The Firewall

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08/16/2009 The Firewall Knox 16 PC

290/240/332 Psalm 110 Micah 7:14-20 Galatians 3:15-18

OOPS! Television, a British magazine, gave its readers instruction on how to put together colour television sets. About 2,000 do-it-yourself fans spent hundreds of hours each putting the sets together. Not one of the homemade sets worked, and the magazine now admits making a series of major errors in the instructions.  
  UGH! The term firewall is used in the world of computers. A firewall is used to keep out unwanted intruders into your computer. For instance, we don't care to have advertising laying in our mailboxes. The same is true of the computer mailbox. The firewall keeps out unwanted spams, which is a form of advertising.
Then there is the phishing procedure in computers. That is phishing spelled with PH. That prevents people from getting your address when you go into their web sites looking for information in order that they might turn around and give you information back that you don't even want.  
  Then there is the anti-virus program. The anti-virus program seeks out all viruses that are seeking to destroy your computer and nukes them so to speak. A good firewall will keep out the best of hackers from getting into your computer and stealing valuable information.
The terrifying thing about the world of computers is that the new anti-virus programs and firewall programs are barely keeping one step ahead of the enemy. There was a worldwide threat not too long ago that said if we didn't want to get into trouble, we had to take the following precautions, because the big manufacturers of software were not able to produce an antivirus fast enough to meet something that was coming down.  
  These viruses had the potential to destroy computer networks worldwide and gaining very confidential and private information from all sorts of banks across the world. It seems to have been a false alarm. But one day those viruses and those hackers will catch up to us and there will be a tragic situation.
The firewall in the computer is not perfect. There will be mistakes made and bad things will happen. What we seek is the protector who can protect us from our enemies and give us the confidence that we need in order to feel safe and to be safe.  
  AHA! That protector is proclaimed as the Lord our God who is the Good Shepherd. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
  In a nutshell, we are no match for Satan. But, Satan is no match for Jesus Christ. We look for protection and comfort that spells out safety.
WHEE! In the Middle East the shepherd carries only a rod and staff. These are the common and universal equipment of the primitive sheepman.  
  Each shepherd boy, from the time he first starts to tend his father's flock, takes special pride in the selection of a rod and staff exactly suited to his own size and strength. He goes into the bush and selects a young sapling which is dug from the ground. This is carved and whittled down with great care and patience. The enlarged base of the sapling where its trunk joins the roots is shaped into a smooth, rounded head of hard wood. The sapling itself is shaped to exactly fit the owner's hand. After he completes it, the shepherd boy spends hours practising with this club, learning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defence for both himself and his sheep.
Shepherds would have competitions to see who could throw his rod with the greatest accuracy across the greatest distance. The effectiveness of these crude clubs in the hands of skilled shepherds was a thrill to watch. The rod was, in fact, an extension of the owner's own right arm. It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation. The rod was what he relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger. And it was, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away.  
  There is an interesting sidelight on the word, "rod," which has crept into the colloquial language of the West. Here the slang term "rod" has been applied to hand-guns such as pistols and revolvers which were carried by cowboys, and other western range-men. The connotation is exactly the same as that used in this Psalm.
The sheep asserts that the owner's rod, his weapon of power, authority and defence, is a continuous comfort to him. For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.  
  It will be recalled how when God called Moses, the desert shepherd, and sent him to deliver Israel out of Egypt from under Pharaoh's bondage, it was his rod that was to demonstrate the power vested in him. It was always through Moses' rod that miracles were made manifest not only to convince Pharaoh of Moses' divine commission, but also to reassure the people of Israel.
The rod speaks, therefore, of the spoken Word, the expressed intent, the extended activity of God's mind and will in dealing with people. It implies the authority of divinity. It carries with it the convicting power and irrefutable impact of "Thus says the Lord." Just as for the sheep of David's day, there was comfort and consolation in seeing the rod in the shepherd's skilful hands, so in our day there is great assurance in our own hearts as we contemplate the power, veracity and potent authority vested in God's Word. For, in fact, the Scriptures are His rod. They are the extension of His mind and will and intentions to humans.  
  Due to an alleged vision to a Franconian shepherd, a superstition arose during the Middle Ages that fourteen of their saints were to be regarded as the “defenders from all evils.” They were called The Fourteen of Consolation and their images were placed above church altars. When Frederick the Wise was bedridden with a serious illness in 1519, his intercessor Martin Luther prepared a little treatise of spiritual comfort which he called The Fourteen of Consolation. Instead of using the medieval saints’ names, Luther substituted fourteen portions from the Word of God to comfort the ruler.
There is a second dimension in which the rod is used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep, namely that of discipline. If anything, the club is used for this purpose perhaps more than any other.  
  If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.
As has been said of the Scripture so often, "This Book will keep you from sin!" It is the Word of God that comes swiftly to our hearts, that comes with surprising suddenness to correct and reprove us when we go astray. It is the Spirit of the Living God, using the living Word, that convicts our conscience of right conduct.  
  Another interesting use of the rod in the Shepherd's hand was to examine and count the sheep. In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to as passing "under the rod" (Ezekiel 20:37) . This meant not only coming under the owner's control and authority, but also to be subject to his most careful, intimate and firsthand examination. A sheep that passed "under the rod" was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it. The picture is a very poignant one.
As each animal comes out of the corral and through the gate, it is stopped by the shepherd's outstretched rod. He opens the fleece with the rod; he runs his skilful hands over the body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see that all is well. This is a most searching process entailing every intimate detail. It is, too, a comfort to the sheep for only in this way can its hidden problems be laid bare before the shepherd.  
  The skilled shepherd uses his rod to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs. Often it is used to beat the brush discouraging snakes and other creatures from disturbing the flock. In extreme cases, such as David recounted to Saul, the psalmist no doubt used his rod to attack the lion and the bear that came to raid his flocks.
In a sense the staff, more than any other item of his personal equipment, identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. No one in any other profession carries a shepherd's staff. It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep - and only sheep. It will not do for cattle, horses or hogs. It is designed, shaped and adapted especially to the needs of sheep. And it is used only for their benefit.  
  The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.
Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defence against danger, the word "staff" speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind. Just as the rod of God is emblematic of the Word of God, so the staff of God is symbolic of the Spirit of God. In Christ's dealings with us as individuals there is the essence of the sweetness, the comfort and consolation, the gentle correction brought about by the work of His Spirit.  
  The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated. He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odour of his hands upon it. Skilled shepherds move swiftly with their staffs among thousands of ewes that are lambing simultaneously. With deft but gentle strokes the newborn lambs are lifted with the staff and placed side by side with their dams.
In today's world the enemy is hard to detect. In the world of terrorism it is hard to find the perpetrators of violence. They hide so easily in full and plain sight. It's like trying to solve that puzzle, where in the world is Waldo. It usually takes quite a bit of time to focus in and hone in on where Waldo is.  
  Today, Osama bin Ladin is making a fool out of most governments of the world, even the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. The atrocities continue to multiply and no one knows where Osama bin Ladin really is. He may even be a myth. But as long as the terrorists have this martyr in front of them, they will continue to perform.
Sin may prevail for today and tomorrow and maybe next year, but eventually sin will be defeated when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. We are called into his living presence even now as believers. His rod and his staff will protect and comfort us. We have been given the promise which supersedes the law, according to the apostle Paul.  
  YEAH! It is said that the devil approached Luther one day and tried to use the fact that every person is fallible. He presented the Reformer with a long list of sins of which he was guilty. When he had finished reading, Luther said to Satan, “Think a little harder; you must have forgotten some.” This the devil did and added other sins to the list. At the conclusion of this exchange, Martin Luther simply said, “That’s fine. Now write across that list in red ink, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” There was nothing the devil could say to that.
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