an exhortation to quiet confidence; for, if the sentence ends with ‘lambs in the midst of wolves,’ it begins with ‘I send you forth,’ and that is enough, for He will defend them when He seeth the wolf coming.”
Do you belong to Jesus? Are you a part of His flock? Then come what may, your Lord and Shepherd will defend you with and in His love. Have the wolves torn you and left you for dead? Be assured your Shepherd will find you, and He will bring you back safe into His fold. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 2:32)
I have learned over the years, that, in addition to the Scriptures, the Hymnal is also a good place to find words of comfort and encouragement. May the following hymn by Jane Elizabeth Leeson (1807-1882) bring hope to you (and to me) as we lift it up as prayer in the face of wolves and closing darkness.
Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
Keep thy lamb, in safety keep;
Nothing can thy pow’r withstand;
None can pluck me from thy hand.
Loving Shepherd, thou didst give
Thine own life that we might live;
And the hands outstretched to bless
Bear the cruel nails’ impress.
I would praise thee ev’ry day,
Gladly all thy will obey,
Like thy blessed ones above
Happy in thy precious love.
Loving Shepherd, ever near,
Teach thy lamb thy voice to hear;
Suffer not my steps to stray
From the straight and narrow way.
Where thou leadest I would go,
Walking in thy steps below;
Then, before my Father’s throne,
I shall know as I am known. Amen.
The Lord be with you.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc.