Pecking order


Growing up on a farm, I learned pretty quickly that there is a hierarchy in nature. There are pack leaders and then there is the rest of the pack that follows, and nobody messes with the pack leader. I don’t think I ever saw this dominance in raising chickens or turkeys, though. Just saying.

But the one that really surprised me was the sheep. We had three 4-H market lambs that we raised one year (we named them Larry, Curly, and Moe). Curly was mine, she was the biggest. Moe was Andy’s, she was the calmest. Larry was the extra, backup sheep in case Curly and Moe died unexpectedly, and she (yes, she) was the smallest. But no matter how hard we trained them, no matter how we worked with them, we couldn’t get them to walk in that order. Larry, Curly, Moe. Instead, it was Curly in front, Moe in the middle, and Larry in the back. They wanted to be in height order, independent out front, Moe resignedly in the middle, and Larry bringing up the rear like an idiot. Come to think of it, the positions fit their personalities (because, even though they’re stupid, sheep still have personalities). And if we ever got them out of that order, they weren’t happy again until they got back into it. Moe refused to lead. Larry never knew where she was going. And Curly would prance and jerk and dash away from me trying to get into the lead again.

That’s probably a poor example, but the verse this morning is partly about power. And whenever I think of power, I think of a chain of command. Because wherever you have power, someone has to have more of it than someone else. You can’t have two people with the same amount of power in an organization; they’ll tear each other apart unless one of them is humble enough to back off and let the other rule.

A good example of this is the year we had three directors for our church Passion Play. Three different directors for the same play. Oi, what a nightmare! And I love all three of these people. Incredible people. But none of them could make their own decisions because they had to balance their decisions with the decisions of the others. Having too many cooks in the kitchen is a very bad idea.

There has to be someone in charge. Someone has to have a final say, no matter what endeavor you’re undertaking in life, whether it’s getting your oil changed or seeking for a means to save your soul from eternal damnation.

Anyone who has power or authority in this life got it from someone else. Some positions of authority are inherited. Granted, some are earned, but even those positions of authority that people work for are still given to them, either by election or popular opinion. Power has to come from somewhere and usually it descends.

Look at the government. I know it’s not functioning well at the moment, but let’s look at it the way it was intended to be (the way the Founding Fathers set it up). The way the Founding Fathers looked at our government was that God had created people with a free will to make their own choices. So they set up a government that the people could run for themselves, electing officials and maintaining their freedoms independently. They looked at it this way: God gives power to the Federal Government to govern and rule as they see fit. The Federal Government gives authority to the State Government. The State Government gives authority to the County Government. The County Government gives authority to the City Government. The City Government empowers its people locally. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Power starts at the highest level and descends to the levels below it, and if one of the levels below has a problem, they can take it to the higher levels for help.

Think about the difference between city laws and federal laws, the vast difference in resources. People are far more likely to break city laws than they are federal laws, aren’t they? (It’s a bad example. Just run with it.) Because federal laws represent the federal government, and you don’t screw around with the federal government. Because the federal government is where the rest of the government gets their power from. They have more power than the rest of the governments because they are the source of that power.

So with that in mind, here’s the verse for today. John 10:28-30.

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.[a] No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

This is Jesus talking. The section of verses before this one, Jesus is telling people that He is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep know His voice and that He takes care of His sheep and that He will lay His life down for them willingly (because no one can take His life from Him without His consent). Here, Jesus is saying that He has given eternal life to His sheep (His followers, if you haven’t picked that up yet) and that no one can take them away from Him because God gave them to Him.

Did you get that?

God gave us to Jesus.

We’re not talking about animal hierarchies and government pecking orders anymore now. We’re talking about the Creator of the Universe. We’re talking about the One who made everything. Can you wrap your head around that? I know I can’t.

God made us, so He owns us. Some people may fight against that, but it’s true. If you make something, you look at it as something you own, don’t you? I’ve spent eleven years writing a manuscript, so I call it my manuscript. I don’t call it my brother’s manuscript or my friend’s manuscript. It was my idea. My work. So it’s mine, and I can do what I want with it. It’s the same with God. He made us, so He can do what He wants with us. He could have wiped us off the face of the earth for what we’ve done, but He didn’t. Instead, He killed His Son — Himself — to save us. He gave us to His Son to save, to protect, to keep.

And nobody can change that because He’s God. And there is no higher hierarchy above Him. There is no pecking order that He isn’t at the top of. As far above the normal citizen as the Federal Government is, God is higher even than the most powerful, most authoritative person in the world. All power comes from God. All authority comes from God.

Why do I obey the law? Because God established it. Why do I respect my parents? Because God put them in authority over me. Any power, any law, anything that has authority in my life gained that authority because God delegated it.

And who can take anything away from God?

Satan can’t even do that.

Here’s an interesting thought. Satan is our enemy. Not God’s. To be an enemy, usually you have to be on equal footing with the person or people you’re opposing. And Satan isn’t on equal footing with God. He’s just a problem that God will deal with in due time.

The only way Satan can hurt God is to hurt us, to drag us away from serving God, to keep us confused, to keep us focused on ourselves. But Satan can’t take anything away from God.

So where do we get off thinking that we can lose our salvation? Why do we fear that God will leave us when the Bible says clearly — unmistakably — that we belong to Him and nothing can separate us?

It’s a lie of Satan.

God made us. He owns us. He gave us to Jesus. He saved us. And on the days when it doesn’t feel like He’s near, that’s not His problem; it’s ours. He says He never leaves us. So it’s up to us to believe that.

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