Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Acting like a sheep? .......... Parables 460

February 21, 1995

My farming experience did not include sheep but a neighbor told me about one of their annoying idiosyncrasies. If a fence had a little hole in it, they would find it and crawl through even if it meant leaving their pasture and wandering in areas without food. When they were brought home, the fence had to be fixed or they would crawl through it again.

Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, makes an interesting observation. He says “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have all turned to our own way.”

Isaiah was one of many prophets who preached God would bless them for following Him and bring a curse if they disobeyed. These curses were sometimes simple, logical consequences of their social and moral failures and sometimes included famine, drought, disease and the invasion of more powerful enemies.

During one of those periods of disobedience, the writer of Judges commented, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In their eyes, idol worship, injustice and lawbreaking was acceptable.

Isaiah and the other prophets could not see any sense in abandoning the laws of God. When God’s people obeyed Him, they always experienced spiritual and material prosperity. Why would they crawl through His fence of protection when the results were so disastrous? When the consequences of going astray completely overwhelmed them, they turned back to God but after years of this cycle of disobedience, consequences, repentance, God finally refused to hear their cries. He abandoned them to the invading Assyrians and allowed them to be taken into captivity in a foreign land. They remained in Babylon for decades lamenting their sheep-like behavior and learning again that sinful choices bring disaster.

Today, people still turn away from the laws of God and still miss the connection between this choice and the consequences. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union decided that praying and reading Scripture is unconstitutional in schools. As a result, these God-honoring activities are now illegal in the United States. Good things happen when people praying and read the Bible, not so when they turn away. Is there a connection between this choice and the dramatic drop in student self-esteem and the drastic increase in student discipline problems?

Violence on television is another example. God tells us to hate violence and refuse to look at it. However, television brings crime and bloodshed into our homes. While psychologists argue its effects, statistics show that brutality increases when these programs are made available in communities that once were without them. Is there a connection?

What proof do theorists need that the laws of God are valid? In spite of the hypocrites and phonies, when anyone genuinely places their faith in Christ, the process of becoming like Him begins. Christ produces a desire to obey God that results in increasing efforts to stop sinning and do right. According to Jesus, this change for the better is not only valid evidence of genuine faith, but has a life-giving, preservative effect on all of society.

When people cannot or will not observe the consequences of sinful behavior, could it be that they, like sheep, have turned their own way? To those who prefer their own wisdom, the Bible gives this grave warning: “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).

God says it, His prophets say it and statistics back it up: it is folly to act like sheep.

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