10 Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him. 11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Last Sunday afternoon I celebrated my annual tradition of participating in a performance of Handel's "Messiah." Shortly after moving to Hawaii I was googling like crazy to see if there was a concert or sing-along of this beloved oratorio. To my excitement I found one sing-along, just one, on the whole island! It was at a small Presbyterian church and the choir just about outnumbered the audience. The soloists were not like the professionals I heard the year before when I attended "Messiah" at the Disney Concert Hall in LA, but their voices lifted the melody in a way that still lifted my heart to heaven. Afterwards someone commented that I was the only woman in the choir not wearing a floral hawaiian muumuu! Nonetheless, I plan to be there each year as long as I live in Hawaii.
My favorite number from Handel's "Messiah" is the duet "And He Shall Feed His Flock." This beautiful tune is an alto soloist singing the words of Isaiah 40:11, followed by a soprano melodically declaring "come unto Him all ye that labor and He will give you rest; take His yoke upon you and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29).
This duet grabs my heart because Isaiah 40 is such a rich text of Scripture. This chapter places the promises of God and the character of God side-by-side. Verse one opens with the words “Comfort, O comfort my people!” (another familiar solo from "The Messiah"). God promises forgiveness of sins, redemption, and His coming Messiah. Following the first few verses, the chapter list characteristic after characteristic of God: His power, sovereignty, superiority, wisdom, and the list goes on and on. Our Father never asks us to trust Him blindly, He gives reasons to trust Him. Verse 10 and 11 particularly stand out because they seem to be such an opposite juxtaposition- The Mighty Warrior (v. 10) and The Tender Shepherd (v. 11).
These verses are beautifully and intentionally woven together to form one amazing promise. Verse 10 speaks of God’s power and strength as a mighty warrior while verse 11 describes Him as a tender, compassionate shepherd. The description of the sheep are the youngest, weakest ewe lambs that are utterly dependent on their Master for protection and provision. God will powerfully fight our battles and lovingly care for us. He is both powerful and compassionate.
These qualities are purposefully placed side-by-side because they are two aspects of God that we naturally tend to separate. In times of discouragement we certainly believe that God is able and powerful enough to help, but we question that He actually will help. We don’t doubt God’s power but we doubt His compassion. How many times have you prayed for the salvation of an unbelieving friend or family member, or the healing of a loved-one—hoping desperately for a miracle but secretly doubting that anything will actually happen? God promises that He is not only one-hundred percent willing, but one-hundred percent able.
God is powerful enough to help you and He is filled with compassionate so that He will help you. Relish and rest in that truth this season! Let the easy yoke of that promise rest on your shoulders. Also, make sure to get out and see a performance of Handel's "Messiah," attend a sing-along, or, at least, listen to a recording. This musical masterpiece captures the full extent of all we celebrate at Christmas in a way that is unparalleled.
1 Image taken from rain.org. This is a piece of Handel's Messiah written in Beethoven's hand. Beethoven so admired Handel's work that he wrote it out so as to get the "feeling of its intricacies" and "to unravel its complexities." On another occasion Beethoven is said to have remarked, "Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived."The music of Messiah so permeated Beethoven's being that on his deathbed he is reputed to have quoted from The Messiah stating that if there were a physician that could help him "His name shall be called Wonderful."