Sovereign Lord, Gentle Shepherd
The United States of America has never been keen on sovereigns or their sovereignty. We prefer someone we can vote into a position and call upon as necessary—and vote out when we choose! And if we’re honest, this is often true of our approach to God as well. We prefer to control rather than to be controlled.
God, however, cannot be managed or remade in our image. He is the sovereign Lord, whose existence perfectly contrasts with our human frailty and finite nature. We are like grass and springtime flowers, which wither and fall. It’s not so with God, who has ruled and reigned over everything for all eternity. Even His word stands forever (Isaiah 40:6-8).
In His sovereignty, God has accomplished an amazing conquest: victory over sin and death. In His immense wisdom, He, the Lawgiver, came in the person of Jesus, submitted to and fulfilled the very law He had given, and then died in the place of sinners to pay our debt and give us eternal life. As Peter preached, “God raised him up … because it was not possible for him to be held” by death’s power (Acts 2:24). This is His victory.
While God is the sovereign Lord, though, He is also our gentle Shepherd. He doesn’t come to His people like some great general onto a battlefield; instead, He carries His flock close to Him, leading them with compassion. Those who once were sad, alienated, and guilty, and living in the fear of death have now been set free. Victoriously, He declares, “I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost” (John 17:12).
We can rejoice in God’s sovereignty, for He is both mighty and gentle, the Shepherd seeking to bring in the lost and accomplish His mission. When He’s at work, His voice speaks and the deaf hear, His light shines and the blind see. We have been gathered up to the heart of this gentle Shepherd and can live confident that this world belongs to our sovereign Father.
One challenge in the Christian life is to have a view of God that is big enough: to know Him as both “the LORD God” who “comes with might” and before whom we come with reverent awe, and as the one who “will tend his flock like a shepherd” and whom we follow in intimate friendship. The Lord Jesus is both the Lion and He is the Lamb (Revelation 5:5-6). Which do you find hardest to remember and live in light of? Remember both and you will obey Him and enjoy Him, as both your Sovereign and as your Shepherd.
The Lord God Will Seek Them Out
11“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.1 I will feed them in justice.
17“As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20“Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22I will rescue2 my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
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