August 22, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 40:10-11 (NRSV)
See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms
and carry them in his bosom
and gently lead the mother sheep.
God is powerful beyond our comprehension. Nothing in the universe matches the might of God. Yet God’s powerful arm does not smash us down. Rather, it reaches down to gather us and to embrace us.
Today’s passage from Isaiah begins by proclaiming the power of God. When God comes “with might . . . his arm rules for him” (Isaiah 40:10). Given what we’ve seen so far in Isaiah, we might expect the next statement to promise judgment as God uses divine 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 people like a good shepherd cares for his sheep. God will feed and lead them. God will even carry them close to his heart, as a shepherd would do with newborn lambs.
In this way, Isaiah paints a poignant picture of the power and tenderness of God. Though a God of limitless power could wipe us out with one sweep of the divine hand, instead God uses this strong hand to reach out to us and embrace us. When we consider God’s power, we rightly realize that God is not to be trifled with. We celebrate the good news that God’s power is not against us, but for us. The Lord uses this power both to defend us and to draw us into 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 the shepherd finds the one, he “joyfully puts it on his shoulders” (Luke 15:5). Here, once again, we see the tender power of God, who seeks us, finds us, and carries us home.
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?
Talk with a wise friend or your small group about these previous questions.
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.
Banner image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Riding on the Shoulders of the Good Shepherd.
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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.