Jan26TueJanuary 26, 2021
When Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was an old man, he gathered together his family in order to give them each a unique, God-inspired blessing. This moment was not unlike this past Sunday morning when Milo Leander was dedicated to the Lord by his parents.
As Jacob began the first blessing, he spoke words about God which have shaped our understanding about the Lord up to this very day. He said, “God has been my shepherd all my life long” (Genesis 48:14b). This was the first time that God’s nature and work was associated with a herdsman. Although the LORD God (or YHWH) is the more proper and frequently used name for the Creator of Life, Jacob’s experience with God over his lifetime helped Jacob come to know the tender, guiding hand of the Almighty. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to associate that form of leadership with the occupation that he knew best – shepherding. Of course, as you know, God had a plan behind that description.
Inspired leaders like King David and the prophet Jeremiah could see the spiritual benefits of describing ourselves as sheep before the protective rod and instructive staff of the Lord. Jesus, as God in the flesh, fulfilled the analogy by describing himself as the Good Shepherd who had come to lay down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:14-15). The Early Church continued the parallel by describing herself as the ‘flock of God’ and appointing ‘under-shepherds’ (or elders) to be examples to the flock while awaiting the day when the ‘Chief Shepherd’ would appear (1 Peter 5:2-4).
Yes, spiritual examples of seeing ourselves as sheep and God as a shepherd abound. But what does it mean to let the Good Shepherd minister to our souls? For this, let’s consider Isaiah 40, verse 11.
First, the Lord knows what we need to digest in order to stay healthy. We are like sheep in that, if left on our own, we may easily digest only that which we want rather than that which we need. Some of the benefits of meeting Jesus through Scriptural meditation and Sunday morning worship is that He will inevitably lead us to nourishing truths which we may have easily overlooked or ignored while on our own. If we want to be mature, we must let Him ‘tend’ to our diet.
Second, the Lord knows when we need to be carried or gently led. Our spiritually maturing ‘legs’ can only carry us so far in this difficult world without ‘pastoral’ assistance. That is where the church, as the body of Christ, steps in. God uses intentional, spiritual relationships to carry our needs to the Lord and experience His tender care. This may come through moments with pastors, elders, family members, neighbors and even that person in your small group whom you don’t know very well yet! When we confess our needs to others, give them permission to look deeper and ask them to pray for us, we can experience the Lord’s shepherding presence at work.
We are like sheep - prone to wander, easily anxious and designed to be led. But praise be to God that we have a Good Shepherd and a flock!
Father, help us continue to lean upon Jesus and His people in order to receive the nourishment and care that we need. Amen!