Sending the Sheep to the Wolves Mt. 10:16 - 23
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 10:16–10:23
16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19“But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20“For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
We don't understand the human capacity for wickedness. The capacity for unbridled evil. We want to be positive thinkers and evil is a negative, so we don't spend time looking at it.
Yet, the Bible has a lot to say about this subject. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 and The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
I remember in Navy indoctrination classes our teacher telling us the Navy's position. Man is basically good. And I interrupted him and quoted Jeremiah 17:9. He simply said, we don't believe what that old book says.
How evil are we? After the fall, in the garden, of Adam and Eve it was only 10 generations of people who had populated the earth and God looked down and said
Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.…
So evil that by Genesis 6, there is ONLY evil and God intervenes with the flood.
Now, I'm going to borrow heavily from some ideas that John MacArthur has put together in a message called "Hope for a Doomed Nation". I urge you to go to GTY.ORG and listen to that message intact. He says it so much better than I can.
MacArthur says that if un-restrained, we would go immediately to Genesis 6 again, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. But God has instituted some restraints to keep evil at a level where we don't self destruct.
He also points out that there is a never ending war against these restraints by evil. Satan is well organized and there is a world system of evil that is battering against the restraints 24 - 7. What Paul would reference as the Mystery of Lawlessness. A well organized offense.
4 things that restrain evil. 4 things that keep us from a Genesis 6 threshold. And keep in mind that when these are gone, we'll be at Genesis 6 again, except this time, we're at the end time threshold where Jesus actually returns and destroys all evil and retakes this world from Satan. Are you ready for them?
4 The church
Now remember, those 4 restrainers hold back evil so we don't get to a Genesis 6 situation where God is moved to act in final judgement like the flood. And Satan's empire is battering these walls down, day by day by day.
Conscience; Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
God writes His laws on our hearts. He gives us a conscience that knows good from evil.
Think about this. We're 100+ years into the so-called theory of evolution. What did that do to the human conscience? It's like a direct cancellation of conscience. There is no God. There is no life after this accidental life. There is no judgement. There is no reason to do anything other than what your body's members and impulses tell you to do next.
Secularism and evolution have combined to batter conscience to pieces. Do you think Satan orchestrated that? I do.
Where is a viable youth group. Go up to the high school and line up all of the kids and ask them if they think there's anything like a God who has standards. You'll find over 80 percent who will just shrug or look at you funny. It doesn't even register. No God. NO conscience. Just me and what I want.
Next, family. The family is instituted by God in the Garden of Eden. One male, one female, children, safety, comfort, camaraderie, accountability, love, no matter what you do.
Family is a restrainer in that it is the building block of social order. Parents train their children. What is acceptable, what is not. Values are taught to children at the family level. God instituted pain on the backside for children who dis-obey. It's OK to spank your little ones when they dis-obey. That obedience lasts a life time.
A simple illustration of how effective this was in our past. My father's parents had a deal with the corner grocery store. We're probably talking 1932 here. Don't make us pay the bottle deposit on soda pop bottles and you can trust us to return every one. And so they did.
My fathers parents taught him it was stealing to take those soda pop bottles and go to some other corner store and get the deposit money. And that stuck in his mind so deeply that when he was an adult, someone had to explain to him that it wasn't evil to take your bottles back and get the deposit money. It was just burned in. Don't take the bottles back for the deposit.
Family values last a lifetime and they restrain evil. Evil is in a non stop war on the family, and look around you, it's winning. The family has been battered to pieces on all sides.
30 years ago we used to have people come up to us in restaurants and say how nice it was to see a functioning family. A mom and a dad and kids who were respectful and restrained and happy. It was already an anomaly even then.
Government. Government is put in place by God to restrain evil doers. I'm astonished at the current confusion.
Going back to family for a moment. My parents taught me a Bible verse when I was 3 or 4 or 5 years old. He beareth not the sword in vain. They told us, that policeman has a gun. You respect that authority because if you do evil, he can kill you. We were like "nuh uh!" And our parents re-inforced that. If you do evil and dis-obey the policeman, he can kill you.
Ro. 13:4 he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
What a concept. Government, to keep evil in check, and provide safety and security for those who do well. How's that working out these days?
I thought it was a travesty, that cop a couple of weeks ago responding to chaos at a pool party, turned orgy, people taunting him, videoing him trying to restore order. He resigned his job. It is a fools errand to try to restrain evil in this society that taunts you and sues you and claims you are the evil force, not the people who are out of control. Good for him. I wish him well, whatever he does next to try to feed his family. Why would anyone want to be a police officer in this travesty.
And then just this week, a mad man kills an entire Bible study group. And our foolish government tells us it wasn't him that caused that evil, it was the gun that did it. Thank goodness the radio has a knob to turn it off. A government that honors wickedness and then blames the gun.
Evil is battering government to pieces. Especially a republic like ours where evil grows worse and worse, and the ones voting are voting for more evil. That can only go on so long.
Has anyone else noticed the bait and switch tactics of evil. Just give us this. That'll be enough. Then when you allow that evil, whatever it was that they wanted, it isn't enough once they have it. Nor will it ever be. The mystery of lawlessness always has to press on to deeper evil.
Finally, the church. God leaves His people in the world like salt. We are to restrain evil by constantly showing the world what God looks like. We are to illuminate His revelation. His commandments. We are to be the light in an otherwise, pitch black world. We are to push back on evil.
Evil has been at war with the church since Saint Peter said "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Remember what Jesus answered him?
Mt. 16:17 17And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.…
The gates of Hades has been battering the church to pieces since that day. We know from the promise I just read that ultimately, we aren't going to lose that war.
But looking around me, at the church, or what calls itself the church, I'm not seeing much push back on evil. Instead we sell out a high view of scripture and God in order to embrace whatever the world dictates to us that we need to embrace.
In the war of these four restraints against all-on evil, like what brought the flood in Genesis 6, call me a pessimist, but it seems like evil is outnumbering good about 100 : 1 and they have built a seige ramp and are in the process of storming the gates.
Romans chapter 1 speaks about the mystery of evil and how it advances incrementally. And 2 or three times in there it keeps saying, and God gave them over to this, or to that.
As evil advances, God in turn retreats and allows the evil to run it's natural course. And what was that again? We began with it. Death. God keeps backing away and we get closer and closer to the threshold that brought the flood. The restrainers are broken. Evil is marching to it's own doom.
So, why have I labored on the restraints against evil? Because the Bible pictures a time when all the restraints are taken out of the way, and evil just goes rampaging mad.
2 Thess. 2:1 - 7 talks about this. 1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
A day is coming when all the restraints are gone and lawlessness runs wild. We are on that threshold now.
We evangelicals call this time period, the Tribulation. A 7 year period after the church is removed, (we believe the church under the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit in individual believers, is he who now restrains)
I believe that Jesus is looking way into the future as He addresses His apostles and these things he's telling them here in our passage this morning will jump off the page for a generation of tribulation saints. People who become christians during that 7 year period of zero restraint against evil.
Let's look at these things in that framework and see how that idea fits.
We could even make a further dichotomy between vss 16 - 20, and 21 - 23. We could argue that 16 - 20 have been seen throughout the christian era. 21 - 23, not so much, but we can see how these things would be normative during the tribulation.
Also at the end of vs. 23 we have an event that dates us right to that time.
16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
Who said, never mix your metaphor's.
I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves This one is easy. Sheep have no defenses at all. They are completely helpless. Wolves love to eat sheep.
OK, we've got a room full of math geniuses. Give me the odds for a sheep, a tender little lamb in the middle of a pack of hungry wolves. Anyone?
About the same as for 3 Israelites in a fiery furnace in Babylon? Something like a shepherd boy with a sling shot facing a giant who is backed up by a mighty army? Or how about a bony old prophet in a lions den?
I have a note in my flyleaf in my Bible. A quotable quote from Dr. Feinberg. The reason the lions didn't eat Daniel is because he was 3/4 backbone and the rest, grissle.
Jesus says, this world hates you and there's no defense. You're going to get eaten. Expect it. Just as soon as I allow it. Meanwhile, not a hair of your head will perish.
When we venture into this kind of radical commitment, the world's odds don't work any more. Sovereign God has his own odds. He doesn't promise you won't get eaten. But He decides to the second when you will. It isn't up to the wolves.
The modern church has devised a new approach. We don't want to be sheep in the midst of wolves. So we've become sheep in wolves clothing. We look just like the wolves, so we don't get attacked. It's sort of a new twist on wolves in sheep's clothing. We dress up so you can't tell any difference between the sheep and the wolves.
Mega church 101. Fool the wolves. Look just like the world. Sometimes we're even more cool than the wolves we're trying to fool. Maybe when Jesus comes for His church, we'll fool Him too.
If we're not sheep, not salty, we are . . . what? Anyone? Luke warm. About to get spewed out of His mouth.
so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves
Wise as serpents. The disciples will be hated. They need to keep looking over their shoulder for a woman with a shovel. When you see her, go under ground. My grandmother who grew up in New Mexico was deadly with a square point shovel.
Serpents are good at hiding. They blend with the gravel. Sometimes they hide in direct sight. Or, into a clump of shrubbery they go, and you won't see them again.
Innocent as doves. Harmless. When threatened, we don't threaten back. When reviled, we revile not in return.
These two must go hand in hand to achieve what Jesus has in mind. Harmlessness and quick wittedness.
We don't see this much. American christians are mouthy and belligerant. We squeal like a suckling pig at the least provocation. We would be wise in the long run to learn these things. The church isn't helped by our un-wise behviour.
Evangelicals would do well to read the book of Daniel, over and over. He is our model of class, and smartness in the face of persecution. He never gets in the oppositions face. He just quietly proceeds with what his God has commanded him to do.
Daniel was both shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove.
17“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
These things are normative for every generation of christian. America has been the anomaly, not the norm. All of these men experienced this, and christians from Paul to last week have been drug before the magistrates.
I was reminded anew as I read through that book I gave out on Mother's day, how in communist lands a generation ago and in moslem lands today, christians are being thrown in prison and detained regularly.
We should prepare ourselves for this possibility. Something we never think about. It could happen before a year is over. Things are moving fast!
19“But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20“For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
We are instructed here that when in this type of situation, drug before magistrates, God himself will speak through you.
I think this verse could be mis-used. This does not pre-clude diligence. People with the gift of ad-lib should not use this verse as a catch - all for not being dilligent with study time. Just show up, and God's going to give me some words. That's not the intent here.
On the other hand, I've been in witnessing situations where it seemed clear that God was graciously providing the next thing to say.
All of these things so far have been normative for the church throughout the ages in different places at different times. Persecution is normal.
But these next few verses seem radical enough that I think perhaps they're describing a time of lawlessness and evil not normally seen.
21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22“You will be hated by all because of My name,
In America, this hasn't happened. Why would it? There's no reason for this kind of drastic behaviour.
In Syria and Iraq, the arab letter N gets spray painted onto houses where christians live. N is for Nazarene.
It lets the soldiers know that the folks who live there are fair game. Take them as slaves. Abuse them sexually. Sell them to the next guy to do the same thing. Cut their heads off. Crucify them. Whatever seems right in the moment. All of the above pleases Allah.
What happens when the soldier with the spray can of red paint gets to town and there's a household of 7 but only one of them has converted to christianity. One daughter, one son, one father or mother. Or maybe it's a daughter-in-law.
How do you think that's going to go down for the one believer, who was under duress from the others before the army got there. Now it's a matter of life and death. Is that islamic family going to die along side the believer. Heavens no.
They'll go into that christians room and drag them out in front of that house and say, here's your christian. Don't paint an N on my house. We are moslems.
We're already seeing that scenario unfold. What will it look like when every restraint is taken out of the way?
By the way, the fact that ISIS is practicing unbridled evil in front of a watching world that is helpless to do anything about it is an indicator of where we are in the breakdown of the restraints God instituted.
22b but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
I need to read a letter to you. This was written in 1811 by Adoniram Judson to a Mr. Hasseltine, requesting the hand of his daughter in marriage.
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
We are such wimps. God have mercy on us. Totally including myself. Where did those people come from. They're as foreign to us as, well, the dinosaurs.
Just get on the boat and wave to your family. See you in heaven.
BTW Mr. Hasseltine said yes, and there are half a million baptists in Burma (myanmar) today, the direct descendents of the fruit of these 2 people.
22b but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Finisher's. That's the current evangelical word for folks with white hair that seem pretty well grounded in their faith. A room full of finishers is a room full of christian geezers. It's christian slang.
It comes from this verse. And there are other verses, just as disturbing.
Mt. 24:12 "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 13"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Hebrews 10:38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. 39But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Jim, are you saying that only the folks who finish the race will be saved?
First of all, I'll remind you, it doesn't really matter what I say. Only what the book says. And yes, I believe the Bible teaches that non-finishers are lost. We'll see that over and over as we go through the parables.
This idea that people can have a response and sign a card and never be heard from again is foreign to this book. That's an American invention. It was never heard of in the church before people like Charles Finney.
23“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next;
I read this and think to myself, how'm I going to do that with 3 antique Fords and 40 old cameras and 200 antique brass lenses? And a comfortable house full of stuff.
We're so attached to our stuff that this version of christianity doesn't even compute. This must be for those other christians.
Like the ones in Syriah that used to have a nice house until someone painted a big red N on it.
Will we be called on to abandon our stuff and run for our lives? Maybe. Maybe. It's in this book that way. We are foolish and indolent and think to ourselves, this is talking about another time, another place. This will never happen to me.
Jesus says, I have told you in advance.
Finishers, take note. You may be required to run for your lives. The principle here is, don't have a martyr complex and put up a wall around your stuff and wait for the soldiers to kill you. RUN! Flee. That means run. When ISIS is coming into your village from the south, flee to the north!
for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
I believe this does in fact give us a frame of reference. We believe Jesus will return at the end of the 7 year reign of terror and wickedness run rampant, the tribulation.
Christians living in that period will be running constantly and when caught, will die for their faith. All nomative. All in God's sovereign plan.
Jesus says, all they can do is kill you. Big deal. Don't fear that, fear God who can throw both body and soul into hell.
Somehow I've got to bring this home to us. All scripture is profitable. This means something to us, today.
When Thomas Linacre, Renaissance thinker and friend of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, was shown the four gospels, he read them in the original Greek and remarked, ‘Either these are not the Gospels, or we are not Christians.’
We get to these passages like this, and what we'll study next week and we have those thoughts. We're so far removed from anything close to what Jesus is talking about here that we ask that question. This doesn't sound like our experience.
And it's easy to just say, well, this passage will in fact jump off the page to the tribulation saints because surely, it will be their experience.
We can argue that Paul in at least 2 places that come to mind seemed to describe a quieter christian existence.
1Tim 2:1 - 3 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
1Thess. 4:11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,
But there is a balance here. This same Paul wrote: 2 Tim. 3:10
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Consider the words of Paul to the Phillipians 3:7 - 10 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
It's almost like there are levels of "knowing Christ" here.
That I may know Him.
That I may know the Power of His resurrection.
That I may know the fellowship of His suffering.
Have we stopped at the "Know Him"? We don't want the suffering so we relinquish the power?
We're a little flock of sheep and it's almost like the 4 walls of the church are the sheep pen. Keep your faith inside the 4 walls and the wolves outside will leave you alone.
I could push that metaphor and tell you the wolves are about to break down even these 4 walls of safety. The wolves are really angry with anybody that believes the things written in this book. They want to exact some blood just for the sake of bloodthirstiness.
Think about evil, like ISIS. Just open wild evil. Then think about what restrains it. Think about how quickly things can change right here where we live, now that the restraints are almost completely gone. Think about choices you may have to make. Soon.
DO what Paul said. Pray for Kings and Governors so that we can lead our quiet life a bit longer. Be ready to make hard choices when the day comes.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2