“He tends his flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;”
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
The last few visits seemed useless as the patient was unresponsive to light, voices, or touch. Yet I visited him daily up to the end. Each visit when I came into the room I would tell him of my arrival.
I used an efficiency of words. No long, flowery speeches were needed. I would take the young father’s hand in mine, I would only speak a couple of sentences designed to encourage, then just a portion of one verse of Scripture and a very brief prayer. Did he hear me? Were my words in vain? That is up to his Creator to know. I did what I could and left the rest to the Lord.
Certainly I spoke quietly to the family members attending their loved one. I reminded them that centuries ago God the Father heard the cries of agony from God the Son in Gethsemane and on the cross. So when we pray to our Father in heaven we know we speak to One Who has a clear understanding of the ache in our hearts.
From time to time during my earlier visits I spoke to the patient and family about the many beautiful portraits of God found in the Scriptures. Perhaps the most tender and comforting way of seeing God in the Bible is as the Shepherd of His people. Almost everyone knows Psalm 23 and how David says that the Lord is his Shepherd.
In Ezekiel 34:11-16 God gives a lot of detail concerning how He will shepherd His people. He speaks of searching for them, protecting them, rescuing them, providing good pasture for them, and many other things a good shepherd does for his flock.
Then, in the New Testament Jesus tells us twice in John 10:1-18 that He is the Good Shepherd of the flock. The best translation is, “I, I am the good Shepherd” in verses 11 and 14. So Jesus takes for Himself the place and work of God in the Old Testament.
Our verse today describes our Lord as having the most gentle and loving manner when He picks up the lambs and carries them close to His heart. Children in a tragic situation are the most vulnerable and weak ones among us. It is especially important that they know we feel their pain and are concerned for them.
We may be assured that the Good Shepherd Jesus cares for the children as well. He will gather these defenceless ones into His sovereign arms and hold them close to His heart during the lonely days ahead. This was the assurance I gave the dying father and he felt blessed. He assured me that the Good Shepherd had guided him from birth and so he was assured Jesus would gather his “lambs” into His strong and protective arms.
May all of us have the assurance that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and shall keep us safe until the last storm of life is past and we are safe in that eternal home prepared for all who love Jesus.