Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:
Moses said to the Lord, "Consider too that this nation is your people." - Exodus 33:13
The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." - John 10:3-4
Two-year reading texts: Psalm 85:1-7; Isaiah 36:1-37:13; Ephesians 6:10-24
Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, picking up on an image that has been used for God and God's leaders for centuries. He says that the safety of the flock is in a long-time connection where they have come to know and follow the Shepherd's voice.
In the Old Testament texts, Moses and the psalmist and Isaiah are all addressing this kind of relationship, in times when the people are under threats, and there's a danger they'll rely on other powers instead of God. In Isaiah 36-37 in particular, the threat is very real. The previous chapters have been warning, for quite a long time, about God's judgment against corruption and injustice and sin, about the strength of other nations being only an illusion, and about coming dangers from Assyria. Now the king of Assyria is near, having defeated the other cities of Judah, and bringing an army to set up siege against Jerusalem, the capital. The city is surrounded, and the warriors who represent the Assyrian king come to boast, to strike fear, and to demand surrender. But here again, God's word is to keep relying on God, and not to make terms with the invaders. (Spoiler: the story takes a dramatic turn soon, and God turns out to be right. Again.)
Years after the words of Jesus, the closing paragraphs of Ephesians are lifting up the same theme. "Put on the whole armor of God ... so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." And the armor is described, piece by piece. It's worth noting that it's all defensive, all for the protection of the wearer - except for "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The very next verse is an encouragement to "Pray in the Spirit at all times."
As always, God stands able and ready to protect and to guide. God goes in front, and takes the lead in defeating the plans of enemies. The danger is not from opposing armies, but from temptations that would lead us to trust in anything else.
Thank you God, for your shepherding care and leadership. Help me to hear and listen to you, to trust, and to follow!