Sheep Among Wolves
When I heard the thwack! against the house, it was too late to intervene. The Cooper’s Hawk had its victim pinned to the ground and was giving it the final squeeze with its deadly talons.
Another Mourning Dove. Poor thing didn’t have a chance. Seems it’s always these peaceful, innocent-as-all-get-out beauties that they target. Most likely it’s because of their slow, laborious liftoff from the ground. Experts say all that noisy, wild-winged flapping at takeoff is a defense; it’s their natural alarm system that warns others of danger. Today’s gathering of birds at my bird feeder no doubt appreciated this one’s sacrificial heads up.
Having just witnessed this slaughter of the innocent, the stark reality of Matthew chapter 10 hit me again, fresh. I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. [i]
Oh happy day.
Jesus was like a lamb led to the slaughter. We too will be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. [ii] We shouldn't be surprised; His talk of perilous times has given generations of us believers plenty of advance warning. They shall deliver you up to the councils . . . scourge you in their synagogues . . . you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake . . . Brother will turn against brother, father against child, children against parents. You shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. [iii] Sounds to me like a madhouse, where disloyalty, (or should I say mixed loyalties), self-preservation, and throwing each other under the bus rule the day. Jesus called it right in comparing such behavior to a pack of wolves.
Followers of Christ may be innocent sheep in the midst of these wolves, but we are far from defenseless. Helpless doves whose best defense is a noisy exit, we are not. “The defenseless Christian has a defense, and in his very weaponlessness wields the sharpest two-edged sword.” [iv] Why, Matthew 10, just in itself, contains an arsenal of munitions . . .
We are men and women on a God-timed, God-appointed mission. That’s a powerful defense in this world of aimless wanderers. Behold, I send you forth . . .And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! [v] God sends us out to proclaim the Good News that He is available; His nearness that we’ve longed for, the healing and deliverance we need, is here right now. His kingdom so close at hand also calls for change. It disrupts sin’s flow. Distinguishes between sheep and wolves, and thus will “turn things upside down and inside out”. [vi]
Heaven’s power in us and working through us is a definite defense we mustn’t omit if we intend to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils . . . And when we are reproachfully scrutinized by those who are dead set against us, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. [vii]
God regards His messengers—down to the exact number of hairs on our heads. He sees. He cares. He watches over. This intimate truth is vital to our defense. In a world where lives are expendable, He’s not an indifferent observer. The death of even one of His saints is precious to Him. [viii]Are not two little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice. Fear not . . . you are of more value than many sparrows. [ix]
God’s warning ahead of time is a defense. Be on your guard . . . [x] Awareness of what we’ve signed up for will keep us long past any bed-of-roses doctrine preached. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me . . . take heart, because I have overcome the world. [xi]
Being innocent as doves no more means we’re to be helpless victims than being wise as serpents means we should be underhanded, belly-crawling cons. Innocent as doves is a defense—maybe not in the whacked-out system where disloyalty rules, but in the eyes of God who expects loyalty and “holy simplicity of soul” from His followers. [xii] Fear not them that kill the body . . . but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. [xiii] Being wise as serpents is a defense—not in regard to imitating the Deceiver, [xiv] but in being alert and cautious in the face of threats, letting wisdom and prudence guide us in what actions to take and when to take them. [xv] Paul became all things to all people, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ. The early disciples commended themselves in every way as true servants of God—one way being that they were branded as deceivers (impostors), and [yet vindicated as] truthful and honest. [xvi]
Lastly, in a world where short fuses and accusations dictate, the fruit of patience is a defense we must possess if we are to win the true life of our souls. But he who endures to the end will be saved. [xvii]
Sheep among wolves, indeed we are. Defenseless victims, heavens no!
[i] Matthew 10:16 [ii] Isaiah 53:7; Romans 8:36 [iii] Matthew 10:17–22 [iv] Matthew 10:16, MacLaren’s Expositions [v] Matthew 10:7 [vi] Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, page 95 [vii] Matthew 10:8, 19–20; 1 Corinthians 2:4 [viii] Psalm 116:15 [ix] Matthew 10: 28–31 [x] Matthew 10:17 [xi] John 16:33 [xii] Benson Commentary [xiii] Matthew 10:28 [xiv] Genesis 3 [xv]Prudence – “principally in reference to actions to be done, the due means, order, reason and method of doing or not doing.” (Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828) [xvi] 1 Corinthians 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:4–10 [xvii] Luke 21:19; Matthew 10:22