He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom…
Or doing shepherd's work. Here also the first glance seems to be at Cyrus, who, in Isaiah 44:28, is called God's shepherd; but the after-glance rests on him who could say, "I am the good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." "The change in the fortunes of the Jews is compared by the prophet to a shepherd's seeking his lost sheep, and feeding them again in green pastures" (comp. Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 50:19; Ezekiel 34:11-16). No doubt the figure in the prophet's mind was that of a flock taken such a long and wearying journey as that from Babylon to Canaan, emblem of the pilgrim-path along which the good Shepherd leads the flock of his Church. The important distinctions between Eastern and Western shepherding should be carefully pointed out. Eastern associations alone provide effective figures. Van Lennep says, "One of the pleasantest sights to be witnessed under the clear and brilliant sky of Western. Asia is a flock of snow-white sheep scattered over the surface of a fine green meadow; the lambs skipping and gamboling in frolic; the shepherd sitting on the soft turf, playing with his flute, and his shaggy dog by his side, keeping watch in all directions." An Eastern traveller tells of seeing precisely what Isaiah so poetically describes. "One shepherd led his flock, by a zigzag path, up the almost perpendicular bank of the glen. Behind it two young lambs trotted gaily along at the feet of their mother. At first they frisked about, and jumped lightly from stone to stone; but soon they began to fall behind. The poor little things cried piteously when the path became steeper and the rocks higher, and the flock more and more distant. The mother cried too, running back and forth - now lingering behind, now hasting on before, as if to wile them upwards. It was in vain. The ascent was too much for their feeble limbs. They stopped trembling on the shelving cliff, and cried; the mother stopped and cried by their side. I thought they would certainly be lost; and I saw the great eagles that soared in circles round the cliffs far overhead, sweeping lower and lower, as if about to pounce upon their prey. But no! The plaintive cries of distress had already reached the ear of the good shepherd. Mounting a rock, he looked down, and saw the helpless little ones. A minute more, and he was standing by them. Then taking them up in his arms, he put them - one on each side - in his bosom, in the ample folds of his coat, which was bound round the waist by a girdle." Christ's care of his flock includes -
I. RULE. This is the proper idea of "feeding" them. In the East feeding involves daily guiding the flock to its pastures and watering. So it includes the entire control and direction of daily life. Sheep are the most helpless of creatures, and wholly dependent on the wisdom and kindness of the shepherd. "His arm rules for him?' He restrains the wayward, corrects the erring, guides and provides for all. And we are as helpless as sheep, and as truly need to be ruled and provided for. From this we may unfold the authority of the Lord Jesus, and his direct control of our life and ways. Happy the flock that is willing to follow the good Shepherd's lead!
II. GENTLE CONSIDERATENESS. Daniel Quorm is made by the Rev. M. Guy Pearse to express this very quaintly and cleverly. "'But that be not all, though it be a good deal,' Daniel went on again). 'He carries them in his bosom - in his bosom. You know the man who had a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, went after it, and laid it on his shoulders - on his shoulders. When an old sheep goes astray - one of us old 'uns - the good Shepherd has his watch-dog to fetch us back again. He sends a snappish sorrow to bite us, or a sharp-toothed loss to shake us up a bit, and to drive us out of the ditch into which we had wandered. And the shepherd lays the runaway on his shoulders. It wasn't a very comfortable position, held on by the legs, with his head danglin' down. That be the way the Lord carries old sheep when we go astray. But the lambs he carries in his bosom. The shoulder is not for them, but the besom. There they lie, with his arms folded about them - there, where his kind eye can keep its glance upon them. In his bosom, where they can feel the great full heart beatin' in its love, where he can hear the first mutter o' their fear, and they can catch the gentlest whisper of his lovin' care. He carries the lambs in his bosom. Keep close to him - lie down in his arms, an' you're safe enough.'" Of this we may be quite sure, Christ takes particular care of those that most need it; of lambs, those that cannot help themselves - young children, young converts, weak believers, sorrowful spirits.
III. SELF-DENYING HELPFULNESS. We must never think that the wise, gracious, faithful shepherding of Jesus costs him no pain, no anxiety, no self-sacrifice. This is as much the suggestion of the shepherd-figure as the previous ideas of rule and gentleness; but it is not so often dwelt on or realized. He who rolls over us the "tribulum" of discipline and trouble, to separate the chaff from the wheat, finds the rolling to be hard and trying work. Our Shepherd suffers in his care for the sheep, and it keeps our hearts tender to be reminded of his sufferings for us. Illustrating this, we may recall the Eastern shepherd, who, especially in the early months of the year, "has much to endure. Snow falls and frosts set in, which kill many of the lambs, although he seeks to save all he can by carrying them under his cloak, and 'in his bosom.' This period tries his own powers of endurance, for it is the rainy season. He cuts small branches of trees, and lays them in a pile, to avoid the consequences of standing in the wet. The only sleep he can secure is by lying on such a pile of branches or fagots, enveloped in his heavy cloak, or crouching in a sitting posture, with its stiff heavy folds set up over him like a tent." We often think of our good Shepherd's care, but too seldom we remember, lovingly and thankfully, how much it costs him. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.