Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Words to a Weary Shepherd - Isaiah 49

"But I said, 'I have toiled in vain,
I have spent My strength
for nothing and vanity;
yet surely the justice due to Me
is with the LORD,
and My reward with My God."
(vs 4)

My husband is a pastor and he's a good pastor. He is a faithful teacher of God's word and he strives to be a faithful Shepherd of God's flock. I love him with all my heart and I respect him more than words can ever express. Phillip loves the ministry - I do too. Yet, the ministry is at times incredibly wearying. While there are many moments of sheer delight as you watch the sheep of your flock growing in grace and truth, there are also many moments of watching sheep be sheep! (I am sheep myself, so I can say the following things because they are true of me as well.)

Sheep are at times dumb, naive and foolish. They will follow the crowd right over the cliff's edge, bleating happily and ignorantly all the way. Suddenly disaster strikes and the sheep are mortally wounded! When the sheep stumble and fall, when they are injured and in pain, when they are on the brink of death and destruction it grieves the shepherd's heart greatly.

Sheep are also stubborn. They don't always want to listen to the shepherd's voice, his warnings, or even his kind and heartfelt concerns. Sheep often want to do things their way or no way. They, like us, are not by nature submissive creatures but rebellious ones. Stubborn sheep make the work of the shepherd twice as hard.

Sheep are vulnerable. In their stubborn rebellion they don't want to believe it, but it is true. They don't have any real means, within themselves, of fending off the wolves - and the wolves are often prowling about seeking whom they may devour. The shepherd can, at times, find himself worn slap out from the continual battle that he must engage in (sometime all alone) to protect his sheep from sin, self and Satan. Shepherding is not an easy task and it most certainly, when done properly, is not a one hour a week gig!

Sheep often weigh heavy on the heart of their loving shepherd!

On top of all these things, the enemy of the sheep despises the shepherd of the sheep vehemently. If that wicked old wolf, the Devil, can discourage and destroy the shepherd - if he can exhaust the shepherd so that he is unable to care for his flock - then he has accomplished an enormous and dastardly feat. It is a feat that can have dire consequences upon the shepherd and upon his entire flock. I suppose that is why Paul exhorts them in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to "not grow weary in well-doing." Pastors are prone to "fainting spells." God the Father understands that - God the Son knows it first hand. Here in Isaiah 49 there are wonderful words given to weary shepherds. This post is for my precious husband who labors so faithfully and gives himself so fully to others. My dear Phillip, hear Matthew Henry's words of encouragement this day. Listen to these words from a text spoken of Christ the Great Shepherd Himself - and "do not grow weary in well-doing."

"Then I said with a sad heart, 'I have labored in vain; those that were careless and strangers to God, are so still: I have called, and they have refused; I have stretched out my hands to a gainsaying people.' This was Isaiah's complaint. The same was a temptation to Jeremiah in which he almost resolved that he would labour no more (Jer 20:9).

"It is the complaint of many a faithful minister, that has not loitered but labored, that has not spared but spent his strength and himself with it, and yet to many, it is all in vain: they will not repent and believe.

"But here it seems to point to the obstinancy of the Jews, among whom Christ went in person preaching the gospel of the kingdom, laboured and spent His strength, and yet the rulers and the body of the nation rejected Him and His doctrine. Let not the ministers think it strange that they are slighted when the Master Himself was.

"He comforts Himself under this discouragement with this consideration, that it was the cause of God in which he was engaged: Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, who is the Judge of all, and my work with my God, whose servant I am.

"His comfort may be the comfort of all faithful ministers, when they see little success of their labours. They are with God, and for God; they are on His side, and workers together with Him. He knows the way that I take; my judgment is with the Lord, to determine whether I have not delivered my soul and left the blood of those that perish on their own heads.

"Though the labour be in vain as to those that are laboured with, yet not as to the labourer himself, if he be faithful: the Lord will justify him and bear him out, though men condemn him. The work is with the Lord, to give them success, according to his purpose, in His own way and time."

My Great Shepherd, I thank you for Phillip and for his faithful shepherding of my own soul. Strengthen him in his labours and may obedience to You and a passionate desire for Your glory be his chief aim and highest delight.

Standing in the gap for my beloved,


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