Harassed and Helpless

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Micah 5:1-4; Matthew 9:35-38 He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD. (Micah 5:4) As a 12-year-old I made my first solo train trip. I was traveling home from a visit with friends. I arrived at the train station—a maze of levels, corridors and platforms. I had my ticket and knew my train number. But I didn’t know the way to my platform and I panicked. A compassionate stranger assessed my helpless situation and …

Bad Shepherds

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Jeremiah 23:1-6 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! (v. 1) Sheep are physically vulnerable. They have few natural defenses against parasites and predators. They are prone to wander. Sheep depend on others to lead them, which is why they fall prey to false shepherds. Sheep are so accustomed to being led that they are easily led astray by thieves acting like their shepherds. For much of their history, God’s people followed “shepherds”—prophets …

Like Sheep

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Isaiah 53:1-6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way. (v. 6) In his memoir A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson encounters a man whose sense of direction is hopelessly flawed. When they meet, Bryson points out that the man is miles off course from his intended destination. When they part, Bryson notes that the hapless hiker has, once again, set off in the wrong direction. When sheep follow their own direction, …

The Tender Shepherd

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Isaiah 40:1-11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms. (v. 11) One of my earliest memories is of my mother singing a lullaby that goes, “Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me, / Bless Thy little lamb tonight.” We tend to “grow out” of that feeling of being lulled in the arms of someone tender. We also “grow out” of thinking of God as one who has tender feelings for us. Yes, …

In the Presence of My Enemies

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Psalm 23 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (v. 5) In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller observes that sheep are such anxious and temperamental creatures that if there is a hint of danger, they cannot rest, sleep, or even eat. The presence of enemies—real or imagined—is enough to prevent life-sustaining practices or provoke life-threatening panic. A skillful shepherd anticipates every potential danger, guiding the flock to safe …

Rod and Staff

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Psalm 23 I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (v. 4) In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller notes that shepherds in antiquity carried two tools: a rod and a staff. The staff was a long stick used to redirect or pull close a wayward sheep. The rod was a short club used at times as a weapon to fend off predators. It …