This passage from Isaiah is so familiar that some of us start humming the music of Handel’s Messiah when we read it. But in fact, the good news in this passage was not originally about the coming Messiah. It was a message of hope and comfort for the people of Judah who were in exile in Babylon. To this battered community who thought that they were being punished or that God had left them, the good news was that God was on the way, mighty and triumphant, and that God would bring them home. (verses 9-10)
Even better news, God’s power would be shown through gentleness and tender care. God who was strong enough to rescue them from Babylon would care for them as a shepherd cares for his lambs and their mothers. (verse 11)
I am sure that the idea of a God who is mighty like a shepherd was just as surprising in ancient times as it is today. Our world underestimates the power of love, compassion and forgiveness, and still values the might of weapons, money and control.
Powerful God, may we live out your style of strength. Help us to be mighty like shepherds. Amen. — JN