Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and I will not be afraid;

for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12: 2

 

It seems that everyone needs something to hold onto as we go through the days of our lives. There is some form of belief that keeps us more or less centered within the structure of our values and our ethical and moral boundaries. We may hold to a fully fleshed out set of rules, a religious system, confident self-determination, or some other construct; however, virtually no one goes very far in our adult journey with nothing of this sort to place our hands around to grasp onto and to trust to focus the outcome of the important decisions that we will need to make almost every day. I have tried several of these methods and means of gaining my bearings for this essential aspect of living, and there has been only one that actually works. The Lord has consistently and faithfully provided truth, wisdom, guidance, and protection to me regardless of where I have gone or what I have undertaken.

 

So, for me, Isaiah’s statement is truly on-target. He starts out with the single most important aspect of entering into a relationship with God. God is the only source of salvation that exists in the universe, and all of us need to be saved. We are born lost, defeated by our sinfulness, and bound for a life of separation from God and from the love, truth, grace, and justice that are formed up out of His character and nature alone. Not only does God save us and bring us into His presence in a relationship that enfolds all of life under His outpouring of engagement, but the Lord is absolutely trustworthy to provide answers to all questions, to care about and for us in all circumstances, and to never abandon or separate Himself from us. The Lord has been consistently true to His word to never leave my side and to always enter into my life in love, grace, and truth; so, it is natural to trust Him in all matters and with all aspects of my days.

 

Out of this trust comes the ability to be strong and to carry on regardless of what life may throw my way. The strength that I am speaking of is not some sort of brave front or unflinching determination to show no pain on the outside. Instead, it is a form of strength that knows that the outcome of this life is secured in Christ and that holds onto the Lord’s promise to provide His people with all that we need to remain true and faithful to Him in and through all that comes our way. Christ’s strength has taken the place of my weakness, and He makes me capable of singing songs of praise to my Lord during each and every day of my life. Thus, over and over again the Lord sustains me when I am failing in my resolve. He lifts me up when I have fallen down both in body and in spirit, and Christ is the solid rock upon which I can trust to set my feet when the troubling and the terrifying aspects of this world are hurling themselves my way.

 

 

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Thus says the Lord, God, “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for my sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.”

Ezekiel 34: 12

 

God knows all about the storms that rage in this world. He is aware of the many ways that the perfect climate of His creation has been made unstable by the fracture of sin. This damage and brokenness brings about storms that are often sudden in their coming and violent in their impact. Sheep, being a rather skittish and fearful lot, can tend to run and to scatter when the wind, rain, and lightning strike. Even sheep that are very well cared for and tended can be driven off from the safety of the shepherd’s chosen path and pasture. It is the response of the shepherd in these times that matters.

 

Christ is a shepherd who never losses heart. He goes wherever He is required to go, and He looks in every possible craggy nook and each deep valley until He finds all of His sheep. We may take short trips away from His presence; sometimes, we sheep run far away and seek out the darkest caves that we can find in order to become separate from the Lord’s sight. It doesn’t matter to Him. Christ has already stepped into the depths of human bondage. He has already charted out all of the paths to separation and isolation that we humans might discover. Even when we have run until there is no breath left in our lungs, the leather is worn off of the bottoms of our shoes, and we have no idea of how far we have come or of where we are, He still sees us and He never stops loving and caring for us. This is the shepherd that we have in Christ.

 

Then the Lord does anything and everything that He needs to do to bring us back into the safety and the provision of His flock. With God this is not an issue of control, for He gave that away when He created us with the ability to make choices. With Him it is not a matter of power or might, for Christ chose to go the way of the humble lamb of sacrifice in order to save all of us from the death of sin. This shepherd comes to us with what all good tenders of sheep bring; that is, He comes to us out of a love that is greater than all of our fear, a desire to provide for us that outweighs our self-centered independence, and a capacity to provide protection that overcomes this world’s crumbling structures. Even in the dark nights and deep valleys there will always be the voice of the true shepherd as He calls to all who are lost and alone, “Come home.”