|artwork by Krista Hamrick|
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Our pastor, Dr. Arthur Rich, would close the evening worship services with this tender benediction prayer:
And now as the people go their many scattered ways, may Thy blessings as bright as the morning light when it dawneth, as gracious as the dew when the eventide cometh, as tender as a mother's goodnight kiss, go with each one of these our friends tonight and all the days and nights that lie ahead through Jesus Christ our blessed Lord and Savior. Amen
These beautiful scripture-based prayers led me to a word study of the word, shepherd, from Isaiah 40:11: He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.
In the eastern tradition, a shepherd walks at the head of the flock. This is much different from the western tradition of driving the sheep from behind. The shepherd calls the flock out of the pen in the early morning to lead them to pools or wells of water where they can quench their thirst. He then guides them to green pastures, taking them around the rocky places where they might stumble. He assists the tiny and fragile sheep by lifting them with the crook of his staff. He runs his hand over the sheep as they enter the pen, counting them and ensuring that they have returned from the pasture unharmed. Then the shepherd settles in for the night to watch for predators. How awesome that Jesus is our shepherd. He will lead us to living water and guide us along the right path even when the way is rocky. He carries us when we stumble and watches over us during the dark nights of our lives, making us feel secure. All that he asks is that we respond to his voice and follow him. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the journey called life.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for making me one of your sheep. What a privilege it is to belong to you! Thank you for going ahead of me and preparing the way for me. You call me by name and speak to my heart and lead me. With all the “voices” clamoring in my world, quiet my mind and heart so that I will recognize your voice and follow only you. I thank you that you are ever vigilant, watching over me, meeting with me in the morning, and abiding with me through the night. May I always respond to your voice and stay close to you. I gladly follow you as you call my name! Strengthen and equip me with every good thing so that I can do your will. Prepare me for what you’re preparing for me. And open my heart wider to the working of your Spirit so that my life—inside and outside—will honor you. Produce in me, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Isaiah 40:11 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.