April 19, 2020

Isaiah 40:9-11

What should we do? Our nation is looking for answers. We have medical advisors and economic advisors for our governmental officials. They all know we have significant issues that threaten the wellbeing and future of our country. Yet they do not all agree on how we should solve these problems. Some of these various opinions are politically motivated to be sure. Most of the controversy is due to the fact that we haven’t faced issues like this before and no one really knows exactly what we should do.

In the same way, each one of us faces problems in our own personal lives. We each have certain individuals that we respect and turn to for advice when we are not really sure what we should do. At times, they are able to give us insight on the best way to solve our problem. Yet there are other times when even those who have wisdom beyond our own are not sure what is best for us to do. We are left to struggle with the issue on our own without any certainty as to what might be the best course of action to follow. The truth is that there are issues every one of us faces that are beyond the abilities of the most capable men to solve. Yet our situation is not hopeless. There is Someone who is more than capable to guide us in our daily lives. In Isaiah 40:9-14, the Lord declared through the prophet:

“Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news. Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ Behold the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?”

What a glorious picture Isaiah gives us of the grandeur and majesty of the One True God. He is the majestic One who has never received or needed advice from anyone. In His wisdom He has fashioned the universe in which we live. He is the One who has called all things into existence according to the amazing design of His creation. He is the God of both wisdom and power.

In this declaration by Isaiah, we see that the God who is never perplexed by the problems that face us is also the One who gently cares for His people. He is the One, who like a shepherd, gathers His flock to Himself and cares for them. He is the One who guides and protects those who trust in Him.

When Jesus came into this world, God sent a messenger before Him to announce Him to the nation of Israel. The messenger sent by God is the one we know today as John the Baptist. When John was asked about his own identity by the religious leaders who thought that maybe he was the promised Messiah, he said in response: “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness make straight the way of the LORD, as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23) This reference used by John the Baptist is part of the introduction to the passage quoted from Isaiah 40. John was introducing to the nation of Israel the One who is their God. John was introducing the One who is characterized by matchless wisdom and power. John was introducing to them the God who created the universe and everything in it. John was introducing the One who will shepherd and care for His flock. John was announcing to Israel their promised Messiah, who is Immanuel, God in the flesh. (Isaiah 7:14) John was given the privilege of heralding the coming of the promised Son of David whose name is called: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) John was preparing the way for Jesus Christ who was appointed by God to shepherd the people of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Shepherd who cares for His sheep.

In the same way, Micah the prophet indicated that the promised Messiah was coming as a Shepherd to care for His people. In Micah 5:1-5 we read the Lord’s declaration about Him:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be the ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. And this One will be our peace.”

As in the passage from Isaiah, so we see in this declaration of the Lord through the prophet Micah, that the promised Kingdom to the nation of Israel was coming through the promised Messiah. The One who was to be born of a woman in the village of Bethlehem was the One who from the days of eternity. It is God who is coming in human form to rule and shepherd His people.

Yet, as we learned in a previous meditation, the One appointed by God to rule and shepherd His people is the One that was initially rejected by the nation of Israel. “The Stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” (Psalm 118:22) The rejection of the promised Messiah was graphically portrayed by Isaiah in the “Song of the Suffering Servant” recorded in Isaiah 53. The Coming One was to be struck by the Lord as the One who would bear the sins of His people. (Isaiah 53:7-11) In the same way, the prophet Zechariah declared that God would strike the Shepherd that He sent to the nation of Israel.  In Zechariah 13:7 we read:

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man, My Associate,” declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered.”

The promised Shepherd was rejected by the nation and punished by the Lord for the sins of others. Yet this same Shepherd is the One exalted to the place of highest honor and will yet bring in the promised kingdom of righteousness and peace. This wonderful Shepherd is the God of Wisdom and Might who genuinely guides and cares for His people.

When we come to the New Testament, we find the Shepherd motif is directly applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, we learn three important truths about Him as the promised Shepherd. First, He Himself stated that He is the promised shepherd who gives His life for His sheep as recorded in John 10:11-18. Jesus said:

“I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep… I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My own and My own know Me…For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep and gives to them eternal life so they will never perish. (John 10:27-30)

Second we learn in Hebrews 13:20-21 that as the resurrected Lord, He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep who is at work within His people.

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the Great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus Christ our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus Christ is the channel through which God’s transforming grace comes to His people. He is the One as the Great Shepherd of the sheep who is feeding and caring for the objects of His grace. He is the One who is with His people each and every day. He is the exalted One now seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12) who is now interceding for all who draw near to God through Him (Heb. 7:25). Thanks be to God that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who daily cares for His sheep.

Finally, we learn from I Peter 5:1-4 that Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to establish the promised kingdom on the earth.

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you as a fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

During this present period of time, Christ is building His church (Matthew 16:17-18). The church was purchased by Him with the sacrifice of Himself (Ephesians 5:25-27). He is the One who is exalted as the Head over the church (Colossians 1:18) and holds accountable the elders for their leadership role within a local church. He will give honor to those who have exercised their leadership in the church after the example set by Christ Himself. As the Chief Shepherd, He is coming again. He will receive the church unto Himself. We will be with our blessed Lord and Shepherd forevermore.

Life is filled with problems and difficulties that are beyond our ability to understand. At times we are faced with situations in which we do not know what we should do. But what a blessing for the child of God to know that the Lord is always there as God our Shepherd to guide and direct us safely to our home in glory. God our Shepherd has given us His Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105) He is the One who calls individuals to Himself and His care for them as God our Shepherd.

“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Coming to Christ doesn’t mean all your problems will go away. Coming to Christ doesn’t mean you won’t face difficulties and perplexities in life. But coming to Christ does mean that you will have the all wise God our Shepherd to guide you. Coming to Christ does mean that you will have the all powerful God our Shepherd to watch over and keep you. Coming to Christ does mean that He will be with you in all the storms of life and bring you safely to Himself in glory.

“Oh taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”

Psalm 34:8

Soli Deo Gloria!