‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd’, Isa. 40. 11
Isaiah chapter 40 begins a new section of the prophecy of Isaiah. It looks on into the future to see Israel’s return and restoration as the people of God. At the very point of Israel’s greatest calamity, when it appears that it will be erased from the map of the world and scored out of human history, the Lord will return to the earth and deliver His people. Thus, the chapter begins with the words, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people’, v. 1. After a period when the occupants of Jerusalem could find no comfort and no solace from their invaders and opponents, the Lord says, ‘Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem’, v. 2. Their deliverer has come. While His enemies are dispatched with power, His people are comforted with sensitivity and affection.
We might note the moment when the shepherd moves. In verse 10, He comes in power to deliver because of the defenceless and exposed condition of His people. Such compassion was manifested when the Lord was here. Matthew writes, ‘But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd’, Matt. 9. 36. In relation to their sicknesses, or in relation to their hunger, the Lord could say and, by His actions, prove, ‘I have compassion on the multitude’, Matt. 15. 32. As His disciples struggled across the stormed-tossed Sea of Galilee, the Lord drew near in the extremity of their need, Matt. 14. 25. This is the ability of the Shepherd.
But our verse concentrates not just upon the compassion of the Shepherd but also on His provision, ‘He shall feed his flock’, v. 11. The word for ‘feed’ here has a much wider meaning than simply to provide the sheep with something to eat. It means ‘to provide pasture’, ‘to tend to the need of the sheep’, and ‘to draw alongside them in their need’. The shepherd psalmist wrote, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’, Ps. 23. 1. One who knew what it meant practically to shepherd sheep could say, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’! He had proved the ability of His God to supply all his need. He had been in the ‘green pastures’ of divine provision as well as through the valley of the shadow of death. Here we find the qualities of the true Shepherd: He feeds; He tends; He provides; He draws alongside; He has integrity of heart.