Read His Words Before Ours!
As you read these words, we find ourselves once again in the midst of the Advent season, and in this particular Journey Theme, we turn our eyes backwards from the first nativity to see what came before.
This truly is my favorite time of the year (followed, of course, by fall and all things pumpkin spice – yes, I’m one of those people!). As much as I love this time of year, I’m also quite well-acquainted with the stress associated with all the holiday hustle and bustle. We as women (and especially if we’re also moms) may find ourselves believing we must be all things to all people during Advent. We burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations and over-the-top standards of making all the cookies, hosting all the parties, partaking in all the activities, doing all the crafts, and more.
Eventually, we find we are no substitute for the One Who truly is all-sufficient, Christ Himself, Whose first coming we celebrate during Advent.
Just as we realize we are a shoddy substitute for the King of the Universe, so, too, Israel realized what a shoddy substitute human “shepherds” can be for the One True Shepherd!
The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy, and say to them, “This is what the Lord GOD says to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock?”’” (Ezekiel 34:1-2)
Those whom the Lord had given positions of leadership (metaphorical shepherds) had instead turned on the people of Israel and done everything but protect and shepherd them. Contrast this with the prophet Isaiah’s words describing the Messiah, whose coming Advent commemorates:
“He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the folds of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:11)
Even as Israel waited with great anticipation for the coming of this true and tender Shepherd, the Israelite David, who ultimately identified Yahweh as his personal shepherd, was raised up by God to shepherd His people in an earthly sense. As king of Israel working in God’s stead to shepherd His people, David relied on the One True Shepherd for the ability to perform this important task. Instead of trusting himself and his ability to care and guard Israel, He trusted the Father God to lead him as he led Israel. David knew he alone could not possibly be all things to all people.
When faced with an enemy who seemed unconquerable, David proclaimed,
“Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine
will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36)
When the going got tough and trial upon trial came up,
David repeatedly relied upon the One whom He referred to as
“The Lord, my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1)
King David understood his position, a God-given one, was under God’s protection and authority, even as he lived in anticipation of the One True Shepherd, King Jesus.
When King Jesus came, He proclaimed of Himself,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
The One Whose coming we commemorate and celebrate this month is not only a shepherd. He is a good shepherd and, as a good shepherd, He lays down His life for each of us.
As the promised One True Shepherd, Jesus sacrificed His own life for the sheep.
While we celebrate the joy of Advent as a Babe in the manager, the ultimate purpose of this Advent was yet to come at the empty graveside which Christ’s once-dead body had abandoned to life. Christmas Advent is beautiful because it leads us to an empty tomb, a defeated enemy, and a restored eternity with our Father!
Easter is possible because of Christ’s obedience and deference to the Father in full submission. He was a good shepherd because He did as the Father instructed. Just as David, king and shepherd of Israel, relied on God to shepherd his heart, so we see this perfectly fulfilled in Christ as He submitted to the Father. In the meantime, though, while we still find ourselves months away from Easter and smack dab in the hustle and bustle of the Advent season, I want to remind us of something: it isn’t all on us, just like it wasn’t all on David or Jesus.
Yes, we all want to make this season special for our loved ones, but let’s avoid stressing ourselves with all the things we’re “supposed to do” that we set ourselves as the One True Shepherd, the ultimate One to care for and tend to our people in this season. Reserve that seat for the only One who can truly fill it, the Christ Whose advent we celebrate.
After all, our calling is not to break ourselves in the process of shepherding others. Rather, we are called to point others to the One True Shepherd Who was already broken for them.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!