He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11 KJV)
Alright, so first off, how many of you know what a shepherd is, raise your hand? Go on, lift it up. Yes…Yes, I see that hand…yup…good. Ok great, thanks for that.
So we all know what a shepherd is, but what do we know about shepherds? Well, for starters, if they’re worth their salt, they’d better be dedicated to those sheep, right? I mean, they must look after their intellectually-challenged little charges constantly. And they need to be willing to put the sheep’s needs above their own desires.
Now let’s take a look at a ridiculously familiar verse.
Ps. 23:1 “The LORD is my shepherd…”
Now hold it right there. Think about those five words for the next 10 seconds. Just think about them.
Done? Now break it down.
The LORD is my shepherd…
The LORD, (Jehovah God the self-existent One) Is my shepherd (provider, protector, and leader)
Are you catching this?
The LORD is My shepherd?!
The Governor of creation is dedicated to my good?
The sinless One put my needs above his own desires?
Can you begin to see how completely unreal that is? It’s almost absurd.
And this wasn’t the last job available. God didn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel picking up the last job none of the angels wanted. We don’t see Jesus blowing out his cheeks and muttering, “Shepherding again?! I just did that last week. They need more help? How come I got stuck with this lame job?” Nay nay. Jesus wants to be our shepherd. He desires to equip us to become more like Himself. The King of creation could sit up in Heaven doing nothing if He chose. But He decided to be active in our lives. He took up the challenge of being our Shepherd. He didn’t have to, but that was the job He chose, the occupation He wanted. To take care of us. To be our shepherd. And trust me, it isn’t because we’re so easy to work with (because we’re not).
So let’s take a quick look at the four actions that we see displayed in our verse.
- He feeds us.
Our Good Shepherd provides us with food. I’m not talking about some figurative sense, I’m talking about hot dogs, lasagna and watermelons! May we never forget that every meal we eat is a result of the blessing and mercy of the Great God Himself. Every drop of water is sent from His hand. Even our very breath is on loan from His storehouses. Of course, though the miracle of food is quite immense, it’s nothing compared to the sheer wonder of our Spiritual food. Imagine the living words of the timeless Creator somehow frozen in place in three mere dimensions and contained on pages of fragile paper with the fading ink of mortal men.
And look how He provides for us!
The Savior of the world came to save us from the just punishment we deserved for our rebellion against Him.
He rescued us not only from the damning consequences of our wicked fallen nature, but delivered us from the fallen nature itself, Baptizing us in the blood of Christ into new resurrection life! He provides a way of escape from both eternal destruction as well as daily temptation, all in one supreme act, and also interjects the super-human power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Now stop and chew on that.
This alone should induce all of our gratitude and energy, shouldn’t it?
And if He had stopped there, we would still have more than we could ever deserve or pay for.
But our Great God doesn’t stop there. He is not sitting on his throne merely watching, uninvolved in our lives. He leans in, interested, wanting to be a part of our everyday existence. Which leads us to:
- He Gathers us.
Though all He has done for us should cause us to eagerly give our entire life into His care, this is rarely the case. With our hearts bulging with His blessings, we often turn and run from Him. Like little sheep with full bellies, we run away from our kind Provider. Even as He feeds us, we shift suspiciously, fearing to trust Him fully. We perpetually return to our sin and shame after He has cleansed us from them. Even as we fall back into our sin, we know that it isn’t the answer. We know our old life won’t satisfy, but we are too afraid of what He might ask of us. So we sulk in the mire of our own design, guilty to be there, but afraid to go forward. Twice shamed, because we have sinned against Him again, and this time we knew better.
And yet, even as we hide in our shame, we hear our dear Shepherd calling our name, searching for us, following our trail, pursuing us. We ache for Him to come, even as we quietly wish He would forget about us and leave us be. But He won’t. He comes, He always comes back for His own. He finds us in our pitiful state, and reaching through the filth that He died to free us from, gathers us back to Himself. There is no hole too deep, no sin too ugly, no situation too far gone that the power of His mighty arm cannot reach into!
Sometimes it seems like He is harsh with us. Sometimes it seems like He’s set the dogs on us, but it’s still his loving arm. It’s his gentle fingers cleansing us, combing out the filth that has become matted to us, untwisting the thistles from our coats. And it hurts. But it’s love. He teaches us through our pain, as He purifies us He reveals more of Himself. No matter how far we run, no matter where we hide, His loving hand seeks us out. His mercy truly is everlasting. His grace immeasurable. His love too high for comprehension. And yet it’s all so real. His attributes aren’t just words, they are the purest reality.
And let’s not forget which arm it is that reaches out for us. This is The Arm of The Lord. Remember the previous verse in this passage:
“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him:”
This is The Lord of Hosts, the Warrior God whose mighty arm defeated the enemies of Israel, this same Victorious King has also chosen to be our intimate Shepherd.
3. He Carries us.
Now He has us once more. He carries us back to where we belong, into his presence where life makes sense.
This is a picture of our complete dependence on Him. Our lives must be defined by our dependence on Christ. It’s in remaining in His presence that we find true freedom.
But life isn’t always simple. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) But we’ve all had times of darkness and pain. Where was He in the midst of that? we ask. We feel as though He forsook us, and in those moments we choose to believe what we’re feeling instead of the changeless words of our Father. This is as foolish as doubting the sun’s presence during a thunderstorm. What God says is the truth no matter how I feel about it.
When we don’t understand what’s happening or why we’re going through it, He will be there. As we struggle through our pain and tears, remember He is not distant. He is near. In fact, he carries us through the tough times. He also carries us through the good times. He is not just there for us when we feel we need him, he is there whether we feel we need him or not. He is our strength. Our dependable Rock. He doesn’t just carry us, but he carries us IN HIS VERY NEAR PRESENCE! He literally incloses us in Himself. Oh friend, is there really any better place to be?!
- He Leads us.
When we have tasted and have seen Him come through for us, we learn to trust Him more. When He says, “Follow me.” we run after him.
The word “Lead” here pretty much encapsulates the other three actions we’ve seen so far. It’s a picture of the totality of God’s provision for us. The meanings include, to provide, to sustain, to carry, and to guide. When He leads you and you follow, He will position each of your footfalls to land in the best place possible. When we feel lost, like we don’t know what to do next, He opens up the doors. He makes a way through.
He leads us up the mountains, and leads us down the valleys. He brings us through the pastures of plenty, and He brings us through the desolate deserts. No matter where our pathway lies, He is there to guide us. He knows the terrain, He’s been this way before. He doesn’t drag us, (although we deserve it) and He doesn’t just send us. He leads us. He gently leads us. What a tender picture of immense strength harnessed to abject frailty. He decides to come with us. He is our captain, our master, our Shepherd. We aren’t alone. Ever.
Deut. 31:8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
He will go before us. He will go with us. Only a very powerful God can lead ahead and be with us at the same time.
Remember: “the LORD is my Shepherd”
The Being who winks at nations, who stretched out the heavens, who created the ferocious burning orbs in the sky. That same Being has chosen to be your own personal Shepherd. If that’s true (which it is) then what have we to fear? How can we worry?
So, the next time you’re tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness, remember He is your (that’s right, I’m talking to you!) Provider. Stop living your life like you have to fend for yourself, and start living like you believe that you have the best Shepherd ever, because you do. (Ever notice that Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd, but He’s also a good shepherd? He’s an expert at what He does)
Could you decide to trust Him?
Could you allow Him to make your life a poster-board that shouts out: “I trust Jesus!”?
Would you let Him show the world what His power looks like in you?
Taste and see that He is Good! Christ is our Good Shepherd; He gave his life for his sheep. Don’t you think He has your best interest in mind?
The Self-Existent One is my Provider
He feeds me.
The Warrior God is my Rescuer
He gathers me back.
The God of all comforts is my Defense
He holds me.
The Great I AM Is my Trailblazer
He guides me.