Revue: The Sovereign-Shepherd

“Mediterranean Hillside,” © 2018 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2018 Lynn Abbott

“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else? ” inquires Tevye of God in the memorable musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

And to that, I know a great many of us will respond with a hearty “Amen!” Yup, been there; said that!

When a neighbor’s twenty-something son dies unexpectedly, when a friend requires early retirement, when a marriage disintegrates, when the diagnosis is cancer, when death knocks at a family’s door 3 times in one year, when religious persecution hurts a family or a child, I wish to raise my hand and echo Tevye’s question.

In contrast, a response to trouble such as Job’s–“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him…”– astonishes most of us.

I certainly would not have borne it as well as Job. Under such overwhelming pressure, I expect I would have crumbled and querulously demanded answers.

Yet, for much of Job’s book, God remains quiet while Job’s supposed friends take turns condemning and lecturing Job.

When God ultimately speaks, He simply reminds Job that God is sovereign.

God is God. And we are given no further explanation or defense.

For finite humanity, it’s a tough truth.

Naturally, when life is good, I find no difficulty in acknowledging God’s sovereignty. But during times of trial–when heartbreak, suffering, pain and death color the world–my faith shakes to the core.

Second guessing plagues the finite when trying to grasp what is infinite.

Even so, in the opening and concluding words of the book of Job, I find hints of humanity’s history, and of the community of faith.

Job’s nightmare begins with some question as to whether or not he would worship God if his life circumstances were less idyllic–if reality fell short of Paradise. Obviously, Satan wished to sift Job much as he sifted Adam and Eve.

And predictably, the question is subtly raised: “Can you really trust God even when you haven’t been given full disclosure? Or perhaps, you simply misunderstood God…Did God truly say that?”

Second guessing plagues the finite when trying to grasp what is infinite.

Fortunately, recognizing “that we are but dust,” God has sketched a great many word pictures that help me understand who He is. His choice of an unlikely Old Testament boy as the second king of Israel gives me a glimpse of His divine grace.

Samuel, God’s prophet sent to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king, did not expect a David. A shepherd, in the world’s eyes, had little potential as a ruler over a great people. Yet, God chooses not as humanity chooses. God selected a shepherd-king.

David, in fact, is both ancestor and archetype, although imperfect, for the ultimate King, the one who called himself “The Good Shepherd.”

Both Shepherd and King. And suddenly, considering this image, my view of God’s sovereignty shifts.

In such light, I recognize that God’s sovereignty is not capricious. His thoughts of love are fully for His sheep. And given that sheep see very little of the big picture, the Shepherd cares for them, guiding them to safety and continually providing for their needs.

He leads with grace. Laid in a manger and announced to shepherds by angels, this King sets himself apart from worldly kings. Indeed, He gives His life for the sake of the sheep. This is our Sovereign Shepherd.

Yes, in most every circumstance I must make a choice: Will I follow the Shepherd? Will I trust the sovereignty and infinite wisdom of my Shepherd-King?

Both Shepherd and King. And suddenly, considering this image, my view of God’s sovereignty shifts.

It seems that all of my life boils down to this simple choice, one that in my broken humanity I must make again and again.

If, however, I understand and truly believe that the Shepherd is loving, tender, compassionate, good, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present, then the decision to accept His sovereignty is not complicated.

In fact, it frees me. I find peaceful relief in relinquishing my attempts to control my life or the world around me.

Satan may have promised Adam and Eve that they would be “like God, knowing good from evil,” but quite frankly, having looked over the job description in Job 38-41, I would rather let God be God.

After all, the Shepherd’s shoes are way too big for this sheep to fill.

“‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness,” ~ Ezekiel 34:11-12

77 Replies to “Revue: The Sovereign-Shepherd”

  1. You are spot on, Lynn! We truly are like sheep, and letting go of the reigns and giving it to the Shepherd seems so hard and so counter intuitive to our human nature! Good word, sister! And love your painting….and I bet the shepherd will be round up those groups into one big one soon!

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  2. Hi Lynn, your statement “It seems that all of my life boils down to this simple choice, one that in my broken humanity I must make again and again.” is in reality, what I also see. Ultimately, He guides us into a deepening level of confidence in Him while at the same time drawing us closer via spiritual awareness of our short comings or circumstances that require more and more reliance. Stretching our faith, so to speak, albeit painfully slow, from our perspective. I think Abraham exemplifies that kind of faith and trust. Almost like bringing us back to Adam and Eve prior to the fall. Key words being “almost like”. I think this is part of the “being made holy” process where our hearts and minds are being changed. Heavy stuff yet simple, which doesn’t really surprise me. Jesus said without Him we could do nothing. Love your posts Lynn, you always make me think. Grace and blessings to you and yours!

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    1. Yes!! Absolutely, Bruce!! I do think that is what our sanctification is all about. I think of Romans and Paul’s discussion of the first Adam and then, Christ as the second and perfect representative for humanity, as I read your words. God, indeed, is perfecting His work in us… taking us to a place where His original plan and intentions for humanity will be fulfilled. I love your thoughts here, Bruce! But of course, I can always count on you to think deeply and express true Holy Spirit wisdom! God bless you, my godly and inspiring friend! 🙂

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  3. Like in Job 42.5,6 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes

    Who can stand before the Lord? And yet, He bends to us and tenderly cares for us.

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    1. Yes, yes, dear Kathy!! You are so right! I have been reminded of this in particular this past week! I’m soo grateful for God’s amazing grace!! Thank you for expressing that so perfectly here in your thoughtful comment! ❤ ❤

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  4. Exactly. I love the scripture from Job – God is so very worthy of our loyalty. Thinking that His blessings may come if I’m doing well removes grace from the equation. I’m not in this for the blessings, although they are there, I’m in this for the final prize. To please Him and make His name known. I love the song by Mercy Me, “Even If” that encapsulates this thought so well with music – it’s currently on repeat on my playlist. Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder!

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    1. Oh, I love that song from “Mercy Me!” Yes! It so expresses the heart when we walk in the midst of heartache and trial! Yet, as you so beautifully say, dear Lea, “God is so very worthy of our loyalty.” Thank you for your wonderful thoughts here! I am so inspired by your wisdom and your life’s example! God bless you and yours beyond all that you can imagine!! ❤ ❤

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  5. It truly is freeing to let God be God. The older I get, the more that has become my default. It’s easier to let go than it is to try to steer my own ship. God bless you, Lynn!!

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    1. Amen!! I’m so with you, dear Linda! It’s exhausting to try to do this life on my own. I think when I try, I am much like Jacob wrestling with God. So much better to rest in my heavenly Father’s care than to try to orchestrate things for myself. Thank you for your profound insight here, dear Linda! You and your friendship are such a blessing to me! ❤ ❤

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  6. Thanks Lynn for this post. It frees me as well when I am reminded that our good God is sovereign. Yet, Life and God seem to be two separate entities and dwelling on myself and my life is not freeing in hard times. You have identified the decision to make in life’s crisis. The longer I live the higher the “trust God” bar seems to be raised. It seems good to God to see how far we will trust Him until we have a common ground with Job, should the bar be raised that high. Thanks again.

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    1. Yes, indeed… Job raised that bar. I certainly hang on by my fingernails when I experience trials only a fraction of what Job experienced. And the only thing that brings comfort at such moments is knowing that our Sovereign God likens Himself to a loving, compassionate and caring shepherd. I’m just so grateful. Thank you for your honest sharing here, Gary! Your words encourage me more than you can possibly imagine. It is just so great to know that you have walked and experienced a similar path. God bless you greatly, my wonderful friend!

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  7. Praise the Lord for guiding us in a way no other shepherd would!!! I love the sternness God gives Job. I feel God can be a whisper or a roar like a lion. He reminds Job how He created everything and Job has no way to do those same things. What a humbling statement! It also convicts me to trust in His plan and power that is so above what I know!

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  8. Once again, fantastic paintings! Looking at the one with the sheep, reminds me of my friend’s farm in Tuscany! Awesome work girl, take a bow!

    As to the lesson … well… it seems that Job has been our family book for years now. But for every problem and struggle, it’s drawn us one inch closer to seeing Papà for Who He IS. And each inch closer ‘confirms’ His Awesome Love for us.

    “Yet though he slay me will I trust him!” Difficult statement to say (and mean), when all you see is the demonic kicking you in the proverbials, but we somehow ‘know’ it’s true as we inch ever closer to our Father. X

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    1. You, my amazing friend, are spot on! I took photos and videoed a farm in the hill country in late Spring 2017… Tuscany! I wonder if it was your friend’s farm? Wouldn’t that be amazing? I’m so sorry that you have been experiencing Job-like years… but your heart’s perspective truly inspires all of us…and the true warmth of God’s grace is so evident in all that you write. I am blessed again and again by your posts. I look so forward to them. God bless you again and again, Warren! I’m so grateful for your friendship! 🙂

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  9. Great post, Lynn. Your conclusion … letting God be God … is the best advice of all, and the best tonic during the darkest and most painful times of life. Letting God be God removes the onus from us, takes away all (or most) questioning and doubt, and allows us to rest in the bosom of our sovereign-shepherd.

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    1. Amen!! I love what you note about our trust allowing us to rest in our Sovereign-Shepherd! So very true, David! Thank you for that beautiful word image! I will carry it with me. God bless you greatly today and always! You are a blessing to all who know you! 🙂

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  10. I’ve always loved the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and humanity as his sheep. It’s so comforting to know that even when we stray, he gently picks us
    up and sets on the right path. l love your words and painting ❤️❤️❤️

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    1. Yes, I feel the same, dear Kathy! What a comfort it is to know that He tenderly watches over us. I don’t think that I could have endured many of life’s difficult passages had I not known God’s love… and trusted in His care. And thank you, my wonderful friend, for your always kind encouragement about my art and writing! Sending you one enormous hug today!! ❤ ❤

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  11. Thank you Lynn for voicing the dilemma that we all face, but through years (decades) we come face to face with our God, our heavenly Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to yield the same fruit of humility and gratitude for His sovereignty; “though you slay ~ you will not take away your promises of eternity with you.” This hope is the only means of enduring, and experiencing to the end “the patience of the saints.”
    Blessings. 🙂

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  12. “In fact, it frees me”. Thank you for expressing my heart as well. During the worst time of my life I was determined to seek and accept the sovereignty of God. This truth more than anything rooted my faith deeper. Wonderful artwork, uplifting scripture – thank you so much!

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    1. What a comfort to know that you, too, have walked a similar journey, dear Lisa! I love what you say about “This truth more than anything rooted my faith deeper.” So very very true! Thank you! And thank you also for your thoughtful encouragement! ❤ ❤

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  13. Yes, we are the sheep of his pasture, we can take comfort in that. Life is difficult to understand down here in the valley. The good die young and the evil live on, there is not explanation. But some day, we will understand. Good Post!!!

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  14. So, the Lord just recently brought that scripture to mind which you quoted Job as saying, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him,” and the Lord was applying that to my life. And, so when I read that verse here, I stopped, and I journaled what I believed the Lord was saying to me through it. And, then I went back to reading what you wrote here, and then this stood out to me:

    “Can you really trust God even when you haven’t been given full disclosure?”

    I had just finished asking the Lord some questions, some of which he answered, but some of which he did not, not yet anyway. And, my questions definitely were related to ‘full disclosure,’ so when I read this I knew the Lord was speaking to me.

    Will I trust him even though there are things hidden that I don’t know about and that I don’t understand? Will I trust him even if I don’t know what is going on and even if he chooses not to show me? At least, not now, perhaps?

    He has been giving me all kinds of visual reminders lately that I need to walk by faith and not by sight. He even had me take a picture of someone walking in a park and then he gave me that scripture to go with it, and he had me print it off and frame it so that I have that reminder. He even led me, I believe, to purchase a shower curtain with scripture on it that has the words love, faith, peace, hope and joy, for the Lord is saying to me that I need to remember love, faith, peace, hope and joy when I go through “the valley of the shadow of death.”

    I know he is working on my heart in reminding me to praise him, oh, that is one of the words, too, and that I need to try to see the positive side to bad circumstances and that I need to rejoice in him and not let life’s troubles get me down. I need to stay focused on Jesus and not on what is going on all around me. Yet, he is not encouraging me that it is going to get better any time soon, or at all, which then leads me back to “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

    So, if I am the only one this was for today, I just want you to know that God spoke through you directly to my present need and he encouraged my heart today, so thank you for being faithful to him in writing what he gave you to write, for that is exactly what I needed to hear. So, God bless you, Lynn, my wonderful friend in Jesus!! ❤

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    1. Dearest Sue… you can’t even begin to comprehend how much your comment has meant to me. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the blog. As you know, I work full-time as an artist. That is actually more than full-time work. And I also take ongoing courses in my field. With all of that, I have often questioned whether or not I should continue to blog since it is at least a part-time commitment in and of itself. Yet, it seems one way I can use my art directly for Christ… and so I have plodded on to the best of my ability. To know that a post has been used by God to touch a friend whom I truly admire for the depth of her wisdom and faith is a gift beyond all that I could hope for! Thank you; thank you with all my heart for your encouraging and honest words here! You have blessed me more than you can ever imagine!!!! I treasure your friendship! God bless you, dear sister and wonderful friend!!!! ❤ ❤ and hugs!!

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      1. Thank you, dear Lynn. Oh, please keep writing!!! You minister to me much through your blog. I need this encouragement so that I can continue to encourage others. God uses you often to speak his words to my heart. So, thank you for your faithfulness. Love you much! Sue

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      2. Dearest Sue, you are such a blessing to me! Yes, I will continue to write as long as God wishes me to do so… and He hasn’t released me to quit writing so I suspect I will be writing for a long time! 🙂 And you, dear friend, minister to me through your beautiful blog as well! I’m so thankful that God allowed us to meet through the internet and through the blogging community! Love you right back!! Huge hugs!!

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      3. Ditto on the being thankful that God brought us to the same place at the same time so that we could meet, and so that we could encourage one another in Jesus.

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  15. This is wonderful, Lynn! I completely agree – when I stop trying to seize the reins, I have much more peace. And He truly is the Good Shepherd – remembering that frees me to just do what I am supposed to do – namely walk in obedience and praise Him. 🙂 An excellent word for us to remember today!

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  16. Thank you for these words of encouragement this morning, Lynn. Well, they were already here, but I am reading them this morning. It is wonderful to let God be God. A pity that it takes us so long to learn this lesson!
    By the way, Abba gave me the job I wanted, doing proofing and clerical work, part-time. It was all Him because in the interview they told me they were only looking for full-time applicants. I’m going to miss the cardinals, geckos, and squirrels in my backyard, but I shall enjoy being a part of the college staff. I start in 2 weeks!

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    1. Woo Hoo!! Congratulations, Angela!! That’s wonderful news!! What college will you be working for? How very exciting! Thank you for your kind encouragement about this post. Yes… it’s a difficult lesson to fully embrace, but so freeing once we do! Love and hugs and many blessings to you, my wonderful friend! ❤ ❤

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      1. Oh, how wonderful! I visited Pensacola once! It’s beautiful! You live in such a lovely place! Is your husband military? I recall you lived in the Virginia Beach area…and I know there is a Naval base/place in Pensacola as well. Just wondering. 🙂 ❤ and huge hugs, dear Angela!

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      2. You are very astute. My hubby is retired Navy, and he works for the post office now. We came here after seeing the place when we brought our son down to begin college. It is beautiful, but there are days when we all miss Virginia. The primary reason is that we are so far away now from our dearest friends. One comfort is that I’m less than 6 hours away from mom and 2 closest sisters. Hugs back, dear Lynn! ❤ 🙂

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      3. I don’t know about astute… just have spent many years in Northern Virginia… a stone’s throw away from the Pentagon. So, many of my friends are military or ex-military. 🙂 I’m sure you do miss your friends, but what a blessing it is to be closer to family! I think Pensacola is simply beautiful as well! Love you! ❤

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      4. Oh,that truly a blessing, dear Angela! So great to be able to spend quality time with your mom! But I’m so sorry to hear about her best friend! My heart is with you both and I pray God surrounds you both with His extraordinary comfort! Love and huge hugs! ❤ ❤

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  17. Lynn, what a great reminder that God is God and we are not. When my first relationship tuned out to be like an eternal 10 years, and when my cancer went from stage II to stage IV in three months, I visualize God’s conversation with the greatest enemy of all and could hear them talking about me.

    I’m thankful for God’s strength and power to sustain me, assures me that He has a great plan for me. It turned out that He was right. Of course, He was. I’m so blessed to have gone through what He had for me. He is my Shephard and my King.

    Thank you so much for sharing. ❤ ❤

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    1. What a powerful and beautiful testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness you have shared here, dear Miriam! You inspire and encourage me with you faith more than you can imagine! God bless you greatly, sweet friend! ❤ and hugs!!

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  18. “Second guessing plagues the finite when trying to grasp what is infinite” that’s kind of what Solomon was saying in Ecclesiastes 3. Maybe you said it more concisely. He said things like, “God has put eternity into man’s heart, so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…so that people fear before Him.” God has put the infinite in our hearts, but He has rigged it so we can only know the finite so we have to long for Him and long for eternity. Then when we find Him, we know we have finally found rest. We have found our shepherd. Great thoughts…

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    1. Oh, I love your thoughts, Martha! I hadn’t connected this with Ecclesiastes, but you are so right! So much of the question is similar! Thank you for sharing your excellent insight! Your words have truly blessed me today! God bless you greatly! ❤

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  19. This is a very encouraging blog post, Lynn. I like when you said, “But during times of trial–when heartbreak, suffering, pain and death color the world–my faith shakes to the core.”

    What I liked about the quote was that I feel that happens to a lot of Christians today. When trials come, out faith is tested.

    I also agree with you Lynn when you said, “… the question is subtly raised: “Can you really trust God even when you haven’t been given full disclosure? Or perhaps, you simply misunderstood God…Did God truly say that?”

    When tragedy strikes out life, we do ask ourselves this questions because we all have these moments of doubt towards who God is.

    Some of the quotes within your post are good. The ones that really stood out to me include:

    1). “His thoughts of love are fully for His sheep. And given that sheep see very little of the big picture, the Shepherd cares for them, guiding them to safety and continually providing for their needs.”

    2). “… in most every circumstance I must make a choice: Will I follow the Shepherd? Will I trust the sovereignty and infinite wisdom of my Shepherd-King?”

    3). “If, however, I understand and truly believe that the Shepherd is loving, tender, compassionate, good, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present, then the decision to accept His sovereignty is not complicated.
    In fact, it frees me. I find peaceful relief in relinquishing my attempts to control my life or the world around me.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Joshua! As always, it is such an honor to have you read my post and to share your truly wise reflections! God has truly gifted you with discernment! May He continue to greatly bless you in all that you do!

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  20. This was put together with sensitivity and care; not a topic that evokes such peace, but you managed that amazingly. Reminds me of the Grace of God all the way = soothing oil flowing down wounds and scars. So glad I got to read this. Even the art, its very stilling, like a touch from Jesus. God bless you.

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  21. I’m with you Lynn, I would rather let GOD be GOD and I am ok with not knowing it all and I just trust HIM for who HE is. The word tells us over and over about HIS love for HIS creation. How can we not understand that alone? I keep my eyes and thoughts vertical these days!!

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    1. Amen! I love that, Maxine! “I keep my eyes and thoughts vertical these days!”…what a perfect perspective! Thank you so much for sharing that gem! God bless you greatly, my wonderful friend! ❤ ❤

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