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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

Isaiah 56:10-11, "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter."

This morning, there are things in life that we do not consider pleasant, and yet they are necessary. All parents that seek to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord do not look at spanking their children as pleasant, yet they understand that it is necessary as God's word commands it. (Proverbs 22:15) Other examples can be shown, but one of the chief examples of this in God's house is the warning that sometimes needs to be sounded from the pulpits. Both meekness and boldness should be coupled together in this effort. One without the other tends to weak command (when boldness is lacking) or uncharitable behavior (when meekness is lacking). Truly, any minister worth his salt does not take pleasure in preaching warnings and reproofs, but they are needful for us here as our shortcomings are constant and dangers ever looming. We need to be instructed about the wiles of the old devil who seeks to devour who he may. We need to be instructed in the right way to go, so that if error comes knocking on our door, we are prepared unto the battle. One of the greatest blessings to a church is faithful, consistent, and complete instruction being sounded from the pulpit for the well-being of the congregation in every area of Scriptural principle. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

Again, while this subject is not pleasant to deal with, notice what the Lord calls unfaithful ministers and servants to His people. The description of them is in the vein of a canine, and while we understand that the Bible does not generally speak of dogs in a positive way (Philippians 3:2), his ministers are very much like dogs in the sense of the warning that the people need. The Lord's ministers are also compared to a watchman for a city (Ezekiel 33), and in both instances, the comparison tends to the same application. The comparison to a dog or watchman is for the purpose of warning and instructing the people. In the verses above, the servants were failing in their obligation due to either laziness or greed. They were too lazy to bark, or too interested in their own desires to be of good use to the house of Israel.

While there are many plain points and several inferences to be made from these verses, we will dwell upon just a few. The first thing to understand about the warnings of a dog in his barking is that it is not pleasant to the ear. When my dog constantly barks for minutes on end, it begins to run down my nerves and patience. Many times, her bark is about nothing in particular, but something she thinks is happening. However, there have been times when her bark was merited as she saw something that truly might have been a danger to us. Growing up, we had two dogs that would literally bark at anything. The family joke was, "They would bark if a leaf blew through the yard." Due to this reputation, we many times never gave their barking a second thought. The only time we really bothered with their bark was when it became annoying, and we brought them inside. One day, we did this after they had been barking for several straight minutes. While they were in the house, a coyote stole one of the chickens from the pen. On that day, their barking had merit, but we did not notice the danger due to the dogs' reputation.

A minister of the gospel needs to warn the house about impending dangers, but his reputation needs to be something other than "the boy who cries wolf." If he has a reputation as a "pot stirrer," then many will not be inclined to heed the warning, even should it have merit. Our bark needs to be sounded only when there is evidence to corroborate the sound. If we are barking to hear ourselves bark, eventually it will fall on deaf ears. If we are barking with a reputation of being level-headed and clear thinking, folks are more willing to perk up. I was told by an old deacon that has gone on to be with the Lord that he for years had two dogs at his house. One enjoyed barking constantly at whatever it could find to bark at. The other one calmly walked around the yard, sat on the porch, etc without generally making a sound all day. The family knew the difference between the two dogs' bark, and an entire day could be found, he said, of the first dog barking to the point of hoarseness. Yet, one yip from the second dog sent an immediate call to somberness by his entire house. The difference was the reputation of the two dogs.

Another point that can be drawn from this is that there are those that will not ever bark, even when necessary. Sometimes this is done due to their own laziness in fulfilling their functions and duties. I have seen dogs, lying down, that never moved from their spot until it was time to eat. All day was spent lying around, doing nothing, and basically breathing air and eating food. A minister that does not fulfill his functions of prayer, meditation, and faithful watch care of the flock is no less slothful. Sometimes, these ministers fail to warn as it might endanger their "standing" in some way. Perhaps preaching on a certain topic will bring down consternation in the community or country. Perhaps other brethren's company (not fellowship) is more important than the principles of truth. Errors can be made in both ditches, and these two areas seem to be found quite often.

Brethren, our observations of errors past and present do not give excuse to make equally damaging but opposite errors going forward in the future. I have seen areas of country that are unwilling to warn and instruct in impending danger as "years ago there was an unnecessary war that ravaged this area." On the other hand, I have seen other areas of the country that seemed willing "to fight about anything, just name us a topic." Both constant, unnecessary barking and complete dumbness to warning are equally damaging to the sheep even though complete opposites in application.

One of the duties of a minister is much like a sheepdog to the flock for the shepherd. One of his functions is to watch for wolves and keep the flock away from "shady areas" where predators may be stalking. (Acts 20:28) Another function is to nip at the sheep (not bite and devour) to goad into action in a certain direction (Ecclesiastes 12:11), and in so doing, keep the flock in the safe, green pastures of goodness. Consider if we put this service to the true test. Are we willing to warn should it cost us the benefits of society? How about the benefits of some of our family? What about the full fellowship of churches to which we are disagreed on essential points? The cause of truth supersedes and trumps any of these factors, for anything less falls into the condemnation the dogs did in our verses above. Anything more falls into the condemnation of the Great Shepherd for dividing His flock with the wrong spirit. May He grant us the wisdom to know how and in what manner to proceed in these matters.

In Hope,

Bro Philip