Wednesday, February 1, 2023

God, Our Faithful Shepherd

As Jacob lay dying in Egypt, he started thinking back over the course of his life. And what a life it was. He was born into strife with his brother, favored by his mother, not-favored by his father, promised the rights of the firstborn, sent away into exile for his own safety, duped in a foreign land for twenty years, had to wrestle with God at the river, finally came home to see his father (Isaac) before he died, settled into a land a prospered, lost his most beloved son, gained a new beloved son, and was finally uprooted again to go to Egypt, of all places, where he was a foreigner, but he was also reunited with a son he thought was dead. 

What a life. It's exhausting just writing it, and those are only the highlights. (Or lowlights. Or whatever.) 

Then, on his deathbed, Jacob says something interesting. He acknowledges with thankfulness that the Lord, like a good shepherd, has led him all the days of his life. 

All of them. 

The day when he stole his brother's birthright and had to flee home. 

The day when his long-lost relative lied to him the first time. 

The day when his long-lost relative lied to him the second time. 

The day when his long-lost relative lied to get the point. 

The day when he feared for his life while traveling, knowing he was going to see his brother for the first time in twenty years. 

The day when his son was thrown into a cistern, then sold into slavery, and his coat was brought back covered in blood. 

The day when his family ran out of food and he wasn't sure whether they could even survive. 

The day when one of his sons didn't come back from Egypt. 

The day when his sons told him the Egyptian leader was asking for him. 

Every single day, Jacob said, You, O Lord, led me like a good shepherd. Every single one of them. 

Even the bad ones. 

And when I read that, I am struck by the faith. I am struck by what it says. Because I think what it says, among other things, is this: 

God doesn't take a day off. Ever. 

Like a shepherd, He lives with us. He moves with us. He guides us. He drinks with us. He eats with us. He sleeps with us. He doesn't lock us into a hedge of protection overnight and go home; He leads us every day, every moment. His life is so intertwined with ours that it simply is. He doesn't take a day off. He can't. 

After all, most of us are far more like sheep - far dumber - than we'd freely admit. 

We need Him.  

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