Jump Start #2214
Proverbs 27:23-24 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.”
These powerful words remind us of the great responsibility of leadership and care that God expects and even demands. Pay attention to your herds. Know well the condition of your flocks. For the shepherd in the hills of Judea, this was his livelihood and his income. This is why the expression, “riches are not forever,” follows these warnings. Do not assume your flock is ok. Just because other flocks are doing well does not mean yours is. Disease, poor nourishment, thirst can greatly impact animals. It shows by some being underweight. It shows by low birth rate. It shows by premature deaths. A sickly animal can quickly turn into a sickly flock.
Years ago, the spread of mad cow disease forced some ranchers to destroy whole herds of cattle. Diseased animals are worthless. You don’t want to breed them for fear of passing on the disease. You certainly do not want to eat them. And, for Israel, they could not offer the sick and diseased as sacrifice because they was a slap to the face of God.
There was a solution. It fell to the shepherd. Know well the condition and pay attention. There is no flying by autopilot here. It meant the shepherd had to be among the sheep. It meant the shepherd had to look carefully at the sheep. He had to watch as they ate and see if they were all eating. He’d notice if they were growing and if they producing thick, full wool. He have to examine each one. A cut, a scrap could lead to infection which could lead to serious problems. The fanciful image of a young shepherd boy laying on his back, with a piece of straw in his mouth, watching the clouds passing by, day dreaming, while the sheep were off in a distant grazing, is the stuff of movies. He was walking among them. He was watching for danger. He was the hands on veterinarian, protector, and animal nutritionist. He was not a goofy teenager who was lazy, clueless and bored. Such a shepherd would soon be out of business.
Know well the condition of your flock and pay attention to your herds:
Three simply applications:
Our families: Know well the condition and pay attention. We tend to do this well physically. A child says, “I don’t feel well,” and immediately a parent puts their wrist to the child’s forehead. Off to bed they go. They go to the medicine cabinet to get some medicine and if not better a phone call is made to the doctor. We do this with the child’s progress in school. It’s been a long while since my kids were in elementary school, but back then, the parents had to sign report cards and the child had to take them back to school. The parents saw the grades. The parents had planned meetings with the teacher. We were paying attention to their grades. We’d work with them on spelling words and math to help them.
But sometimes spiritually, we no longer really paid much attention. The kids were going to church services with mom and dad. They’d go to Bible classes. But we don’t have tests in church. We don’t have progress reports. We don’t have meetings between the parents and the teachers. Maybe we ought to. The kids sit through the same sermons we do. And, it is assumed that all is well. Is it? How are they doing spiritually? Do we allow the church to do most of the spiritual training for our children?
As that long ago shepherd walked through the flock, he’d see that the sheep do not all progress the same. While some may be doing fine, others may be showing signs of sickness or problems. He’d had to keep a special eye on those. Again, do we do that with the spiritual well being of our children? As they date, are we just happy that they have found someone, anyone, or is the spiritual direction of the person they are dating even considered. Do we know the friends of our kids? Who is influencing them?
Know well the condition of your flock…pay attention to the herd. That’s our role as parents. Getting them out of the house with a job and a marriage only to find them crashing spiritually is not good.
Our congregations: This ought to be a concern for all spiritual people but foremost to those who actually are called shepherds. A full house on Sunday doesn’t not indicate that all is well. Pay attention. Know well the condition. What’s bothering some of the sheep? What’s keeping some from growing? What spiritual diseases are looming. Much too often it is assumed all is fine until a problem arises. Feathers are ruffled. A few get upset. People start talking. And suddenly, some leave. A split or division has taken place. It has taken place right before the eyes of the shepherds. They didn’t see it coming. They assumed all was well, when it wasn’t. Gossip, finger pointing, hurt feelings, these are the symptoms of internal diseases that can ruin a flock. Are the people growing? How would you know that? How would you measure that? Are the people content and at peace? What signs would indicate that? What spiritual diseases are spreading among the flock? Would you recognize it if you saw it? Would you know what to do if you saw it?
Year after year, so easy to assume that all is well. Are the young people prepared to face college and the spiritual challenges that come with that? How are the young families doing? How are the widows doing? Different challenges. Different needs. Different concerns. Are the topics being offered for classes just what that flock needs?
Around my area, the farmers are harvesting corn. It’s that time of the year. Farmers have been doing that for a long time in this area. But the type of seed, the equipment that is used, the methods of farming have changed. They still put corn seed in the ground, but you’ll not see a farmer walking through a field, with a sack of corn seed slung over his back. He’ll be planting dozens of rows at a time. Nice, neat and spaced just perfectly. We still get corn from the field, but the means of farming is always changing. Now, when it comes to our congregations, we must still sow the seed of God’s word, but are we still using methods that are outdated and not connecting with people today? Know well the condition of your flock. Pay attention to your herd. Many elders throughout the land have made sure that the bills were paid on time and that the snow is removed from the parking lot in the winter, but as far as the welfare of the people, it’s assumed that all is well, when maybe it’s not. Time to get among the sheep. Time to look at each sheep individually. Time to make some adjustments to save some sheep. Out of the boardroom, and among the flock is God’s way of shepherding.
Finally, our own hearts: Know well the condition of your heart. Pay attention to your heart. We do this physically by eating healthy and exercising, but we forget about these things spiritually. We sit through a movie filled with profanity. We allow toxic people to ruin our day and our spirit. We run so fast that we do not feed our souls. As adults, when something hurts, we pay attention. If it doesn’t go away, we head to the doctor. How about spiritually? A bit discouraged? What do we do? A bit bothered? What should be done? Tempted. Tried. Tired. Weary. Distant. Are we growing? We ought to know. Are we becoming more like Jesus? We ought to know. Are we walking close to the Lord? We ought to know.
Know well the condition of your flock. Pay attention to your herd. Maybe if we did that more than other things, we’d be better off spiritually. Responsibility. Obligation. Duty.
Know well and pay attention—great words that can truly make a difference.