GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU FROM GOD THE FATHER AND CHRIST JESUS OUR SAVIOUR. AMEN. (Titus 1:4.)
SEE, THE SOVEREIGN LORD COMES WITH POWER, AND HIS ARM RULES FOR HIM. SEE, HIS REWARD IS WITH HIM, AND HIS RECOMPENSE ACCOMPANIES HIM. HE TENDS HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD: HE GATHERS THE LAMBS IN HIS ARMS AND CARRIES THEM CLOSE TO HIS HEART; HE GENTLY LEADS THOSE THAT HAVE YOUNG.
(Jesus said) I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP. MY SHEEP LISTEN TO MY VOICE; I KNOW THEM, AND THEY FOLLOW ME. (John 10:11, 27.)
The book of Isaiah is centred on the Babylonian exile, which began in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and enslaved the Jewish people. The exile ended in 539 B.C. when Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild their Temple. Isaiah makes it clear that Nebuchadnezzar was God’s instrument to punish His people for their sin, and Cyrus would be the instrument to set them free.
The verses above are very helpful in the present depressing and anxious times caused by the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, when scientists and officials cannot agree on the best way to tackle this disease and fear the future effects of it.
If you have a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency, you must reconsider it from now on. To rest in God’s gentle leading, you must feel your brokenness. Can you admit that for a long while you just tried to be someone you now know you are not?! This is the only way for believers to see our sovereign Lord longing to lift us up and carry in His arms. Will you let Him?
In the Old Testament God is often pictured as the shepherd, and the people as His flock (Psalm 23, Psalm 80, Psalm 95, Psalm 100). Prophecies speak about God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, as the shepherd of the sheep. In the New Testament Jesus is the good shepherd (Matthew 9:36, 18:12, 26:31, Mark 6:14, 14:27, Luke 12:32, 15:4, 1. Peter 2:25, Hebrews 13:20 as well as John Ch.10.) In the Middle East, the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep differs from anything we know here, because there the sheep are kept for their milk and for their wool and shepherd and sheep are together for as long as eight or nine years. Spending so much time together the shepherd and the sheep develop a special, close relationship. The sheep hear, recognise and know the voice of their shepherd. The sheep will not respond to the call of a stranger. This is how we must receive these messages from the book of Prophet Isaiah and John’s Gospel.
Isaiah is calling on us to trust in God’s power even if it seems hard to rely upon others, to trust in God’s mighty strength and ask for his help which will not be humiliating but empowering. Admitting our weakness and sinfulness before God has the paradoxical effect of making us stronger in our faith of His care for His people. Note the contrasting use of the word arms in verse 10, where His arm rules, and in verse 11, where He gathers the lambs in His arms. The strong arm capable of wielding a sword is also capable of gentleness and compassion. Lambs, like little children, cannot walk fast or far. If nobody helps them, they will be lost to the flock. Just imagine how comforting it must be for a lost and tired lamb to be picked up and carried in the strong arms of the shepherd – next to his bosom – next to his heart. The mother sheep will not be concerned for her lamb because she knows the shepherd, who gently leads the mother sheep by carrying her lamb in his arms.
Jesus revealed himself as the GOOD SHEPHERD, so His Flock could experience abundant life. Jesus lived among us to be known, understood, trusted and believed. He performed miracles so people would see His authority and trust themselves to His care. Jesus taught so people would understand and apply His message. The condition He put is: – listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. These words were given from His heart of love, shortly before He died on the cross. They warn us. They direct us. They implore us to trust Him. Although our faith is a gift of God, it is a relationship that must be nurtured. Nurtured through prayer-life, Bible-reading, participation in a Christian fellowship and involvement in Christian service. These are the only ways we will be able to recognize the voice of Jesus in the cacophony of our pluralistic world. It is impossible to follow Jesus if we do know Him and are not known by Him.
May God help us in these difficult times, when our lives become threatened by death even more than during the world wars, to know the Shepherd’s voice, to be known by Our Shepherd and ultimately to be His faithful followers.
SUGGESTED HYMN: PSALM 23.
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want. / He makes me down to lie/ In pastures green: he leadeth me/ The quiet waters by.
My soul he doth restore again;/ And me to walk doth make / Within the paths of righteousness, / Even for his own Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, / Yet will I fear none ill:/ For thou art with me; and thy rod / And staff me comfort still.
My table thou hast furnished / In presence of my foes;/ My head thou dost with oil anoint, / And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life/ Shall surely follow me:/ And in God’s house for ever more/ My dwelling-place shall be.
LET US PRAY:
Almighty Lord God! You are our Good Shepherd in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Saviour! We praise You and worship You as the Creator and Saviour of all and we give thanks for all the ways Your Love reaches out to us every day. Lord, we do not believe that whatever happens in this world is meant to be, but we do believe that, whatever befalls us, You are always at work, seeking to work out Your loving purpose, despite everything that conspires against it. In the trials and troubles of today’s life, Lord, minister to us. In sorrow, bring comfort; in sickness, bring healing; in despair, bring hope; in death, bring life. Wherever we are broken, make us whole. We pray for the world, Your World, during this pandemic disaster, for Her Majesty our Queen and her family, our governments and parliaments in London and Edinburgh and all the leaders of the world in their decision-making. Be with all who are separated from loved ones by distance, quarantine or death. Bless all medical staff, care-workers and all on whom supplies, order and safety rely. We pray for Your Flock, Good Shepherd, the Christian Church Universal in all its branches, for our Church of Scotland in all its Presbyteries and Congregations, for each and every sister and brother of ours who needs You, Your guidance, support, healing, comfort, companionship. Be with us and remain with us both now and for ever more. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – Our Father, who art in heaven…
MAY THE GOD OF PEACE, WHO THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE ETERNAL COVENANT BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP, EQUIP YOU WITH EVERYTHING GOOD FOR DOING HIS WILL, AND MAY HE WORK IN US WHAT IS PLEASING TO HIM, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.
(Hebrews 13: 20-21)
Sandor, your Minister.