God Is Shepherd

O Zion, messenger of good news,
   shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
   Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
   “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
   He will rule with a powerful arm.
   See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
   He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
   He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (Isaiah 40:9–11 NLT)

Though he has been all but forgotten today, Charles Kellogg was a semi-famous naturalist and vaudeville performer who lived in the early days of radio. One day, while walking the streets of New York City, Kellogg stopped at a busy intersection ten blocks away from Times Square and remarked to his friend that he heard a cricket chirping. His friend said it was impossible to hear a small sound like that amidst the hubbub of passing cars and trolleys and the sounds of pedestrians and newspaper vendors.

Yet, as Kellogg took a close look around them, he honed in on the sound of the cricket that only he could hear. He crossed the street, with his friend in tow, and pointed to the small insect perched on a window ledge. When his friend remarked on his incredible hearing, Kellogg responded by pulling out a dime from his pocket and dropping it on the sidewalk. Immediately, the small sound of the coin hitting the pavement caused everyone within fifty feet to stop what they were doing to start looking for the coin. Kellogg explained that people listen for what’s important to them, so while he could hear the chirping of a cricket a slew of New Yorkers could not, those same people had no problem hearing the sound of a coin being dropped on the ground.

This passage in Isaiah heralding the arrival of the Messiah isn’t the first to refer to God as a shepherd, and neither is it the most well known. Certainly the most well-known passage is Psalm 23, but close behind would be John 10, where Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. He goes on to say in verse 27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

If God is our shepherd, and we are his sheep, then it must be that we know his voice and listen to it. Yet, so often we allow other concerns to close our ears to the sound of his voice. Like finding the chirp of a cricket in the middle of New York City, we should be able to hone in on the sound of our Shepherd calling our name.

Is your heart tuned to the sound of God’s voice, or is it tuned to something else? What do you need to do – especially during this busy Advent season – to ensure you can hear your Shepherd?