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Worship Message-Chickens

Chickens

Earlier this summer, a Sunday morning message included a couple bird stories.

To refresh your memory, in one of the stories, purple martins were featured. A whole bunch of them were flying around a backyard, most of them excitedly calling out.

All the ones calling out were adult martins. All the adults were surrounding a baby martin. Some of the adults were above and ahead of the baby. Their purpose seemed to be to encourage and lead the little one on its first flight. Others were behind and below the baby. They, too, were encouraging the baby. They were also ready to catch the little one if he faltered.

The other bird story featured two starlings. A mama starling feeding a young one, doing that even though the young one was her size.

The martin story led to the challenge that we who are adult Christians be willing to encourage and lead younger Christians. That we have a willingness to catch any younger ones if they falter.

The starling story led to the challenge that we who are adult Christians be willing to keep working with younger Christians, feeding them the spiritual things they need for as long as they need to be fed. The point was made that the mama starling did not seem to be disgusted at having to feed her young one when he should have been able to take care of himself. The point was that she was responding to what was inbred in her. The point is that we need to have that same desire inbred in us. The desire to help any and all Christians so that together we can continue to grow in our Christian faith.

Well, the martin story and the starling story seemed to be well-received. So guess what. I have some more bird stories to share, including one today that features some chickens, which interestingly also takes us to a Psalm. Some other messages recently have also had other Psalms as a base.

For today’s message, Psalm 36. But first, the bird story, written by a woman whose grandparents used to raise white leghorn chickens. The kind of chicken with snow-white feathers and vivid red combs.

The writer of the story shares that when she was a child, she would sometimes see a hen squatting on the ground, looking as if she were resting from the heat of the day. But when the hen stood up, a brood of tiny chicks would come scrambling out from under her.

The chicks would take up positions behind their mother. Anywhere the hen went, the chicks would follow.

But when she stopped and held out her wings, the chicks would scurry right back beneath her. For those chicks, the safest place was to be enfolded inside their mother’s wings.

The author shares that seeing that as a child gave her an insight she continues to have. An insight into something Jesus said toward the end of His ministry. Let’s think about that before we get to today’s Psalm.

According to Matthew 23, Jesus was in Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews. A city that contained thousands and thousands of people He had come to earth to save.

Matthew 23 tells of some of the words Jesus spoke shortly before His arrest, which led to His crucifixion. It tells of a sadness in Jesus. A sadness caused by most of the people in Jerusalem rejecting His offer of salvation.

Actually, the mood may have been anger more than sadness at the beginning of Matthew 23. Over and over again, Jesus rebuked - He scolded - He criticized - two groups of leaders in Jerusalem, specifically the scribes and the Pharisees. Scribes were the ones who kept track of all Jewish laws, along with all the rules and regulations that were developed to explain all the Jewish laws. The Pharisees were devoted to following all the laws, rules, and regulations, using that, rather than love, to try to prove their spirituality.

Specifically, Jesus accused the scribes and the Pharisees of being arrogant, hypocrites, unjust, spiritually blind, spiritually dead.

To me, that sounds like anger being expressed by Jesus. An anger caused by the scribes and Pharisees turning people away from Him. Away from the one who had come to offer salvation. Which then led Jesus to the sadness expressed as He spoke to the city. To the people who had followed the scribes and Pharisees. To the people who thereby had rejected the salvation He had come to offer.

Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children. How often I have desired to do that. To gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” That, He said, was His desire, but, He concluded, “you were not willing.”

Again, Jesus had come to save people. Including the people in Jerusalem. But they had not and were not letting Him do so. They would not let Jesus take them under His spiritual wings and protect them. Protection available, not only at that time, but for all eternity.

I have to say. What Jesus wanted to do for Jerusalem, He wants to do for us even now.

Now, for the baby chickens in the opening story, they faced problems related to weather - heat, wind, rain. They faced the problem of predators. Without mama, they would have faced the problem of loneliness.

For the people of Jerusalem, they faced foreign enemies and foreign political domination. They faced the rigor of being required to not only know but also obey every Jewish law and rule and regulation. They were taught that the only hope for Heaven was in such knowledge and obedience.

For us, we live in a stressful world. We face a lot of problems ourselves. Problems related to relationships and finances and health. And enemies, sometimes that being the case with people we know. Definitely foreign enemies that we hear about all the time. Enemies who at least want to ruin our way of life. And how about problems related to our human natures ? Natures that can make it so easy to do what is wrong.

Because of all that, we need the salvation Jesus came to offer. Will we do what the baby chicks did? Will we not do what those in Jerusalem did? May we not reject Jesus. Instead, will we hear and heed the call of Jesus? Will we trust Him enough to run to Him and hide under His care?

If we will, we will be obeying an Old Testament passage that must have been on Jesus’ New Testament mind when he spoke His sadness concerning Jerusalem. The passage is Psalm 36, which does, about halfway through, speak of taking refuge under God’s wings.

As I studied for this message, it seems to me Psalm 36 can be divided into three sections. We will think of the Psalm in that way, beginning with verses 1 through 4, in which there is a review of some characteristics of those who reject salvation. I mention these to make sure we know what to avoid in our spiritual lives.

In a commentary on Psalm 36, the first four verses are categorized under two headings - a root of bitterness and the branches that come from it.

A root of bitterness. By the way, that is a very dangerous thing. It is specifically taught against in Hebrews 12, which gives the instruction for any group of Christians, “Let no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble.”

A root of bitterness, however, can be seen in some people. For our purpose in this message, in those who will not accept the salvation Jesus came to offer. It is based on having a contempt for God, which is expressed in these ways.

Transgression - sin rather than the good teachings of God - is what speaks to the wicked deep in his heart. That is how contempt starts.

Because the heart is filled with sin - with a desire to sin - there is no fear of God before the eyes of the wicked.

Because his eyes are set on sin rather than on God, he flatters himself, thinking - convincing himself - that what is wrong is actually right. I guess a couple kind of modern phrases apply here. The phrases, “If it feels good, do it,” and “If it feels right, it must be right.” Both of which are wrong because God, not what feels good or right, is the standard we are to follow.

And this. In his own eyes, the wicked thinks his iniquity cannot be found out. So even if there might be a chance the wicked might know what is being done is wrong, he is convinced he will not be found out. So, he thinks, what does sin matter?

A root of bitterness. It is based on contempt for God and His teachings. It then develops branches that come from it, which is evidence of such a root.

The words of his mouth are mischief and deceit. Even what he says is designed to do wrong.

He has ceased to act wisely. He has ceased to do good. Again, sin is the purpose, rather than striving to honor God by way of praying, worshiping, and fellowshiping with others who love God.

And the one with bitterness goes even further. He plots mischief. What a tragic step that is. It is serious enough to fall into sin. Here the indication is that he plans to do wrong. He sets himself in a way that is not good.

He does not spurn evil, but enjoys being in it with others like him.

What a warning. May we know the dangers of having a root of bitterness in us - us individually and as a congregation. May we know the signs that such a root has taken hold and guard against and fight against what is described in verses 1 through 4. May sin not be allowed in our hearts. May we not think of bad things to do, but rather concentrate on the good teachings of God. May we never think any kind of sin is OK.

May we always remember that even if no one else notices any bad thing, God will know. May we, individually and as a congregation, work at not allowing anything or anyone to take our attention away from the goodness of God and the salvation Jesus came to earth to offer.

Instead - here is the part of Psalm 36 that relates to the white leghorn chicken story at the beginning of the message - let’s allow ourselves to be protected under God’s wings.

Verses 5 through 9. First, verse 5.

Instead of concentrating on sinful things all around us, let’s concentrate on the things of God about to be mentioned, beginning with may we know that the steadfast love of God extends to the heavens and that His faithfulness extends to the clouds.

Were things bad at the time David wrote today’s Psalm? Yes. As mentioned in some recent messages, David faced lots of problems in his life. Family problems. Political problems. Foreign problems. Relationship problems. Sin problems.

Were things bad at the time of Jesus? At the time He spoke to Jerusalem? Yes. As explained earlier in this message, religious leaders were not leading righteously. As a result, many of the people in Jerusalem Jesus had come to save were rejecting Him.

Are things bad now? Yes. Again, we have our own human natures to fight against. As discussed, there is always the potential of having a root of bitterness spring up. We also have plenty of spiritual enemies all around us. It can seem so easy to go along rather than fight for our faith. Certainly the news reminds us of problem after problem we face. I am sure we could all list all sorts of personal problems we face.

But did you hear it? In the face of all the problems just listed, David was still able to write that God’s love and faithfulness exist. That they exist far beyond our problems. Will I - will we - recognize the reach of God’s blessings? Will we concentrate on that rather than on the problems around us.

Verse 6. “Your righteousness is like the mountains of God. Your judgments are like the great deep.”

Wow. Think of the meaning of those two statements.

Mountains are tall. Therefore, they are easily seen. Remember the description of the wicked? They pretend no one can see their evil? Well, it can be seen because whatever evil is done is compared to the righteousness of God, which is as easily seen as a mountain. And from the height of God, sins are visible.

Mountains are strong. They are immovable. So even if some people do act against God’s righteousness, He does not change. What is right is right. Nothing will change that. Nothing can change that, no matter who or how many act differently.

The deep? That refers to the seas of the world. The deep seas. Too deep to be measured by instruments available at the time Psalm 36 was written. The meaning is that God’s righteousness is beyond measure.

Like God’s righteousness, so is His love. Verse 7. “How precious is Your steadfast love, O God.” It, too, is evident. It, too, is strong. It is immovable It does not change It is beyond measure.

And it can be seen. It can be seen in God’s offer to shelter us. Still verse 7. “The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

Remember the white leghorn chicken story? Mama was willing to lead her little ones.

That is what God is willing to do for us. He is willing to lead us in the ways we should go, doing what is right, leading us into being righteous. He loves us enough to want to do that, even if and when we struggle to keep up with Him.

But remember mama was also willing to gather her little ones under her wings. To protect them from the weather and from predators and from loneliness.

Remember what Jesus wanted to do for the people of Jerusalem? He wanted to gather them under His spiritual wings. That is what He wants to do for us, too, as it is stated in verse 7. He wants us to be under the shadow of His wings, taking refuge, thereby getting protection from anything that besets us.

The point is, are we doing that? Will we keep doing that? Again, let’s avoid doing what the people of Jerusalem did with Jesus. Let’s avoid rejecting His offer. Instead, let’s take advantage of His love. Love shown by the refuge of salvation He offers even us.

We should want that because of what David added in verses 8 and 9. Listen to the additional advantages of being under God’s wings.

Feasting on His abundance. Abundance of what? How about blessings, such as at least spiritual peace? How about the abundance of Heaven when His people leave this life to go on to the next life.

Drinking from the river of His delights. Not a creek or a stream, but a river. A full, fresh, constantly flowing river. And drinking? That refers to enjoying what the river holds, which is described as “delights.” What delights? How about all that being under His wings represents? His warmth. His protection. His presence.

“With You [with God],” David wrote, “is the fountain of life.”

“In His light, we see light.” Light that will help us know God’s way and follow it.

What wonderful benefits are found under God’s wings, which is where He wants us to be. So again, are we under His wings? Will we keep being under His wings? May we avoid doing what the people of Jerusalem did with Jesus. May we avoid rejecting His offer. Instead, let’s take advantage of His love. Love shown by the refuge of salvation He offers even us.

In fact, may we pray that we will allow ourselves to be where God wants us to be in our relationship with Him. May we pray with the words in the third part of Psalm 36, which is verses 10 through 12, where two things are asked.

First, “God, continue Your steadfast love to those who know You. Continue to give Your salvation to the upright of heart.” In other words, for all who at this time know, follow, and obey God, may we continue to know His love and salvation.

Of course, our desire must be that more and more people will know God and be upright. But for those of us who already know God, we need to pray for ourselves, too. We need to pray that we will continue to accept His protection so we can continue to benefit from His blessings.

Second, “God, let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.”

Remember the human nature we talked about earlier? That can cause arrogance. Remember the other problems we listed earlier? Personal problems? Problems from enemies? They can be so discouraging we might feel like we are being driven away from God.

So we are to pray that neither arrogance nor spiritual defeat will come. In fact, David wrote, “Let evildoers lie prostrate. Let them be thrust down. Keep them from rising.” That is what we are to pray.

* * * * *

You know, chickens are probably not considered the smartest of God’s creation. Yet even little chickens know the best place to be is under the wings of their mothers.

Will we be as smart as chickens? Smart in a spiritual way? Will we be smart enough to allow God to do what He wants to do? Will we allow Jesus to do what He came to do? Will we allow ourselves to be under His wings? I hope so. What a wonderful place to be. A place of protection. A place of safety. A place of peace. Will you and I be chickens?

Today’s closing song is the hymn Under His Wings.

Under His wings I am safely abiding
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild
Still I can trust Him - I know He will keep me
He has redeemed me and I am His child
Under His wings, under His wings
Who from His love can sever
Under His wings my soul shall abide
Safely abide forever

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow
How the heart yearningly turns to its rest
Often when earth has not balm for my healing
There I find comfort and there I am blest
Under His wings, under His wings
Who from His love can sever
Under His wings my soul shall abide
Safely abide forever

Under His wings, o what precious enjoyment
There will I hide ’til life’s trials are o’er
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me
Resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore
Under His wings, under His wings
Who from His love can sever
Under His wings my soul shall abide
Safely abide forever

For those of us who are adult Christians, let’s be like purple martin adults and help young Christians by encouraging them and leading them and helping them.

Let’s be like a starling mama and keep feeding young Christians for as long as they need us to do so. May we never grow tired of our role in doing that.

Let’s allow Jesus to be like an adult white leghorn chicken. Let’s allow Him to take us under His wings.

Let’s allow ourselves to accept and enjoy all that means. Including the Lord’s warmth, the Lord’s protection, His presence, His love. Let’s be chickens. Amen.

 

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