As we continue to change our way of life due to the coronavirus, many of us (all of us?) are feeling some sense of loss and fatigue. We have lost the freedom to leave our homes and visit family and friends on a moment’s notice in their own homes (and not only outside) with greetings and farewells that involves hugs and handshakes. I have felt a greater sense of fatigue when awaking in the morning even after sleeping through the night. There is a sense of helplessness that life will only be like it was until we have a vaccine. Where should we turn in the meantime?
In a recent article of the Biblical Archaeology Review, the writer reviewed the many uses of the image of the shepherd. (The statue at the left is in the Vatican Museum from the fourth century) Through the use of this image, God gives us an example of how he cares for us through all our days, good and bad. Here are some of the verses from Scripture where God comforts and strengthens us.
Genesis 48:15-16 “Jacob blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude on the earth.’”
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Isaiah 40:11 “He [the Lord God] will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.”
Ezekiel 34:23 “I [the Lord God] will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.”
John 10:11 “I [Jesus] am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Revelation 7:17 “For the Lamb at the center of throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
It is a bit odd to think that one of the images God uses is from an occupation far removed from our life in urban area. Perhaps this image lifts us up from above our daily tasks to see God as someone greater than us and capable of doing what we cannot do for ourselves.
Two weeks ago, a friend notified me that her father had died. His death was unexpected as he had heart surgery only a few days earlier and appeared to be on the way to recovery. She mentioned that her hope was her father had not been alone when he died. I replied with a reference to the good shepherd in Psalm 23 and walking through the valley of the shadow of death. The valley may be quite different today compared to the time of King David when the shadow of death is always near. “You are with me,” writes David. The good shepherd is with us and comforts us in all times of life, even now when life has changed so drastically in only a few months.
Pastor Michael Dorner