Celebration of Peace: Follow the Shepherd - 20 May 2019

Louise Gevers

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4

Peace is something that people everywhere are looking for: external freedom from conflict and turmoil, and inner freedom from anxiety and confusion. This became a conscious issue in the buildup to the elections as unrest increased in different places, and the responsibility of voting for just leaders weighed heavily on everyone’s mind. Yet, peace is not just an absence of hostilities and unease; it’s the strength of a trusting heart, leading to a calm mind in all circumstances.

The image of sheep grazing in a green pasture has to be one of the most peaceful scenes imaginable. There is something very appealing about their woolly bodies close together and their heads bowed as they graze tranquilly together. What makes these gentle, vulnerable creatures enjoy such serenity?

Perhaps they can stand grazing in this untroubled way because they’re humble and have a shepherd to care for them; they have friendship, good food and inner security, and so experience contentment in living. Although they sometimes face days when head butting happens, their favourite shrub is scarce, a wolf emerges to attack them, or they have to huddle together for shelter during a storm, they know the shepherd hears their bleating, tends to their difficulties and leads them to shelter.

We need to know the shepherd who cares for us to know peace. Isaiah points us to the ‘Sovereign LORD’ who, “tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11). He isn’t like the many “shepherds” we encounter in life who offer us dazzling plans and subtle promises to enrich our lives with special regimes for our health, schemes to increase our status, amusements to enhance our lifestyles, none of which guarantees peace. Which of these shepherds would care for us, lead us in the truth, and be committed to our eternal wellbeing?

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away… he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

The way to peace is through a relationship of faith in Jesus. He forgives our sin and reinstates us; He guides us in righteousness; stays with us “through the valley of the shadow of death”, becomes our ally “in the presence of (our) enemies”; treats us as honoured guests, and makes “(our) cup overflow” with joy. (Psalm 23:3-5)

In Him we can celebrate true peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Prayer: Loving Shepherd, we rejoice that you know your sheep, and we know you. You are the source of our peace because you have promised to never leave us. Thank you for helping us through the difficult and lonely times that we go through and for being our eternal Rock. Amen.

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