Sunday, January 15, 2012

David: The good shepherd

Saul stared at the young man, looking desperately for any sign of promise or hope. There was no debate that he was a talented musician. Many times, when the dark spirit descended on him, David had played and sang and that heavenly music had lifted his heavy heart. But these were difficult times and music was not going to provide deliverance today.

For forty days that Philistine behemoth had taunted them from across the valley. Each day he lay down the terms of his challenge: a one on one battle to the death, winner take all. For forty days Saul had scoured the camp unsuccessfully for a champion. Even after offering every manner of bribe and incentive, forty days of taunting and cursing and blasphemy had passed without a single soldier coming forward. No one had come forward until today, when this little youngster had wandered into camp.

Youngster. It was decided. “I'm sorry David, but you cannot fight this Philistine. You are much too young, and he's been trained as a warrior longer than you have been alive.” It was too much to risk the nation on a youth.

“If I may, Your highness. I've kept my father's flock for many years now. I've had to fight and kill lions and bears to protect the sheep. The Lord delivered me from those animals. He can deliver me from this uncircumcised Philistine.”

Saul stared. “Go,” he sighed, “and the Lord be with you.”

In John 10, Jesus contrasts the behavior of a shepherd with that of the hireling. Jesus describes the hireling as one who did not own or care for the sheep. In the face of danger, the hireling is more concerned for his own well-being than for that of the flock. He flees. By contrast, Jesus describes a good shepherd as one who lays down his life for the sheep.

David definitely meets the Lord's definition of a good shepherd. David described to Saul how he would chase down and kill a lion or a bear to save one of his father's stolen lambs. He was willing to risk his life to save what had been entrusted to his care. He would later run out to defend his people against the giant Goliath because He trusted God's ability to preserve him through danger.

The Lord Jesus also identifies Himself as a good shepherd. Like David he was willing to lay down His life for His sheep, His people. But unlike David, Jesus was not delivered from death but to death. He did not risk His life to save the lost and perishing, but gave it. He lay down His life. And, unlike David, Jesus also claimed the power to take it up again.

(1 Samuel 17:31–37; John 10:1–18)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a girl named Shadow, who lived with her Mom and Dad, her little baby brother, and her dog named Gus1...

These words marked the start of the final phase of our daughter's bed time routine. After teeth had been brushed, prayers had been said, and Bible stories had been read, she would ask for what became known as a “Shadow Story.”

The little girl wasn't always Shadow. Initially, the stories would begin, “Once upon a time there was a little girl named...” and we would pause to give our daughter the chance to name the heroine. But she quickly settled on the name Shadow and we stopped asking. The issue of Shadow's name was settled much more quickly than any other detail of the stories. For example, Shadow was frequently a little boy. But now she is quite firmly and irrevocably a little girl, and her name is Shadow.

Since you've never been a part of our daughter's bed time routine, you're probably wondering at the types of adventures Shadow faces on a nightly basis. If you are looking for tales of orcs and aliens and toothy cows, I'm afraid you would be disappointed. Shadow's life is very similar to our daughter's, albeit somewhat accelerated. One night Shadow might go on a trip to her grandmother's, the next she might learn to ride a bicycle. When my wife was the storyteller, Shadow's activities tended to mirror our daughter's activities for that day. When I told them, Shadow got to experience things our daughter had yet to do, such as walking to the corner store on her own. Sometimes our daughter even crossed paths with Shadow in the story, such as the time Gus was lost and Shadow posted signs around our neighborhood. Our daughter found Gus and was able to return him safely to Shadow. This is probably her all-time favorite “Shadow Story”.

I mention all of this because the Bible is also full of shadow stories. In the introduction to The Jesus Storybook Bible, author Sally Lloyd-Jones writes:

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story... And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.
The Bible is God's Story of His Son, and many of the threads in that great narrative tapestry reveal to us aspects of the work and person of the central character. Adam, Joseph, Jonah, and many others, are all shadows, or types, of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, shadows are just two-dimensional monochrome projections. They cannot express the depth or the full character of the object itself. Depending on the slant of light, they may also exaggerate or distort certain dimensions of their source. These biblical shadows are similarly imperfect and incomplete. But just as we can identify the tapered silhouette of a Coke bottle, even with a skewed projection, we can still see in these imperfect stories the familiar characteristics of the Saviour.

This blog is going to consider these shadow stories of the Bible. In doing so, my goal is not to force images where none exist. You do not, and should not, have to squint while standing on your head at dusk to see the presence of the Saviour in the pages of Scripture. Indeed, many of the people and objects we will consider are clearly identified in the New Testament as foreshadowing Jesus. And just as a good book can help us see the everyday with fresh eyes, I believe that God has chosen to include these shadow stories to illuminate truths about Christ with which we have become too familiar.

That last line would better read, “with which I have become too familiar” because I am writing primarily for myself. I need to see Him with fresh eyes. I need to deepen in my appreciation of who He is and what He has done. If you find yourself in a similar state, I trust you will join me as we listen to God's shadow stories of His Son.

Once upon a time...

1Gus should rhyme with Puss, as in “Puss-in-boots.” I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this detail.