Lion Herder or Shepherd?

See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
              Isaiah 40:10-11

I recently saw a segment of 60 Minutes that introduced a man who rescued lions. He had once been part of the trade in illegal lions in Africa, making cute little lion cubs available to wealthy collectors. Once the lions grew to adulthood, however, the buyers want to get rid of them. The man saw these adult lions being put down, since they were unable to fend for themselves in the wild, and he was moved to begin a sanctuary for the lions The episode showed him wrestling and rolling in the dirt with the lions, playing with them apparently fearlessly. These animals that had the ability to tear him apart were gentle and fun-loving around him.

God comes to us with might, like a regal lion, able to tear apart his enemies to protect his own flock. It’s no accident C.S. Lewis used the lion Aslan to represent God in the Narnia books. And yet, this same mighty God gathers the lambs in his arms, carries them tenderly and gently leads the sheep. In the 60 Minutes episode, the reporting correspondent stayed at a distance from the animals, and even the lion owner admitted that he had to remain attentive to the mood of the animals, recognizing that both the power and the gentleness are part of the lion’s potential. In the same way, our God both has the power to overcome sin and death, and also the tender love of a parent for their child.

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, let us remember that the tiny baby in the manger, the cute little child that Mary and Joseph held in their arms, is also the God of the universe, the Word through whom all things came into being. We must be careful not to reduce our understanding of God to just the image of chubby baby cheeks and tiny fingers. God comes both in might and tenderness, with power and love. This is the wonder of our God.

Prayer: O Lord, our God, in tenderness and love you came to us, a child laid in a manger, a man who would give his life for us. But that tenderness was combined with a power beyond imagining, the power to defeat sin and death. Help me this day to remember that you are a God of of both power and love, of might and tenderness. Let me honor you in my life as you alone deserve, not just at Christmastime, but every day. Amen.

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