Monday, February 04, 2013

Our tough and tender Shepherd

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 40:1-11

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 athletes (hockey or football players) interacting with kids from the Vancouver Children's Hospital, or watching my strong, capable son-in-law take care of his little 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: Handel's Messiah Alert!
G. F. Handel dipped generously into Isaiah 40 when he was writing the Messiah.

He quoted from Isaiah 40:1-5 in Choruses 2 - ("Comfort Ye My People"), 3 ("Every Valley") and 4 (And the Glory of the Lord").

He used words directly from Isaiah 40:9 in Chorus 9 ("O Thou That Tellest").

And he took the words for Chorus 18 from Isaiah 40:11 ("He Shall Feed His Flock").




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