Footprints

The following is a message from this Sunday’s service I was privileged to minister in.

Song of Songs 1:7-8

7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

We miss our Pastor today. Today is Pastor appreciation day, and while he would love to be here, he is working to make sure that the Churches his Father Pastored continue. All Pastor’s lives are filled with sacrifices. Time and time again, I’ve watched our Pastor choose the needs of the people over his own comfort.

When Pastor ask me to speak, he didn’t ask me to cover any particular topic. He said to share what was on my heart, and God quickly reminded me of these two verses. As always, his concern was that God’s people be fed.

I spoke once on these verses years ago, and I felt called to do it today. He added some things along the way. The reason I did isn’t only because it’s Pastor appreciation day.  

You all know that we have a wonderful Man Of God, who loves each of you enough to fight for you. What I wanted to do today, was to explain the very spiritual reason, and the benefit we each receive, through the relationship between God, a Pastor, and His people. 

Everything in Scripture was through Divine design. The relationship between God, His Man, and His People is at the center of this design. It was created to be a symbiotic relationship. It’s a three fold chord, and Solomon the writer of these verses, said those ties are not easily broken.

The one thing that Pastor tells us when we speak, is to feed the people. This isn’t just a phrase, or some lingo Churches use. It’s the very calling of the ministry, and while I’m sure Pastor knew this, I learned something new about the word through these verses.

The word feed here, is the same word in Hebrew as Shepherd and Pastor. It means the same thing in Greek in the verse. “Feed the flock of God, over which The Holy Ghost has made you overseers.” 

Solomon writes of a spiritual conversation taking place between two people. The Church is represented as a woman, and The Christ is The Shepherd. If you’ve ever heard Pastor’s message on The Apple Tree, it comes from these two, and it is a masterpiece of a message. It’s important that you realize, this conversation between two people, is observed by a third, the minister Solomon. 

From her very first sentence, to His last, is part of the lesson. She begins verse 7 by saying “Tell me, my beloved …” When you leave sin, and approach The Savior, you will do two things. You will love Him, and you will listen to Him. Before you ever leave your chair and bow at the altar, you’ve realized how much He loves you.

When you do that, you fall in love with Him. Those you fall in love with, you listen too. At least at first, after you’ve been married awhile, you may take your spouse for granted. Too often, as Christians, we do the same.

When we first see Jesus through eyes of revelation, we wait on His every word. We come with open hearts and open minds, willing to do whatever He asks us. Willing to go where ever He leads, listen to everything He says, and watch every movement He makes.

What the woman in the vision, the Church, wants Him to tell her is where He feeds. Remember that means shepherds or Pastors, it’s the Hebrew word Raa. It means to tend a flock. 

The same word is translated feed, shepherd, pastor, keep, companion, and broken. All of which describe a Pastor, all of which reflect Christ, and finally all of which are used to minister to us. A Pastor feeds the people, he cares or tends to them.

He keeps them from the storms that would destroy their souls, and walks with them through others which strengthen their resolve. He’s there when they are broken, and serves still when he is the one who is broken. More often than not, the man God uses to wipe our tears, has many of his own.

We see Moses on the mountain. God remembers the Moses that stood when they threatened to stone him. A companion of The Almighty, and a companion of the Church in good times and bad.  

A Pastor is a friend to The Savior, the saint, and the sinner. That friendship bridges gaps, encourages others, and reaches out to all three groups. Fulfilling the calling of God, fortifying the called, and calling the fugitives in.

The next phrase in the verse is “Where do you make your flock to rest at noon …” Sheep can’t take the hottest part of the day. They are vulnerable, and they are thirsty. “Where do you rest them?”

The Prophet said, “This is The Rest that causes the weary to rest.” This is why Pastor worries when we miss a service. It’s here that our strength is renewed.

The Church says something else, before He can even answer. It struck me as a strange thing for a woman to say to the man she loves, much less the Church to say to The Lord. It points to the importance of the local Church.  

“For why should I be like one that turns aside to other flocks?” In other words why should I be a wonderer, a nomad, someone who goes from place to place. There’s no future outside of You Lord. Or as Simon said, “Lord, where would we go, You alone have the words of eternal life.”

The Church is saying I won’t waste my time somewhere besides the flock of God. If there was ever a time to cling to The Bridegroom, it’s now. The one place you can count on, is Christ’s Church 

After she gets done speaking, He begins. Like a husband and wife, the two aren’t speaking for themselves, they’re speaking to us. Christ and His Church are working together to bring one message, as relayed by the minister or Pastor in the verse, Solomon.

This three fold partnership is the perfect picture of the way God intended for the life of a Christian. Christ, His bride, and the friend of the Bridegroom, The Minister. We make the mistake of viewing a wedding as between two people, but it’s not, it’s three people.

One can’t complete the ceremony, two love each other, but it takes the third to join them together. Christ died to save the world, but He called John The Baptist to proclaim The Lamb Of God! The Bride was called to respond to both the sacrifice and the calling. It was no coincidence that John The Baptist called himself the Friend, or Best Man of The Bridegroom.  

“If you don’t know…” Christ The Chief Shepherd tells her where to go for revelation. A Pastor is commanded to run with the vision he has been given. God wants us to receive it with the same intensity. “He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” 

“O most beautiful …” He loves His Church, you can’t miss that. Everything He has done is because He loves us. That especially includes giving her a Leader.

God gave Moses to Israel, not just because it was easier than talking to each Israelite through an orchard of burning trees. He gave them Moses to teach them How to listen, how to follow, and how to lead.

Now we come to the crucial part, the title of the message, the footprints. God said, this is where it all happens. Notice, He didn’t point them to the tent. He said the place I want you is not in the tent, but outside of it, where the footprints are.

The tent is in the story, and there is a time for the tent, but it’s not the focus of the scene. The tent represents different things, and even different things in regards to the people involved.

The tent literally means a shepherd’s dwelling, The Temple, The Tabernacle, and figuratively the grave. Each of the three will spend time in the tent, but there relationship must go beyond the tent.

The shepherd spends his life away from the tent. I’ve watched Pastor leave revivals, family events, and times of rest to minister to the flock of God. He loves helping others, but that doesn’t lessen the sacrifice involved.

To the Church, The Temple represents the time in His presence. Those mountain top experiences like last Sunday where you felt overwhelmed with joy. As wonderful as those times are, we aren’t called to live on the mountain.

We are called to walk through the valleys of life, building a relationship with The Chief Shepherd. It’s easy to pursue Christ when you’re above it all in The Cloud, but it’s only truly pursuit when you’re down where there’s a struggle.

For Christ, God wrapped in flesh, the fulfillment of the type and shadow of The Tabernacle, earthly ministry was temporary. He would spend thirty three and a half years on earth, then ascend up into glory until the time to call us to Him. As for His engagement with death, we know how limited His time in the grave was. It was a three day limited run, NEVER TO BE REPEATED!

Sheep don’t have footprints. They have paw prints, or hoof prints, but no footprints. Those who minister to the sheep, and who follow The Chief Shepherd leave footprints. The shepherds, the Pastors He has placed over the Church. This is the place that changes lives, saves souls, and redeems hearts from destruction.  

Let me ask you this, what’s so great about footprints? Think about it for a minute. Men like Pastor, and his Dad, taught me and Bro Lucian to love words. So, I wanted to know what the word footprint meant. Why was it so important, beyond the obvious? Like everything else in Scripture, the answer was a lot deeper than I expected.

First, it’s the root word for Jacob. If you looked up the word for Jacob, the first thing it says is see this word. One study Bible says the literal translation is heelprints, from which Jacob gets his name.

Sometimes a Pastor has to dig in his heels. There are times when something or someone is attacking God’s Church, and it’s then that a Pastor has to stand toe to toe with the adversaries of the flock and face them down.

When Pastor stands up and declares that we will be a Church united, and passionately pursue what’s right. He’s standing, like David, against the bears, lions, and giants which seek to destroy the flock.

Have you ever wondered why God loves Shepherds and sheep so? It’s because it’s not a light or half hearted calling. You either give it your all, or you are soon pulling the wool out of the mouths of the wolves who ate your flock.

God committed His all to Calvary, and He calls His Leader and His people to do the same. That’s why the epicenter of this story isn’t inside the tent. The tent is the place where the Shepherd can rest, it’s also the one place he seldom gets to be.

Jacob’s life was about caring for sheep, like Abel before, and David after, it was his passion. Imperfect creatures, with great potential. He loved them, probably because he saw himself in them. Out of Jacob stemmed redemption, praise, and promise. From the vision of Bethel, to the first breath in the lungs of Judah, and the cry of Joseph, everything stems from Jacob.  

Second, footprints are a sign of movement. They are the impressions left by someone who is walking on running. Flock literally means to migrate. A Pastor is called to continually lead the sheep to a higher level.  

Footprints are signs of life, only living things leave footprints. Christ intended for His Church to be a lively place, active in The Word, and hopeful for the future.  

In the air force, they take inked impressions of the feet of pilot’s. The ridged skin of your foot is as identifiable as a fingerprint. In a crash, the fingerprints may not be retrievable, but the footprints are. You will leave something behind in this life. Some things you touch will be forgotten, but the impact of a Child Of God on a hurting world can never be erased.

Third, the depth of a footprint can reveal the height and weight of an individual. You can tell the difference in a trial when you see someone who has hidden The Word deep in their hearts. The more fiercely you stand on it, the deeper the impact it will have in your life.

They say a person’s carbon footprint is measured by the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by their actions. What is your spiritual carbon footprint? Can others tell you are a Christian by your everyday actions?

Christ impacts us through His presence, His Word, and the Man Of God He has placed in our lives. As we are impacted, as we are led, we are to lead and impact others. Footprints are left when the Earth underneath it is soft. You may have walked the same path in front of people for twenty years, and they’ve rejected it. One event may soften their hearts towards your message in their lives.  

You never know when the next step you take will make the difference. We do know a step not taken won’t make any impact at all. Christ’s intent was for the Church and Solomon to focus on the footprints.

To examine them required two things, footprints, and eyes. A shepherd is called to walk and to watch. Did you know the eye sockets that hold your eye are called an orbit? Everything made by God orbits this relationship.  

The three are in constant sync. The orbit of the Earth around the sun, and the moon around the Earth, the three never separate. If they were not connected, chaos would occur.  
Cut off the sun, and the Earth would freeze to death. Remove the moon, and there would be no reflection of the sun’s light. Half the world would be dark. Scientists tell us the tides are affected by the moon.

An anointed Man of God will still affect the tides in the life of you and your children. That’s the last part of this scene. Christ says “Feed your kids beside the Shepherd’s tents.”  

Yes, a young goat is called a kid, but He isn’t talking about literal animals here. According to the commentators, He’s talking about those who are young in the faith. That’s children, as well as young Christians.  

I’ve been in this thing all my life, and I’ve been a minister for twenty one years next month. Bro Lucian and I will celebrate 28 years of having The Holy Ghost this month, and I can tell you something.

The best place to raise a convert, or a child, is near the Man Of God. Raise a child near the Man Of God, and he or she will want to do what’s right more than they will what’s wrong.  
No they won’t be perfect, yes, they’ll make mistakes; but the closer you raise them to the man who spends his life outside of his tent caring for them, the better they’ll be. The harder it will be for them to ignore him when he warns about the lion in the field, or that bear they’re getting ready to date.  

Raise them near the Shepherd of God’s people, and the giant that has slain others, will be dead on arrival in their lives. Why do we appreciate a Pastor, because he’s kept us alive through wind, storm, and rain.

This is the man who encouraged me when I was lonely. He’s the one that kept telling me there was someone special out there when I had given up hope. He’s the example that gave me the courage to move six hours to a city that scared me to death.  

Because he did, I’ve got more than I ever dreamed. The fact that he drove six hours one way every week, and struggled to pay the mortgage on a home he was giving up, gave me the strength I needed. My step was small compared to his, but without him, I wouldn’t have stepped into my future.

I’m closing, but before I do, I want to show you the New Testament version of this scene, it”s in Mark 6. Jesus sees that his Shepherds, the disciples, are tired after ministering.
He takes them to a desert place to rest. 

 They think it’s too have a little down time. Jesus knows it’s to sacrifice their rest. They first had to be at rest, to give it up. The people follow, and the place that was supposed to be a place of relaxation, turns into a service.  

Verse thirty three says they saw Jesus and the others departing, and the people ran afoot unto them. Jesus saw them, had compassion, because of one thing. He had compassion because they were as sheep without a shepherd.  

In God’s mind, there is no greater tragedy than a sheep without a shepherd. That’s why the relationship between a Pastor and saint is so attacked. If He wasn’t so close to the heart of God, he wouldn’t listen so intently at the cry of the sheep.

He looked at them and said feed them. It was the same command He would ask Simon Peter three times. “Do you love me Simon? Feed my lambs.” The third time, “Do you love me Simon?” It grieved Simon. “Lord, you know I love you.” “Then Simon, feed my sheep.” 

Feed the little ones who aren’t strong enough to take care of themselves. Feed the weary ones, the healthy ones, and the little ones. I’ll tell you this, no one cares more about you, or your children than your Pastor.

Jesus broke the bread and the fishes yes, but He got it from the disciples. They got it from a little boy, and five thousand were fed. What do you have that God is calling you to place in the hands of your Pastor?

Is it your time, or your talent? Is it a Sunday morning driving people to Church? Or a Tuesday afternoon volunteering for M25? Whatever it is, put it to use. Walk into the new season of sacrifice God began with the twenty one days of prayer and fasting. As you’ve been impacted, impact others, following the footprints of the flock.

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