“He tends his flock like shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Is. 40:11
“He shall gather the lambs with his arm – This is a most beautiful expression, denoting the care of God the Saviour for the feeblest and weakest of his people, and for the young and feeble in years and piety. A similar thing is often done by a shepherd. The tender lamb, unable to keep up with the flock, becomes weary and exhausted; and the shepherd naturally takes it in his arms and carries it.” (http://bible.cc)
I can’t dig any deeper, all my determination and strength is spent and my reservoir to persevere has all but dried up. I have come to the end of myself, to what or whom do I turn?
There is a glorious depth and dimension and definition in Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. I am called His sheep thus I am solely dependent upon Him for my care and protection. To grasp the meaning of this brings a certain peace and assurance that I never need to come to the end of my own self-derived strength for there is no sustaining of my will to survive in and of myself.
Isaiah 53 – The Vicarious Servant.
The Just dying for the unjust.
The sheep-like Servant sacrificially giving His life for the sheep.
Isaiah 53 vividly describes the atoning sacrifice as Jesus Christ willfully gave His life in place of ours by carrying our burden of sin. As people who have transgressed against God, Jesus appeased our sin and brought healing to our emotional and spiritual state as well as physical healing as seen through His resurrection. In reading this chapter, I am left humbled and must stop to consider what is written. The words Isaiah uses in this portion of reading requires thoughtful reflection to capture the essence what Jesus Christ submitted Himself to on my behalf.
With words such as infirmity, sorrows, afflicted and iniquity defined in their true meaning, the description of the Messiah being “led like a lamb to the slaughter” enlightens my mind and heart to the weight and truth in what He became and did for me.
The thought that God, Jesus incarnate, became sheep-like for me dropped heavy on my heart and this epiphany brought a deeper and more meaningful gratitude as He became “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7) and “taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil. 2:7) But with Isaiah describing Christ as a lamb, an animal who is in need of the shepherd’s leading and willingly follows his commands, denotes an even more submissive volition in His sacrificial death. In John 1:29, John the Baptist cries out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
What can I infer from verse 7? “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
Twice it is written that He, Christ, did not open His mouth. Verse 7 was fulfilled in the New Testament accounts of His apprehension, trial and crucifixion. He did not advocate for Himself as He was unjustly accused by the chief priests and elders when He stood before Pilate. (Mt. 27:11-14). Jesus didn’t curse or condemn anyone who took part in His subsequent death, from the soldiers who mocked and beat Him to the crowd that stood at the foot of the cross hurling insults at Him and challenged and defied Him to call on God to rescue Him from the cross.
Jesus is referred and compared to a lamb. Why a lamb?
In a practical definition and understanding, a lamb needs the guidance of a shepherd. This is not because a lamb is dumb and mindless, it is by nature an animal that is defenseless and is protected by the watchful eye of a caring overseer. The lamb relies on the cues of the shepherd and is obedient to his whistle when danger is near. A lamb trusts the shepherd, even unto it’s own slaughter.
But why is there a comparison to “as a sheep before her shearers is silent”? This is a beautiful picture of the competent skill of the shepherd as he shears the lamb of it’s wool. It is a combination of his intimate experience and a personal understanding of his sheep’s behavior.
The sheep will not struggle if they cannot push against something. The shearer, by careful placement of feet, knees and various other body parts, moves the sheep through a series of positions, none of which allows the sheep to push against anything. This, coupled with the shearer’s experience, skill and confidence, allows them to remove wool with deceptive ease.
This is an astounding visual of Christ implicitly trusting His Father. Because of the Father/Shepherd’s intimate involvement with the Lamb, the Lamb need not fear and submits Himself to the careful hand of the Shearer. Christ is truly the Lamb of God.
In realizing the relationship between the lamb and shepherd, a deep and meaningful revelation unfolds as I become the lamb.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lords has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (v. 6)
Because of this new relational picture, John 10 explodes with new meaning. How can I even begin to unwrap the magnificent description of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and His call, care and tending of His beloved flock?
“2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.“
To describe the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep you must understand the dependency the sheep has upon the shepherd. In the article, “Tending the Flock“, the author uses Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton, Instructions Pour Les Bergers, to discuss both driving and leading the flock.
Q. How ought the shepherd to manage his flock, when driving it?
A. He ought to prevent any animal from separating from the flock, by running before, remaining behind, or straying to the right or left.
Q. How can a shepherd do all that ?
A. By the aid of his whip, his crook, and his dogs; when he makes his flock go before him, he drives the sheep behind, with his whip: the dog is before, and restrains the sheep from going forward too fast: the shepherd menaces those that stray to the right or left, to make them return to the flock, or if he has a dog behind him, he sends him after the sheep, which stray, to bring them back, or makes them return, by throwing a little dirt at them, so as never to touch their bodies, which is improper.
Q. How does he set the flock forward again ?
A. He speaks to the dog, which is before, to let them advance, and then drives forward the hinder sheep; he can make them go forward, or return by speaking to them in different tones, to which he accustoms them.
Q. Can a shepherd conduct his flock by going before ?
A. Yes, if he has at least one dog, on which he can depend, to prevent any part of the flock straying behind, or on the sides. The flock follows the shepherd even better than the dog, but it is necessary he should have regard to the sheep, behind.
Instructions Pour Les Bergers, by Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton, 1782
In reading the above account of the shepherd’s leading the flock, John 10 reveals the tender care the Good Shepherd has for His flock. He calls His own sheep by name, He goes on ahead of them and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.
The Shepherd knows me and calls me by name! He goes ahead of me, always aware that I follow behind! And I know His voice!
Sheep are known to have acute hearing, especially the high pitched whistle or call of it’s shepherd. Also, they depend heavily upon their vision, which tends to be more peripheral giving them a greater advantage of spotting predators or danger. But, ultimately, the sheep depends upon the shepherd for it’s leading and protection and responds accordingly to it’s master’s call.
To have this divine leading and protection of my Shepherd! And to know I do not have to persevere in “digging deeper” in order to find the self-determining strength and will to survive! I am not alone but have the Good Shepherd to give me guidance and protection, and He will lead me onward! I rest in the assurance if I should become weary and exhausted the Shepherd naturally takes me in His arms and carries me to safety, allowing me to rest until my strength returns.
My epiphany is further magnified by a truth after studying Isaiah 53. Isaiah calls the Savior a lamb, John the Baptist cries out, “The lamb of God!” I, too, am referred to as a lamb. Never would I consider myself equal to Jesus but as He is a lamb and I am a lamb, I am humbled to think we both have lamb-like characteristics. He had lamb-like characteristics, I have lamb-like characteristics.
And I am brought even lower to think the Lamb carries the lamb close to His heart.
There is a beautiful peace and assurance in this, we need never live our life apart from the Good Shepherd. He is there at all times for us, He is there for you and He will carry you if you are unable to continue on through today, this hour, this moment. He knows you by name and He calls you by name.
I went through a a very low time as I was sick from the accumulative effects of chemotherapy. For the first time I realized I could die. This was sobering. I had no strength left. I turned to prayer and asked friends and family to pray for me. My daughter, Christy, sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, drew the following picture for me. I knew by this picture I wasn’t alone in my weakness but the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, naturally had me in His arms and was carrying me until I recovered and my strength was renewed.