September 13, 2017 • Life for Leaders
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
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.
With today’s Life for Leaders devotion, we return to Isaiah. Back in April, I began a slow devotional walk through this striking and influential book in the Old Testament. I veered off this path in late summer so that I could take a few weeks of vacation from writing new Life for Leaders entries. Since Labor Day, I’ve been reflecting on how our labor is “not in vain in the Lord,” based on 1 Corinthians 15:58. Now, it’s time to get back to Isaiah.
(Note: my general pattern is to work through one book of the Bible at a time, moving back and forth between the two testaments. Since I began Life for Leaders in April 2015, I’ve gone through Genesis, Revelation 21-22, and Mark. I’m now up to Isaiah 40. On Fridays, I use a psalm for our inspiration. On the weekends, the devotions are written by other members of the Life for Leaders team.)
Today’s passage from Isaiah begins by proclaiming the power of God. When he comes, “he rules with a mighty arm” (40:10). Given what we’ve seen so far in Isaiah, we might expect the next statement to promise judgment, as God uses his matchless strength to punish the nations for their wickedness. But what in fact comes next is a moving picture of God’s extraordinary tenderness. The Lord will care for his people like a good shepherd cares for his sheep. He will feed and lead them. He will even carry his lambs close to his heart.
In this way, Isaiah paints a poignant picture of the power and tenderness of God. Though God could wipe us out with one sweep of his hand, instead he uses his strong hand to reach out to us and embrace us. When we consider God’s power, we rightly realize that he is not to be trifled with. We celebrate the good news that God’s power is not against us, but for us. He uses this power both to defend us and to draw us to himself in close fellowship.
Jesus expanded upon this image of God as the powerful yet tender shepherd. In Luke 15, God is portrayed as a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep of his flock in order to seek the one that is lost. When he finds the one, he “joyfully puts it on his shoulders” (15:5). Here, once again, we see the tender power of God, who seeks us, finds us, and carries us home.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you experienced the tender power of God?
Have you ever sensed that, in a spiritual way, God was holding or carrying you? When? How did this feel?
Gracious God, today, we’re reminded of your power. Indeed, you rule with a powerful arm, an arm unlike any in all creation. Though nations may appear powerful, and though natural disasters can overwhelm us with their power, your strength is greater, beyond anything we can imagine. We praise you today as the almighty God!
Yet your strength is expressed through your tenderness to us. You feed us and lead us with your Spirit and truth. You carry us, not at arm’s length, but close to your heart. How we yearn for this kind of intimacy with you! There is nothing better in life than experiencing your strong, tender presence. So, even today, Lord, we ask you to carry us and hold us close to your heart.
All praise be to you, almighty, all-loving God! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Servant at Work (Isaiah 40ff.)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.