Just to think of the moment brings something akin to a thrill of expectation, a goose-bump-raising feeling, to us. Amidst the almost hopeless despair of their military and political position, with the combined armies of the world converging upon them, extinction apparently a matter of hours, the “Hope of Israel” comes!
The cry is heard, the announcement rolls across the Judean hills, as eyes strain upward and hearts are lifted in a sudden wave of ecstasy and heretofore unknown joy: “Behold your God!” What a moment!
Despair gives way to joy; tears of grief are replaced by tears of rapture; and defeat gives way to victory. The “travailing” is over. The birth of the nation is about to happen. His appearance, the glory of it, and the power of His Word slays all enemies. The Beast and False Prophet are disposed of with relative ease. The gates will open and the King of Glory will come in (Ps 24). In His last passage through those gates, He was wearing a crown of thorns and bearing a cross. Now He returns as victor to receive the crown and the throne.
But what wonder will be attached to His coming as the remnant realizes that the God Who has come, is none other than the Lamb Who came!
However, their amazement will not have reached its culmination with that discovery. They will find that the One Who has come with a strong hand and with an arm that will rule, is also Shepherd-like: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:10-11).
Might and power are linked with tenderness and sympathy. The arms that will subdue every foe, are the same arms that lift and carry the lambs. Hands that will hurl world powers into eternity will feed the flock and caress them in His bosom.
Moral might and military strength linked with mercy and mildness: are these incongruous? Or are we learning that might and strength must be wedded to gentleness and care? Could this be the pattern for all leadership and shepherding? The very imagery of a shepherd suggests not only vigilance for foes, but care in feeding, and concern for the health of the flock. Skillful hands and strong arms are needed, but they are employed in lifting pit-ensnared sheep (Matt 12:11) and in carrying weary lambs on shoulders (Luke 15:5).
Paul has given us one description for shepherds in 1 Thessalonians 5:12. Four responsibilities are enjoined upon these men and, with some significance, three of the four are supportive and involve the leading, feeding, carrying, and nurturing of sheep.
Assemblies need men with strong hands and arms to care for and to carry sheep, pulling them from the ditches by life’s roadside and carrying them back from the distant fields to which they have wandered.