There a lot of parables about gathering that Christ could have used when he stated: “Israel, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings but you would not.” (Matt. 23:37)
He could have spoken of gathering a flock of sheep, or gathering an army as Caesar would have done, or gathering stones as Solomon stated, or gathering the wheat from the tares, as he also spoke of.
But why chickens?
My house mate is an old farm boy and he explained to me that this parable was given in terms people familiar with raising chickens would have understood. When does a hen gather her chickens? When danger is near. Why does she gather them? For safety and protection to ensure their survival, such as when a hawk is circling overhead, or a fox is at the hen house door.
Do the chickens stay gathered under their mother’s wing? No. It is important for the chicks to go about their business of finding food and doing other things that chickens do. If they constantly stayed under their mother’s wing, they would not be free to develop in other ways in which they need to develop. Once the chicks are fully developed many of them will grow up to be hens just like their mother, with chicks of their own to protect. Others will grow up to be roosters, who just go around crowing a lot. But that’s another story.
In what other ways would Christ be like a mother hen to her chicks if only Israel (us) would allow him? The mother hen not only protects her brood, but she loves them and teaches them. The chicks stay near mother, but they are not constantly under her wing.
Christ says “How often would I have gathered your children”. There were many opportunities to gather, not just one. Christ wanted to be their teacher, their protector, and to nurture them as a mother would, but they would not.
Christ is not about to force us to gather unto him. It must be an act of our own free will. It must happen with our full knowledge and agreement and without force or fear. Some political and religious philosophies believe that the end justifies the means. With true followers of Christ, the means is just as important as the end. He said: “I am the WAY.” and “No one comes unto the Father except BY me.”
If we are indeed gathered in the Name of the Lord, He will truly be in our midst. Even now. Even today. Not to discount the evils taking place in the world today, but this is an unconditional promise, and even before the actual appearance of the Christ, we will witness the arising of the Christ Consciousness, and the overshadowing of many disciples.
Collectively, the disciples pray that the door where evil dwells may be sealed. Perhaps they do not realize that they have a hand in accomplishing this. As this Great Invocation states: “From the kingdom known as the race of men, let the Plan of Love and Light work out. And may it seal the door where evil dwells.” That’s us. That’s our part of the plan to work out. And it starts out with letting the Plan work out in our own lives, and sealing our own door where evil dwells.
Moses attempted to gather Israel unto Christ, and he received the following promise:
“For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” Deut 23:14
However, after the people built the golden calf, Moses was instructed to move the tabernacle OUTSIDE of the camp, so that any time Moses needed to commune with God he was forced to leave the congregation of Israel, and go outside of the camp, and attend to his duties in the tabernacle. Every day the children of Israel watched Moses leave them because the Spirit of God could not abide in the midst of their wickedness.
Christ was still available to all, but he was outside the gathering because of the unrighteousness within.
Simply being a member of a group which professes to honor the name of Christ but does not honer the name of Christ in deed will not be privileged, as a group, to enjoy the benefit of being gathered into his Presence which they might otherwise have enjoyed, and those seeking Him will still find him, according to his promise, even if they must seek Him without the camp.
“For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
“Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”
Every church that God has ever suffered to exist has had one true purpose in mind, in the mind of God at least, and that was to provide a place for the gathering of the true followers of Christ. Whenever we consider gathering or joining in to Church, we should ask ourselves whether the Christ is there. And as we are reminded in Hebrews, Christ will not always be in the biggest or most popular organization, or what is considered the “camp”. Look for Christ where he is; do not look for him where he is not. Don’t be afraid to look for Him “without the camp”.
Question for contemplation: Why does a chicken coop only have two doors? If it had four, it would be a chicken sedan.