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I’m sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:3)

Some pep talk!  This could easily be voted the “Least Likely Metaphor to Instill Enthusiasm and Confidence.”  What was Jesus thinking?  It sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Few things in this world are as helpless as lambs; few animals are as vicious as wolves.  Who would sign up for a such a suicide mission?

The context of these words from Jesus is found in the commissioning of seventy-two disciples, sent out in pairs as “advance teams” to the cities and villages where He would later visit personally.  I reference the number “seventy-two” here, as it appears in Luke 10:1 in the NIV, NLT, and ESV, even though “seventy” is found in my NASB (1995 Updated Edition), which is God’s favorite English translation.  That’s a joke, for those of you who don’t know me.  I could go into several reasons why different groups of scholars favor one number over the other, respectively, based on Greek manuscript evidence and the symbolic significance of each number.  I will refrain from doing so as an early Christmas present to all of you.

These seventy-two disciples were anointed by Jesus with power to heal the sick, given authority over demons, and charged to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God.  They were sent out with meager physical provisions, instructed to demonstrate proper etiquette in the homes into which they were welcomed, and prepared for inevitable rejection by many.

This is where Jesus’ motivational speech comes in.  “Okay, lambs!  Get out there among those wolves.”  This could get ugly, fast!

And yet, as happens so often in Scripture, something remarkable took place, something miraculous.  The lambs dominated!  They totally crushed the opposition.  The lambs ran the wolves off the field.  Lambs 72 – Wolves 0!!!

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17)

Ah!  “In your name!”  That was the secret weapon.  It wasn’t any inherent strength or power in the lambs.  Without Jesus, they would have been served as hors d’oeuvres at the wolf pack party.  It was the power and authority of the Good Shepherd who sent them out that assured their success!

Once again, God was using the weak and the improbable to accomplish His purposes and demonstrate His power.  That’s what Gideon’s 300 were all about, and David’s sling and stone, and the widow’s smidgen of flour and oil, and the five loaves and two fish.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecution, with difficulties for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)

Jesus basically told the seventy-two disciples that Satan was in a free fall; the Evil One was dropping like a rock and picking up speed with every demon that was cast out.  Then, He put things in perspective as only He could.

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

Indeed!  He’s not only the Good Shepherd, He’s the Lamb of God, to whom belongs the book of life.

Thank you, Lord, for recording our names there!

Lists and records.  Such documents, whether they exist in printed or electronic form, are integrally connected to our lives from beginning to end.

The fact that our name appears (or doesn’t appear) in a particular list or within a specific record can be extremely significant: a record of birth at the Office of Vital Statistics, a final roster after all the cuts have been made during try-outs for an athletic team, the honor roll or dean’s list, a list of students who have completed their course requirements for graduation, a record of marriage at the County Clerk’s office at the courthouse, a list of eligible, registered voters, etc.

Maybe you have had the experience of your name not being included in a list where it should have been or erroneously appearing where it didn’t belong (hopefully not an obituary!).  Perhaps it was just an oversight or an explainable misprint.  Beyond human error in the input of data, printed records can be damaged or completely destroyed and electronic ones can vanish forever with the crash of a computer hard drive.

Thankfully, the most important list in which our names appear is not subject to input errors and is in no danger of being damaged or lost.  It is a record that exists in the mind of our omniscient God and Father. We, as God’s children, have our names recorded in the book of life that belongs to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ (Revelation 3:5; 13:8, 20:11-15; 21:27; et al.)

Throughout the story of the Scripture, we sense a general understanding among people of faith that God knows by name all of those who belong to Him.  See Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; and Daniel 12:1. 

When 70 of Jesus’ disciples returned to Him from a successful mission of teaching, healing, and casting out demons, the Lord challenged them not to glory in these demonstrations of divine power, but rather to “rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

The Lord knows those who are His (II Timothy 2:19)!

“My name is in the Book of Life; O bless the name of Jesus!”  Though I haven’t sung that song in quite a while, its message is still as true and as comforting as ever.

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November 2022