4 December Isaiah 40: 6–11
‘See, the Lord God comes with might… He will feed his flock like a shepherd…’
Two contrasting phrases from verses 10 and 11 – God portrayed as a mighty warrior; God portrayed as one who is caring. Recently, I’ve read two historical novels by Philippa Gregory. In them, monarchs are portrayed as leaders who needed to exert their power in order to maintain their position. Mary and Elizabeth Tudor were afraid of constant plotting and executed or imprisoned those they suspected of treason. Henry IV established and maintained his right to be king by leading his forces into battle.
When Isaiah 40 was written, people would have been very familiar with rulers who were mighty warriors. They were reminded of their own fickleness and are compared to quick withering grass. They are urged to proclaim and present their God. They would be glad to present God as a mighty warrior who could stand up to their oppressors. In contrast, they are also to proclaim a God who is caring and gentle like a shepherd. God will feed, support and lead the people just like a shepherd cares for his sheep.
In Jesus, we see these two contrasting natures held in balance. Jesus exhibited power: he calmed the stormy sea; he performed miracles; he held his own in debates with those who questioned him. He also exhibited gentle care: he healed the sick; he taught his disciples with patience; he refused to lead an army against the Romans; he taught, lived and died in the pathway of love. Jesus’ kingdom is filled with power but is a kingdom of love.
Almighty God, we praise you for your power. You created an amazing and developing universe. We praise you that exerting power regardless of your creation is not your way. You express your power in the love and care for all you created, holding and leading your people gently like a shepherd. We humbly praise you.