Hanukkah begins at sundown Friday, Nov. 29.

Ezekiel 34: [10-]-16, 20--24 [suggested]

For thus said the Lord GOD: Here am I! I am going to take thought for My flock and I will seek them out. ...I will rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered (11..12). Lest one be deluded, thinking it was Assyria and Babylon that scattered YHWH's flock, go back and read the first six verses of this chapter. O mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. (2)

Thus said the Lord GOD: I am going to deal with the shepherds! (10) Then the painful irony of today's passage follows: I will... I am going to... I Myself will... I will do all the caretaking that the shepherds of Israel have neglected to do. "If I want anything done right, I have to do it Myself," YHWH complains.

Somber, spine-rattling words, not just for priests and pastors, but also for deacons, elders, teachers and everyone in a leadership Þƒ§ðtion in the Church: the shepherds. Remember, you and I have received a call-- a call to service, a call to be the least and the last. I will demand a reckoning of them for My flock (10). Words for us to contemplate each morning upon arising. Judgement, a reckoning, is certain and assured.

For what little comfort (if any) it may give, you are not alone. And as for you, My flock, thus said the Lord GOD: I am going to judge between one animal and another. (17) In fairness, YHWH leaves no-one out of this process. Here am I, I am going to decide between the stout animals and the lean. (20) There will be equal reckoning for all. We who sit in the pews-- whether on occasion or every Sunday-- cannot plead innocence, arguing that the church leaders bear all responsibility because we have been "scattered". No, even in our straying, God watches how we treat one another, whether we think only of ourselves or not.

I will decide between one animal and another. (1)Then I will appoint a single shepherd over them to tend them-- My servant David. (22-23) What a relief! On Christ the King Sunday we hear God's promise of our servant king. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22: 20) And with that song of hope in our hearts, we look forward to Advent and Christmas. Christ Jesus is coming; God's promise will soon be fulfilled. Halleluiah!

But wait! Read those lines again. I will decide between one animal and another. Then I will appoint a single shepherd over them to tend them-- Look at the progression: before the appointment of a shepherd comes judgement.

Psalm 100

Yes, judgment does come first. But beyond that lies a glorious future of blessing, as Ezekiel explains in verses 25-30. Therefore we Raise a shout for the LORD and worship the LORD in gladness (1..2). But how can we Enter [YHWH's] gates with praise (4) when we are still facing-- and fearing-- judgment?

Somehow, as long as we

we may hope and pray that, somehow, God will see us through. Somehow.

Eph. 1: 15--23

"Somehow" is a real concern for the Apostle. In the past few weeks, we have noticed Paul's focus on "hope". Here we go again. I pray [fervently hope] that your inward eyes may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope to which [God] calls you. (18) This is an intriguing, but difficult to understand, concept: to know the hope.

In Paul's Jewish mind, "to know" most likely relates to that Hebrew verb which is so much discussed because of its use to denote sexual activity. But therein lies a clue for us: "to know" is to be intimately involved with, bodily, emotionally, mentally. To such a depth and fullness, the Apostle prays, may we know what is [our] hope.

But what, exactly, is our hope? This is not just any hope, such as one so frequently expresses. This, rather, is a specific hope, a special hope to which [God] calls you. Recall the Prophet: For thus said the Lord GOD: Here am I! I am going to take thought for My flock and I will seek them out. ...I will rescue them.... "Somehow" is finding its answer. My servant David. He shall tend them, he shall be a shepherd to them. (Ezek. 34: 23) Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Matthew 25: 31--46

'When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne, with all the nations gathered before him.' (31-32) Jesus agrees with the Prophet: judgement comes first. A decision will be made between the stout animals and the lean; the king (34) will separate the sheep from the goats (32). God's people are included with all the nations; YHWH's flock-- those who were delivered "out of Egypt"-- will be divided, one set entering the kingdom that has been ready for [them] since the world was made (34), the others consigned to the eternal fire that is ready for the devil and his angels. (41)

On what basis will that judgement be made? Jesus makes it perfectly clear: "anything you did for one of my [beloved] here, however insignificant, you did for me." (40) And "anything you failed to do for one of these, however insignificant, you failed to do for me." (45) Pure and simple: works righteousness proclaimed by the Lord Jesus to those who have already been saved (once) by the grace of God.

Remember, Christian, first of all, that the stout and the lean, the goats and the sheep, are all equally members of the Shepherd's flock. But Christ's flock will be separated and judged. Remember, Christian, this same Jesus warned His followers: 'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father.' (7: 21) Whoever says, 'I know [Christ],' but does not obey his commands, is a liar and the truth is not in him (1Jn. 2: 4). Hear the Word of God: a sincere profession of faith is not enough! That is the central message of the letter from James. That is why Paul is so urgent: You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling (Php. 2: 12). In fear and trembling! Are you listening? Your first salvation by Christ does not guarantee your ultimate deliverance into the kingdom of Heaven. A reckoning, a judgement, comes first.

Whoever says, 'I am in the light,' but hates his fellow-Christian, is still in darkness. (1Jn. 2: 9) If we claim to be sharing in his life while we go on living in darkness, our words and our lives are a lie. (1Jn. 1: 6) [W]hoever claims to be dwelling in him must live as Christ himself lived. (1Jn. 2: 6) This is what shows who are God's children and who are the devil's: anyone who fails to do what is right or love his fellow-Christians is not a child of God. (1Jn. 3: 10) Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action. (1Jn. 3: 18) Not much here about "faith"; it is all about "works": love which shows itself in action.

Psalm 95: 1-[-11][suggested]
If Christ trulyis King, as the Church so boldly proclaims, then why are we afraid to deal with the wholeness of God's Word? Is it proper to chop off verses that sound disagreeable to our ears? Is that a sign of obedience to the Gospel of God?

With eager anticipation and fervent hope, we shout: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! But we need to remember that Christ will come first as King, to sit on his glorious throne in judgement. We also need to remember that we, the saved, the household of God, the Church, are the first to be judged. The time has come for the judgement to begin; it is beginning with God's own household. And if it is starting with us, how will it end for those who refuse to obey the gospel of God? (1Pe. 4: 17)

And the gospel of God, as taught by Jesus, among other things is: "Give to anyone who asks; and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow." (Mat. 5: 42) 'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.'6 (bONT>(Mat. 10: 8) "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Mat. 7: 12, NIV) "Truly I tell you: anything you did for one of my [beloved] here, however insignificant, you did for me."

  • O, if you would but heed [God's] charge this day:

    Do not be stubborn as at Meribah,

    as on the day of Massah, in the wilderness,

    when your fathers put Me to the test,

    tried Me, though they had seen My deeds. (7b-9)

Remember: Christ is coming again, not as Savior, but as King and Judge.

Four weeks of Advent
preparing the way for God
who comes in judgement.(2)


1 New paragraph omitted to show the sequence.

2 Haiku poem by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything by me; just give God the Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com)