Monday, January 30, 2012

Our tough and tender shepherd

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 40:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Behold the Lord God shall come with a strong hand ...
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arms,
And carry them in His bosom
And gently lead those who are with young." Isaiah 40:10,11

I love seeing news footage of tough Vancouver Canuck hockey players interacting with kids from the Vancouver Children's Hospital, or watch my strong, capable son-in-law take care of his baby daughter. There is something compelling about strength combined with tenderness. In Isaiah 40 we see that aspect of God.

Though He governs with a strong hand and a ruling arm, He rules His own with the utmost of gentleness:
  • He feeds His flock. [Feed - ra 'ah  means to shepherd, tend, pasture, cause one's herd or flock to graze, care for one's animals, providing them with good pasture - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 919.]
  • He carries the lambs—the young and immature—in His arms and carries them close to His heart.
  • He takes special care of the mothers: "gently leads those who are with young."

This passage from Isaiah reminds us of other God-as-shepherd passages.

* Psalm 80:1-2 also combines God's tenderness with strength: "Give ear O Shepherd of Israel / You who lead Joseph like a flock .... Stir up Your strength, / And come and save us."

* So does Micah 5:4: "He shall stand and feed His flock / In the strength of the Lord .." Here "He" refers to Jesus. Two verses earlier in the same passage, Micah predicts His birth in Bethlehem.

* Psalm 23:1-6 shows God shepherding the individual by bringing him to the best pasture and to still water, comforting him in a brush with death, and exalting him before enemies.

* And of course we can't forget the words of Jesus Himself as He expands on His role as our shepherd in John 10. There He talks about how His sheep know His voice (John 10:4), how entry into the sheepfold through Him (the door - John 10:7) assures them safety and an abundant life (John 10:9,10), how He is so committed to the sheep He lays down His life for them (John 10:15), and how no one has power to take the sheep away from Him (John 10:28).

What comfort and security we know in the care of our shepherd who is both strong and tender. I have put myself in His care. Have you?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your power, which so often shows itself in gentleness. Help me to recognize Your voice and always follow You. Amen.

MORE: He gathers with His arm of power

"He shall gather the lambs with his arm; the weaklings of the flock; the same with babes and sucklings, newly born souls, weak believers, mean and low in their own eyes, the smoking flax, and bruised reed, the day of small things, the poor of the flock; these he gathers with his arm of power, and by the ministry of the Gospel, both to himself, his person ... and to his church, to partake of the word and ordinances of it, and to nearer communion with him in them" Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

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