The Good Shepherd

In Genesis 48:11-16, Jacob, in his great deathbed blessing, alluded to God as his Shepherd, the first mention in the Bible of God being a Shepherd.

What a way to describe Yahweh. Jacob was a professional shepherd who understood that concept very well. Now, he looks back on his whole life and confesses that the Lord had been his Shepherd all the while.

How interesting, as Jacob had a tough life and suffered much – mostly due to his own decisions. There was so much striving as he always looked to forge his own path, going against what the Lord had ordained.

All those years of feeling the pain of rejection by his father Isaac (who loved Esau more); the constant fear of having to flee from his own brother; being deceived by Laban; losing Rachel, the love of his life; and then being betrayed by his own sons and losing Joseph.

Despite all this, he had the audacity to look back and say, “The Lord has been my shepherd. My Lord has been with me.”

Because something happened at the end of Jacob’s life, he finally saw things through the lens of grace. He understood that, despite countless mistakes, the Lord was still his Shepherd.

Jacob knew very well that sheep are foolish animals and need endless, comprehensive attention. He said, “Because I realise God knew better…” On hindsight, he realised that, for every instance he thought he needed to fight for something, God actually knew better.

Psalm 119 gives another precious picture of the Good Shepherd.

After praying 175 verses of Psalm 119, all about how much we love the law, hunger for His statutes, remembering His precepts and praise ordinances, we come to the last verse. And how refreshingly honest the psalmist concludes, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant.”

After trying so hard, we may still fall. We may try to uphold God’s statutes and fail. But we need to know that we can always cry out for mercy for Him to seek and bring us back – which the Good Shepherd always does.

I personally think that when we enter eternity, we will see how the Good Shepherd has led us all this while. At the end of time, perhaps God will bring us to a high mountain where we can actually see all of history at once.

I love mountains. I love getting the right vantage point, traipsing through the terrain and getting up high enough to look back to see where I came from.

Until then, we trust the Good Shepherd on this earth, because He is faithful.

As I look back on my own life, I realise I had often strived to get to where I thought I should be. But, even when I was a stubborn, ignorant, and rebellious sheep, the Good Shepherd had been leading me all this while.

Lost sheep don’t bring them themselves home; it’s the shepherd’s job. Not only does the Lord lead us in green pastures, down righteous paths, and beside quiet waters; when we stray and get lost, He restores us. He lays us on his shoulders and carries us home, rejoicing.

When we understand the heart of the Good Shepherd, we’ll finally submit to His will. Jacob understood that even in his death bed.

Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Faith – deeds of men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, who showed tremendous faith. However, I always felt the statement about Jacob was strange. Of all his deeds and seasons, they chose to include the blessing scene from his death bed.

It doesn’t talk about his wrestling with God or working seven years for Rachel. It doesn’t mention his encounter at Bethel. But it says, ‘By faith Jacob, while dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship.’ Hebrews 11:21

Why did that take faith? Why was that such a big deal?

At his deathbed, Jacob crossed his hands when he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh. Right hand for the younger, left hand for the older. After years of experiencing the grace of God in his own life, he did not seem to understand that he had been preserved by the mercies of God all this while.

But now, Jacob finally understood the grace of God. When he put his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he was simply following God’s economy and went against cultural norm. It didn’t matter what was normal; he trusted the Lord and was insistent on it, even to the disapproval of his favourite son.

After years of fighting for his inheritance, trying to win everyone’s approval, Jacob finally got it. He saw social reality and God’s worldview differently and surrendered to the Good Shepherd.

He knew that it had been the grace of the Good Shepherd all along. And, once you’re in the will of the Good Shepherd, that’s the best place to be in. And on his deathbed, that final act of faith earned Jacob a place in the Hall of Faith.


Assistant Pastor Elijah Chan

 

The Seed of Greatness (Part 2)

Relentless striving for greatness often drives people to whatever it takes to fulfill their goals. Many misinterpret their capacity for greatness to mean worldly achievements. 20 years later, we may be at the peak of our careers, with houses, cars, and luxury travel but, to be brutally honest, it only leaves us empty and disappointed.

How does God feel about this? He created us, planting the seed of greatness deep within, only to watch us pursue a wrong fulfillment. He longs for us to position our hearts rightly and draw satisfaction from Him with a more excellent plan to nurture and attain the greatness in us.

60 years after Jesus ascended to His Father, He spoke to the seven Asia Minor churches through Apostle John. To the Laodicean Church, Jesus gave a great promise – “To read more…

Comfort My People

When the Government recently tightened restrictions under Phase 2, I heard many lamenting “NOT AGAIN!”. When I heard of Israel being attacked, when I received news of a friend’s cancer relapse, when someone I knew fell into an old habitual sin… I couldn’t help but moan “NOT AGAIN” with a sigh. 

While I was complaining and praying, I felt the Lord’s comfort and was reminded of Isaiah 40:1 – ‘“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.’

In that account, we see the beginnings of Isaiah’s message to those in the future who would experience the Exile. I think it’s hard for us to fully appreciate what a dreadful shock that was.

God had made all those wonderful promises to His people of them becoming a great nation – that they were going to be kings, that everything was going read more…

Sitting on Papa’s Lap

Many years ago, while meditating on the Book of Jeremiah, what I read touched me so deeply I prayed each day for about a week, “Lord, make me Jeremiah”. At the end of the week, I was invited to a luncheon hosted by Transworld Radio, the largest Christian radio ministry in the world.

The global CEO, a Welshman, was newly installed and was going to address the luncheon and everyone seemed eager to hear him. He was introduced, got up to the rostrum, and looked at the audience for about 30 seconds without speaking. Then he spoke and his first sentence was, “Who in this room wants to be Jeremiah?”
 
Of all the prophets in the Bible, I must say Jeremiah is my favourite. In Matthew 16, when Jesus popped the question to His disciples and asked read more…

Contending

‘The children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem and took it.’ Joshua 19:47

My natural disposition is of one who avoids conflict. When our family took a personality profile test together and the result showed that I was a ‘Peacemaker’, my kids all echoed, “That’s you, Dad!”

This does not give me an excuse to be passive or refuse to take up a matter that requires attention any more than being poor is an excuse for stealing. I cannot negotiate or rationalise away my responsibilities because they’re inconvenient or intimidating. Sometimes, we just have to ‘take up the sword, and fight’.

When Joshua led the Children of Israel across the River Jordan, each tribe was given an allotted inheritance for which they’d need to confront corrupt and entrenched native inhabitants.

Only by displacing these nations could God establish read more…

Timeless Wisdom of Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums as we celebrate ourselves and one another! This is life, to rejoice and find reason to give thanks in all things. Another day will break forth while we yet have a day to live, to make adjustments, and change where we need to.

There’s nothing like learning from history, gleaning the timeless wisdom of the mothers who made a difference from a collection of 66 books and letters called the ‘Bible’, spanning over 4,000 years.

Like today, those mothers grappled with many similar issues and their stories are teaching points in our journey. While we navigate our personal journey, their lives create a rich tapestry of faith for successive generations. The Holy Spirit desires to lead our steps as He directed theirs so that we’re perfected in God’s love.

Perhaps the most popular verses read more…

Goliath is Easy

How often have you heard it said, “We need to face our Goliath!” Every one knows what a ‘David and Goliath’ battle means, even if they’ve never read the Bible. We think that the most challenging battle David faced in his life and career was against this giant. But I’d like to suggest that Goliath was an easy target for David compared to other giants he’d encounter in later years.

David walked onto the battlefield, slung a stone, and sank it into Goliath’s skull. He then chopped off the giant’s head with his own blade. I doubt David even broke sweat. But, compared to the wars, persecutions, backstabbings, and family feud that David had to endure, killing Goliath was child’s play.

It’s not always the ‘Goliath’ issues in life that are the most difficult for us. Yes, it was an read more…

The Seed of Greatness

Many years ago, I went on a ministry trip to a neighbouring country. I was to speak at a youth meeting on the third evening and really struggled with what to say to the young people. Interestingly, I had a dream the night before that. I was in a school assembly full of students. A speaker was expounding on ‘The Seed of Greatness’. I only heard the title and woke up.

I pondered about it, prayed, researched a little, and managed to craft a message just in time for the meeting. I wished I had heard the rest of the message, but the revelation contained in the title was powerful enough.

Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.’ Inherently, people desire to make an impact with their lives because we’re created with the read more…

All We Like Sheep (Not Shrek the Sheep)

I came across this amusing but true story about a New Zealand Merino sheep named Shrek who escaped from the farm he was raised on because he wanted to avoid being sheared.

Merino sheep are raised for their prized wool that needs to be sheared once a year because, unlike other sheep variety, Merinos lack the ability to shed wool by themselves and need to be shorn by farmers.

This sheep in question ran away from the farm and spent over six years hiding in caves. When finally spotted by farmers, Shrek’s fur was so thick he could hardly stand under the weight of his own fleece. An average Merino fleece weighs about 4.5kg but this escapee’s weighed 27kg, enough to make suits for 20 men! The overgrown fleece also covered his eyes, read more…

One Year On

It has been exactly a year since Circuit Breaker measures were put in place in Singapore. Never before in our history as a nation has there been a lockdown as such. I doubt any of us had experienced anything like this before either.

For two months, most of us had to stay home except for essential activities and exercise. This wasn’t just happening here in Singapore but most of the world was experiencing something similar in different degrees.

With the lockdown, came new norms. We had to work from home, cook meals more often, and our kids had to get used to home-based learning. Masks became a common thing. Churches had to be shut. The country literally came to a standstill.

A year on, things have reopened substantially, but there are still many things that have not been normalised. We’re read more…

Lion or Lamb?

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has prevailed… And I looked, and behold… stood a Lamb as though it has just been slain.” Revelation 5:5-6

In Revelation 5:5, John describes a vision of Jesus as a powerful, fearful, yet majestic Lion. As his knocking knees buckled, verse 6 says he lifted his eyes and Jesus had been mystically transformed into a gentle, irresistibly approachable Lamb.

So which is Jesus, a Lion or a Lamb? How we answer this question is much more than a theological matter. Our perception of Who Jesus is and how He interacts with us has far-reaching implications for how we live. It can also directly impact our ability to stand firm in our faith as the darkness around us increases in this hour.

In truth, our finite, natural minds tend to latch on to read more…

Journey of a Christian

Mankind’s journey began at the creation of Adam and Eve. The Christian faith started with a couple named Abram and Sarai, from whom the lineage of our Lord Jesus was traced.

The journey of Abram was called out by God because He chose to raise a peculiar people to reveal Himself as God, to the nations. This was re-confirmed in Exodus when Moses re-established that same covenant, reasoning with God not to destroy His peculiar people, when He was about to and willing to start all over with Moses.

From the Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Philistines, from Egypt to the Wilderness, and onwards to the Promised land. From riches to dependency, from the populous to being out of the ordinary. From a culture of the powerful to the powerless in society.

Both departed from a supreme read more…

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