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Three Billion Sheep...

By Tad de Bordenave
April 26, 2021

For many churches, yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings told the compelling metaphor of Jesus as the Good Shepherd from the 10th chapter of John. We have all found comfort from the images in art and stained-glass windows of the Shepherd with a sheep draped over his shoulders.

If we take in all the details of the story, however, we must make room for the hostile intruders of robbers, thieves, and wolves. These wolves, Jesus warned, have power to exercise a deathly grip over the sheep.

In the span of the last two months, about three billion sheep have followed these counterfeit voices to paths of destruction. Thieves and robbers have led them to rituals of bathing in waters with no life and fasting from all foods with no reward. One billion Hindus are celebrating Kumbh Mela by ceremonial washing in the Ganges River, and two billion Muslims are observing the rigorous requirements of Ramadan.

One of the most sacred Hindu festivals is the Kumbh Mela which occurs every 12 years. The dates are determined by the astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment when these positions are fully aligned. According to Hindu teaching, washing in one of holy rivers that form the Ganges brings forgiveness of sins and secures eternal salvation. The year 2021 is a year of the Kumbh Mela, and the site has been Haridwar on the Ganges river. The festival began in March and will end this coming Tuesday, April 27. The Internet has lots of pictures showing the throngs of bathers. Sadly, cautions about COVID are scarce.

Ramadan is the month when Mohammed received the Qur'an. Observing the fasts of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, promising assurance of God's mercy. From sunrise to sunset observant Muslims abstain from all food and drink, sexual activity, and malicious behavior. A saying from the Hadith gives this promise: "Whoever fasts during Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven." But all is not grim for this month, however. It is an undisputed fact that more food is consumed during Ramadan that any other time, all of it being served at night. This year the days of Ramadan are from April 13 until May 12.

These spiritual deceptions sully the images of Jesus holding a lost sheep. Jesus warns of the powers of His adversary. Satan comes disguised as robbers and wolves, with powers to steal and kill, to imitate the voice of the Savior, to deceive and destroy the flock. They replace the cross of Christ with a darkness over three billion people.

Millions have heard the lies of Satan and pursue his deadly deceptions. Millions are "taking the dip" at the Ganges, trusting their eternity to a date set by planets and a river chosen by lot. Millions choose to thirst during the day only to quench their hunger by extravagant meals during the night.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ watches them. He hears the tempter's voice; He knows the deceit of the fasts and the washing; He grieves over those who pursue counterfeit hope. Looking down from heaven with unimaginable sadness He sees the millions of Hindus making their journey to the Ganges, the millions of Muslims expecting merit through fasting. All in the span of these two months. Surely this lamentation is His: "Is it nothing all you who bypass My Son, nailed to the cross for your salvation?"

But the sorrows of heaven accompany the march of God's army towards inexorable victory. All authority has been given to His resurrected Son Jesus as Savior and as judge. The powers and authorities that stood against us were disarmed and nailed to his cross. We, disciples of Jesus Christ, have been sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of reconciliation.

For this battle He has given his followers one primary weapon for defeating the wolves and breaking their control. That weapon is prayer. Our intercessions hold the spiritual power against spiritual adversaries. The prayers of the saints break down the enemy's strongholds and release the powers of light and truth.

We know from St. Paul that the battle is not fought on the ground, not relying on more funds and personnel. The engagement confronts the cosmic forces of evil, battalions of rulers of darkness, principalities and powers arrayed against the truth of Christ crucified.

This prayer is nothing more that the humble followers of Christ persistently coming before the Father on behalf of the sheep. We learn of the millions of men and women who fast in Ramadan or take the dip in the Ganges. We know the destination ahead of them, and we want them to hear the voice of Jesus and follow him into his sheepfold. And so we ask the Father to take the clutches of Satan off the sheep, to open their ears to the gospel, to lead them to saving fellowship with the Good Shepherd. Our prayers are our calling that serves the Father's love for His sheep.

Let me give encouragement in our prayer efforts with links that will assist us.

First, this article which gives a retro view of the impact of prayer for the Muslim world. David Garrison has researched church planting movements among Muslims. A 30-day guide for prayer during Ramadan has been used for almost three decades. In this article Garrison describes the correlation of these movements and prayer.
https://mailchi.mp/ df12bb67b7c9/30-days-2021-day-10?e=0201527298

For an effective prayer guide for the days of Ramadan:

For a prayer guide for the Hindu world:

The enemy is not totally defeated yet. That day will come. In the meantime, he retreats in the presence of our praises and our prayers. As he retreats, sheep can then hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and find the door to the sheepfold.

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