Thursday: The Peaceful Shepherd

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.” — Isaiah 40:11

Wreath Directions: Light two purple candles.
Read Aloud: Isaiah 40:9-11; Psalm 23; John 10:11-18
Suggested Carol: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

The motif of Jesus as shepherd perhaps brings the most comfort to a Christian. The most famous shepherding passage in the Bible, Psalm 23, begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

It is hard for city-dwellers to fully grasp the vital role that shepherds played in the ancient world. They were more than ranch hands herding cattle — they were hired hands responsible for keeping livestock fed, protected, and healthy. They lived with their livestock. It wasn’t a glamorous life. But livestock was worth gold in the ancient world and a rancher was nothing without them.

A shepherd played many roles in the ancient world, including that of peacemaker. When a storm or predator caused the sheep to tremble and panic, the shepherd had to be the one to calm the sheep. He led his sheep in peace and sought peaceful settings in which to place his sheep. Psalm 23 continues: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside peaceful waters. He restores my soul.”

The Lord leads His sheep by peaceful waters and is by their side through the darkest valleys, king David wrote in this psalm. His rod and staff comfort them. The shepherd is there for the sheep.

In John 10, Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know Me.” Jesus came as the shepherd of peace, just as the Old Testament writers predicted. He came to bring peace between God and man and, as a result, between man and man. He said that His sheep hear His voice and recognize it. Have you heard the voice of the Shepherd? Sometimes I find it comes through other people and wise words of counsel. Sometimes it comes when I’m praying or reading the Bible. It’s never a strange voice speaking out of the corn field like Field of Dreams. But when I hear the Shepherd speak it resonates in my heart. Have you ever had that experience?

I find it marvelous that the Christmas angel first appeared not to kings or religious authorities but to humble shepherds on duty in the fields. The angel announced that the Shepherd of Peace had come, in the form of a little infant, that very night. How ironic!

This week’s prayer is:

“Our Father in heaven, we light this candle to thank You for your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace. We who were once alienated from You by our sin have now been reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son. And now He is our peace both pertaining to salvation and to life. We thank you for this peace in His holy name. Amen.”

Behold from yonder hill I see
Two little sheep following
at the feet of the shepherd of love
Staff in his palm, rod at his side
by verdant pasture he’ll lead
Water ever flowing, flock never knowing any want or any need

Behold from yonder hill I see
Two little sheep, in dark valley, following the shepherd of love
The sun hides away, one starts to stray, the fear of death grows stronger
But the shepherd of love, comes down from above,
to draw the little one closer

Behold from yonder hill I see
A rod and staff, a winding path, traversing a den of wolves
Come see the guide never leave their side even when the windings cease
Through the dangers, unfriendly strangers, the shepherd leads them in peace

Words by John Newton, 2011