By Joshua Ong
While praying Psalm 91 in the midst of the current Sars infection (not epidemic), I felt the Spirit of the Lord wooing and leading us back to His presence of safety. He desires to again enfold and protect us with His feathers of love so that we could take refuge under His wings of healing.
Sars has two great fear factors, namely its presence and its power. Its presence is not far away in a distant planet like Mars. It is right here within our doorsteps. Everyone can be a suspect and nobody is not vulnerable. Its power is great. Many doctors, nurses and victims are still battling it. In the midst of this battle, some have died.
On the other hand, God has two greater fear factors, namely His presence and His power. His presence is with us whether or not we feel it or acknowledge it. He is as close as the mention of His Name. His power is greater than all other powers, and His name is above all other names including Sars. Life is more powerful than death; and when the light is turned on, darkness has to flee!
So why are many Christians not able to come under His wings of protection? Basically it is a hard thing to do - to humble ourselves under His wings and be still and know that He is God. To be still in His presence is something many of us have not yet cultivated. We just want to rush off, wander away and do our own things.
While worshipping in His presence this week, I got this one word from the Lord: "Goshen". Back at home, I immediately did a word study.
Goshen is the place where the Israelites dwelt while they were in Egypt. Therein they were protected from the plagues of flies (Exodus 8:22) and hail (Exodus 9:26) which engulfed the rest of the country.
Goshen means "mound of earth". Its area was about 900 square miles. As its location was far from the Nile and its irrigation canals, Goshen was not highly valued by the Egyptians. Nevertheless it was a good and fertile piece of land.
Why is Goshen so special? The answer is found in Genesis 46:31-47:7:
Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, 'My brothers and those of my father's house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 'And the men are shepherds, for their occupation has been to feed livestock; and they have brought their flocks, their herds, and all that they have.'
"So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' "that you shall say, 'Your servants' occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,' that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians."
Then Joseph went and told Pharaoh, and said, "My father and my brothers, their flocks and their herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; and indeed they are in the land of Goshen." And he took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh.
Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" And they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers."
And they said to Pharaoh, "We have come to dwell in the land, because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen."
Then Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. "The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock." Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
Something very interesting happened here. Prior to Joseph presenting his brothers before Pharaoh, he gave them specific instructions how to answer Pharaoh when they were asked what their occupation was. Joseph wanted to tell Pharaoh that his brothers are shepherds, but he did otherwise. He asked them to lie instead and claimed that they are breeders of livestock. Why? Because shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians. Shepherds are being looked down upon whereas breeders of livestock were not!
Joseph had been in Egypt for many years and had been in some ways influenced by the Egyptian ways. He might have the fear of offending Pharaoh with his brothers acknowledging that they practiced a profession that was detestable to the Egyptians. Any wrong move on the part of his brothers could upset his plans and good intentions!
The five simple brothers did the exact opposite. They told Pharaoh the truth that they were shepherds. Pharaoh was clearly not disturbed by this. In fact, he gave them Goshen, the best pastureland in Egypt. On the top of that, he offered to hire some of them to tend his own livestock.
Another Egyptian way is presenting five instead of all the 12 sons of Israel which included Joseph himself. Showing off the best and looking good is the name of the game. But that is not the way of God. The Church is incomplete with all the 12 tribes of Israel. Christ is coming for both Israel and the Church. His reign and rule will be in Jerusalem, and not any other city on earth!
The Church had been in the world for far too long. The world has crept into the Church. Instead of the Church influencing the world, the world has influenced the Church. Sometimes, the things we say reflect who we really are. We can openly say, "God so loved the world..." but we dare not say "God is coming to judge the world." We loudly proclaim the grace of God but about the message of His glory and especially the matter of falling short of His glory, we utter not a word. To talk about the love of God without mentioning the requirement of the perfect sinless sacrifice of the Lamb of God on Calvary is unthinkable and absurd! If God does not judge, Jesus would not have to die for the penalty of our sins!
Five brothers of Joseph were presented before Pharaoh. They represent the fivefold ministers of the Church; namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Their humble occupation is primarily shepherding, the rest are secondary though a lot more high sounding. Our Heavenly Father is also a Shepherd!! He watched over us day and night, night and day! The forefathers of the Israelites, namely, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all shepherds, nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide or deny!
God is calling us back to shepherding. Firstly, He shepherds us under the shadows of His wings. Secondly, He expects us to be our brother-keepers to shepherd others.
The fivefold ministries is for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13).
Jesus Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for her, so that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27)
Our Lord is coming for a glorious Church, not saints still battling with worldly sins and pleasures but saints attaining the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Before such could happen, much shepherding is needed. Not breeders of supermen and superwomen (super Christians), but shepherds who have been shepherded themselves, and therefore are able to shepherd others also.
The Word will be the foundational basis as it is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
We have this exhortation from Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 4:1-5, "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
Come to Goshen soon. Where the Shepherd is, there is safety. Be shepherded so that you can shepherd others. While others may see young David as a shepherd boy, God may see a king!