[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]
I remember well one of the first “big dates” with my wife; it was to a restaurant located on a ship near the beach – a beautiful setting. It was a chilly December evening and we promenaded around the deck beforehand in our formal attire. As I recall we shared the chateaubriand special-for-two as the stewards stood at the ready to attend to our culinary demands. Company, great! Meal, superb! Coffee, amazing! And at the end of it all a complementary “dessert tree” was delivered to our table filled with sumptuous delights which included large, plump, juicy, perfectly formed chocolate-covered strawberries- one of my wife’s favorites. The perfect end to a perfect meal.
But wait! Strawberries in the middle of winter? I asked the maître’d how he’d managed to generate such scrumptious delectables at this time of year as they were out of season. He responded simply that they were from New Zealand, and had been flown in for the experience. Amazing to think of these little guys leaving their sunny domain, boarding a plane, buckling up, and enduring the 10-hour–plus flight to complete their journey on the chillier other side of the world.
Though in North America strawberries were out of season for several more months, New Zealand’s wonderful climate had prospered these guys to savory perfection. The demand for such a sensory fulfillment “required” extra measures.
These seasons apply to God’s teaching as well. Think about it. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Interesting choice of words, “in season and out of season.” The implication is that there will be times when the words of God will be received, and desired more than others. And, there will be times when the instruction of the Lord is not en vogue.
The reason for such apathy is communicated in the following two verses, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” People will not want to “endure” the solid teaching of the word, but desire simple trinkets of happy thoughts to placate their guilt.
We live in an age where the demand for the depths of God’s truth is certainly not en vogue; it is on the fringes, forsaken to those church fanatics, and those in monasteries and seminaries. People will desire to replace such dogmatic instructors with those preaching another gospel, an eeeaaasy gospel, one in which reproving, and rebuking is not part of the fare. Sadly, I believe this behavior is not relegated solely to the unbelievers, but believers as well. The end result is a poorly nourished flock.
Yet, the Gospel is to be preached “out of season.” “Unpopular.” “Antiquated.” “Untrue.” “Irrelevant.” “Offensive.” “UNWANTED.” But, sin has not become any the more subdued. Redemption has become no less necessary. The love of God has become no less abundant.
This malady is endemic to the human race for it is rooted in the heart of man. In Isaiah 30:10-11, the heart of Israel is revealed. “For this is a rebellious people, false sons, Sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord”; Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”; And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words, Prophesy illusions. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” The dividing line is not whether words are true or not; the line is a desire of the hardened heart. They desire delusions, not truth, and not God!
Sounds a lot like today, doesn’t it? “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” The demand is freedom to walk a path of their own desires, however wide that path may be, unhindered; a path free from the words of God.
It takes great effort to push against the tide of indifference or the wave of self-indulgence. Seasons come and go. And yet the instruction of the Lord is to be delivered, faithfully delivered 24/7. Unpopular? Resisted? Yes, but God’s word does not return void, and there is someone, waiting at their table of life, who needs that tree of delectable truth unexpectedly delivered, freely, that they might receive the perfect end to a God-given life.