Advent 2016: Christ Was Born For This: Day 10

A Priest Shepherds His People

by

Today's Text: Numbers 18:1-7, Malachi 2:7, Luke 2:22-35, Hebrews 4:14-16

Text: Numbers 18:1-7, Malachi 2:7, Luke 2:22-35, Hebrews 4:14-16

A priest cares for the spiritual lives of the people. The job of a priest in the Old Testament was to read the spiritual posture of God’s people and attend to their fears and sorrows. Priests called the people to see themselves as they really were—needy but loved, frail but protected, prone to wander but kept. They served God’s people by reminding them that they were made for worship.

I confess: I used to silently pass judgment on parents who used those kid-leashes on their children. And then I had twin boys.

I remember buying a set of two such contraptions at the parents-of-multiples consignment sale when our boy babies were becoming toddlers. It was our one-stop shop for all the twin things, and it made me feel deeply understood simply to wander among the aisles of coordinating onesies and matching highchairs. By this point, of course, I’d met my boys and discovered just how, um, “lively” they were. They’d be on the move soon, and judging from the number of times they’d already overturned the toy shelf in their room, it was time to prepare our hearts and our home.

We didn’t know we’d come to envy the parents we once judged. At least their kids could be contained by such desperate measures. Our boys, on the other hand, were so rambunctious, they’d physically injure themselves (or us) when tethered via a puppy dog backpack.

The truth was I’d underestimated how difficult it would be to simply keep my boys near me—to keep them in the fold, so to speak. We opted for fenced-in playgrounds in their younger years to avoid the likely probability that they’d run toward the street in opposite directions and I’d have to choose which one to rescue first. I felt like a lifeguard, always on duty, always scanning the room or yard or park for those two little blonde heads, constantly fighting fear that I’d lose one or leave one behind.

Bless caregivers of little ones everywhere. I’m exhausted just writing this.

God’s priests in the Old Testament knew well the work of keeping their sheep within the fold. Shepherding was part of their job—not sheep, of course, but hearts. The hearts of God’s people—ever wandering, ever forgetful—needed the watchful eye of the priest to keep them close, to read their spiritual posture and anticipate their spiritual needs. In the same way that priests reminded God’s people who they were and Who they were made to worship, they also reminded them how to walk in light of those truths.

God’s people were needy, but loved. They were frail, but protected. They were prone to wander, but kept. The priesthood was a gift from God for both the people and the temple. The priests watched over the people for the sake of the temple, and watched over the temple for the sake of the people. It was heavy, holy work.

As God’s people today, we are just as needy, frail, and prone to wander as our Old Testament brothers and sisters. We, too, benefit greatly from the gift of shepherds who lead the people of the Church in the ways of God. But there is one crucial distinction: you and I no longer rely on any priest or guide to keep us in the fold. We have a Savior who does that.

There would come a perfect Priest into the world who would not just make it improbable but impossible for us to be separated from God’s covenant love. He would be the Shepherd of shepherds, the Messiah, and He was coming to be our forever priest.

SRT-Advent16-Instagram10s

  • Becca Bailey

    How wonderful it is to know that it is impossible to be separated from my Savior. Without Him, separation would come all too easily – my heart IS so prone to wander. I could never have been righteous enough on my own. But He is the one who does the keeping, and He has promised that nothing can snatch me out of the Father’s hand. So thankful.

  • God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Thank you for coming to this world. Thank you for setting up your Kingdom come now! and for receiving us back and drawing us back to you! We are so love sick! Let me bless you today Jesus!

  • So great!!! Thanks so much for this devotional today! I have just come home from a Christmas concert where I (and a number of other teachers) had to “herd the flock” so to speak. These are important words and blessings to those who work in the church and in positions of leadership as well! We need constant herding!!! :)

  • The condescension of God to even WANT to shepherd our wandering, weak, fearful, frail hearts! What a mercy. I am blown away by the truth that He would go to such great lengths to care for my spiritual posture and shepherd me into His loving protection. I am acutely aware of my weakness and fear today and so thankful that God cares about me in this state to shepherd me! O the deep, deep love of Jesus.

  • Keri McCue

    I wish I wasn’t so prone to wander! I wish I could learn my lessons and never struggle again, to serve Him without fail every day. But we are prone to wander aren’t we? And we need Him to guide us back to Him every day. I am so thankful for a faithful shepherd!!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • A mother’s love is what strikes me here – how have I never noticed “and a sword will pierce your own soul too” ??

  • Kimberly Donnan

    Thank you Jesus

  • Ellie Shepherd

    Makes it IMPOSSIBLE to separate us from his love!!

    Amen

  • I, too, have a–eh hem–“lively” toddler. It was a good reminder for me to remember to look at him knowing that I actually do my own version of wandering. What a gift to know that I can approach Christ’s throne with confidence knowing that He faced the same temptations I face. I can look to him for help and grace.

  • There would come a perfect Priest into the world who would not just make it improbable but impossible for us to be separated from God’s covenant love. He would be the Shepherd of shepherds, the Messiah, and He was coming to be our forever priest. —–Beautiful truth. Thank you

  • Our church just finished a study in Hebrews and this Advent study is such a wonderful review and encouragement of those truths and promises. Repetition always helps things sink in!

  • Lindsey Grudnicki

    “Prone to wander but kept” – I absolutely love this reminder and image.

  • Sarah Ali

    Every time I read “prone to wander, yet kept,” I was overcome by the grace of God. I am amazed that Jesus, our perfect Priest has made it so that my wandering heart is sealed for His courts above. Praise God!

  • Jess Gardiner

    So thankful that we have an always available high priest who was tempted, understands weakness and yet never sinned. His grace is always available and more than enough! We cannot out-sin, out-fail or out-ask the grace of God!! Indeed with great confidence and trust we can draw near.

  • I am so thankful for the Pastors/Teachers of the Word that are following God’s teaching. Loving His Flock, Guiding His Flock!

  • I love the contrasts she wrote, “Needy but loved – frail but protected – prone to wander but kept! Those are so beautiful to ponder and they make me just have so much gratitude for our wonderful, loving, gentle Shepherd.

  • “There would come a perfect Priest into the world who would not just make it improbable but impossible for us to be separated from God’s covenant love. He would be the Shepherd of shepherds, the Messiah, and He was coming to be our forever priest.”

    Jesus is shepherding my heart to a posture of receiving His grace, an art I have lost. I think I must earn it by feeling bad about my sin. Or sometimes, I busy myself so much that I don’t truly receive His grace. Thanks be to God that He is our shepherd. He knows His sheep and how weak, frail, and distracted we are. But He loves us. Oh, how He loves us so. Let us receive that today.

    • Darby

      How much I can relate to this! We are distracted and weak and he loves is still. I often struggle with receiving his grace. To learn to be still, let go of my sins and allow His forgiveness to bring peace.

      • Hannah

        Agreed Darby. /Receiving/ has been on my heart lately, and it encourages me that it is on yours as well!

    • Colleen

      I hear you! I also struggle to receive. It’s like there’s a part of me that just wants to earn everything…but I can’t. Just came across this quote by JR Miller the other day, “We honour God most, we make the fittest requital to him for his benefits, not by giving to him, but by receiving from him. Love wants no return for what it gives or does. God does not show favours in order to receive as much again. He gives because his heart it full of love….He wants only love in return. Consecration? Yes, but the consecration of love, and not as recompense or repayment.” Just sitting with those thoughts today…

  • I have just started an internship in Africa. I am living with a very cordial, inviting woman of a non-Christian belief. May the Lord do mighty thing through me in this time. May she find her Christ. Amen.

    • Kristin

      Bless your heart for praying for this woman. I pray that this woman can see the way God moves in your life. Please give her eyes to see and ears to hear you dear Lord, Amen! Xx

    • Hannah

      Praying with you Eliza. May He give you wisdom about when to listen and when to speak. May He help you make the most of every opportunity. May the love of God shine thru you so that she is sees HIM in you.

    • Lonnie

      Amen

    • JennyBC

      Praying for the relationship you and this woman build. I’m praying that the Father’s love for her would overwhelm her and that she would see glimpses of Him in you. Precious prayers offered by many for both of you.

  • Caroline

    I feel so fragile right now. So weary. So tired. But oh how thankful I am that it’s impossible to be separated from the love of Christ

    http://www.in-due-time.com

    • Laura

      Caroline! Love your blog and you. Praying for your strength. May God be glorified in your wait.

  • Thank you that for however you compose this devotional that the Holy Spirit reaches right through and touches my heart. Bless you.

  • Alexandra

    I love the correlation of Jesus as a priest. Priests in the Old Testament were called to care for the spiritual lives of people by helping them see themselves as who they are needy but loved, frail but protected, prone to wander but kept. Jesus is the high priest. Jesus represents all of those things. He made a way, as our Savior, Messiah so nothing can separate us. He still pursues us and shepherds our hearts like priests in the Old Testament…and at the very moment He does we can meet with him, going boldly to the throne of grace. I also love the verses from Hebrew reminding me that He is able to empathize–He was tempted but didn’t sin. He knows what it feels like to be tempted, but He also knows how to stay the path. ❤️

  • Denise Stone

    I loved this devotional. I keep wanting to make sure my kids are focused on the real reason of Christmas, and thinking of others..I forgot about my own heart and intentions. I just read this advent devotional today, but praying that my heart is pure, and focuses on our Lord Jesus, and his birth to save us all. Love a community of believers, and supporters!

  • Diane Vincent

    as I read through the verses many descriptive words stood out…..a shepherd: brings, guards, serves, offers for, sympathizes, grants mercy, gives grace. Praise to our great Shepherd who does all this and more for His sheep!

  • The Lord will be with you Sarah, praying you feel his peace and a joy so contagious while you play it can only come from The Lord!

  • Sarah D.

    Thank you Lord that you always shepherd me back to you!!
    Could you all pray for me? At my public high school we’re doing a Christmas Worship Night and I’m playing the keyboard for it. I don’t know why, but when I’ve been practicing I get really nervous and red faced. It’s annoying because I’ve been wanting to do this and it shouldn’t be a nervous thing. Please pray that I have peace and enjoy worshipping God and remember all He’s done for me.

    • Kristina

      Yes Sarah, praying for you. May the peace of God fill you as you play. What a wonderful event! Blessings

    • CM

      Praying for you!

    • Hilary

      Praying for you now, Sarah!

    • DebbieinAZ

      God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind. (1 Timothy 1:7) Right now, in the name of Jesus, I pray peace and joy over you now, at your concert and forever. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

    • Nicolette

      Praying for you Sarah! I am a worship leader and I play keys too, I remember feeling so nervous up on stage and feeling crushed every time I made a mistake. But over time the Holy Spirit gave me more boldness and even though I still get nervous I’m confident in my calling and role to lead the people into worshipping their creator, imperfections and mistakes and all.
      The Holy Spirit will give you the boldness to look past the nervousness and feeling like you look silly (you probably don’t look silly :) to the whole point of a worship night which is doing exactly what the priests were doing, pointing people’s wandering hearts back to God.
      You’ve got this, Sarah, because God’s got you!

  • Brittany Burkman

    I wish that people would stop using “kid” references anytime they teach the Bible. Yes I get that it’s related. But this single person doesn’t understand and then the teaching definitely does not resonate.

    • Ann

      Kid references are relevant to everyone. We have all been kids ourselves at one time, we know people who have kids, and we all have family and/or friends who have kids. It is just like marriage, we may not all be married or with or without kids, we know people who are married, who have kids, may have kids one of these days. We have family members or friends that are married. Try to stay open to what God has in each day for you. If you get offended first off when you are reading the Devo, offense closes you off to what God might want to speak into your life today. Praying for you this morning.

      • Ann

        AND, we are “children” of God. We are all children ourselves! God chases after every one of us like a mother chases her children. I am so grateful that God in His rich incredible mercy has adopted me into His family and He pursues me an doesn’t just let me go my own way without constantly reaching for me. I have become more grateful for that the older I get. I am so grateful for His love for me as His child.

    • Shantell

      Maybe you could relate if you have ever babysat? I don’t have kids either, but I have definitely experienced glimpses of it through babysitting-just enough to grasp the craziness of it :) Thankfully, God’s word is “alive and active” and will “carry out the purpose for which it is sent” no matter what additional words or stories are put with it. In situations like these, I encourage you to ask God (wait on him and expect to hear) what he wants to teach you through his words. He has grace for the hearer (or reader). I pray you have a sweet day in the Lord and that you experience “all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15:13).

    • Carol Baustert

      Brittany, I sense the pain in your comment. I don’t know your circumstance, but I pray the Lord will meet you in your need and give you peace and joy.

    • Emily

      My husband and I were married for 6 years before we had a baby. I distinctly remember feeling like we were the only couple in our church, our age (or younger!) who didn’t have children and it was very isolating and lonely. I often felt like I was behind, trying to catch up or doing something wrong because I wasn’t a mom yet. Fast forward to today and I have a crazy 2 year old son. Most of my friends are on to kid #2, 3 or even 4! And here I am, wondering why I just can’t seem to keep up and fall in line. Seems so silly but the comparison game is real. The enemy isn’t our friends, family or even strangers with kids, it’s the evil one trying to chip away at your faith. Don’t give into that. Praying for your spiritual walk, that you’ll feel encouraged and strengthened in whomever God’s teaching is delivered to you. At the end of the day it’s about your own walk with Jesus, and then making disciples. God bless.

    • Amen

      In context, a shepherd tending their sheep will have kid lambs in their flock. Maybe a paradigm shift in perspective instead of literal translation is necessary to get through those “kid” lesson/responses?

      I always chuckle at the visual of kids on leashes, wondering why anyone would want to restrain a human in such a way, as even shepherds never seemed to need to do this in agriculture.

      Imagine my fear when during a bible study, I was asked to watch the other mothers children so they could have the opportunity to hear that week’s study with the rest of us. Thank you, but no, this would not have been in their best interests – I had zero experience tending children, hard as it was to believe. It was not easy to say “no” but hard to have them accept and comprehend why. Of course the flip side of the coin was me wondering why the children were required to be excluded from the women’s study time. Sure there were distractions. But. Yet. Isn’t the study an opportunity for everyone to learn focus and patience?

    • Madeline

      I feel ya. I don’t have kids and feel the pressure to hurry up and have them. Sometimes reading these devotionals also feel like presssure. Even if you know kids, you don’t know what it is like to raise them. I’m sorry that some of these comments were unsupportive of you. I hope this community can be a safe place for you.

    • Emma

      I definitely see where you’re coming from Brittany. Especially in church I feel like the women my age with kids talk down to me, like there is a secret wisdom box that is unlocked when you have kids and I wouldn’t understand. Definitely something I’m sensitive about even though this study is presented with so much love and openness. I pray we both will be moved by God’s love in this study even if the allegories sometimes miss the mark for us.

    • Amanda Bible Williams

      Hi Brittany. Thank you for your feedback. We hear you, and we certainly want you to know that you are welcome here, in any phase or circumstance of life. We hope the variety of writing you’ll find here reflects that. I also understand that the internet can be a hurtful place, and that articles we stumble upon can be especially difficult to read in the context of our personal experiences. All this to say, I hope you’ll come back and read along with us. Our goal is not for women to read our devotionals every day, but for women to read God’s Word every day. Our words will fail you, like mine did today. His Word will never fail. Grace and peace to you – Amanda

      • Lindsey

        What a gracious and loving response. Thank you, Amanda, for all that you do for the SRT community.

      • Amanda, I DO read SRT every day. It has been an unspeakable blessing to me. It has totally transformed my devotional time for the better and therefore has helped draw me closer to the Lord. I was born into a pastor’s home and have heard the Word my whole life. I attend a church with a dynamic, spirit filled pastor as well, but before my friend introduced me to SRT my daily devotions were something I sometimes did out of duty and they were definitely lack luster to say the least haha. I know for sure that it was Devine intervention when my friend Holly told me about SRT. Thank you for helping to shepherd all of us wandering Shes. :)

      • Amanda, I DO read SRT every day. It has been an unspeakable blessing to me. It has totally transformed my devotional time for the better and therefore has helped draw me closer to the Lord. I was born into a pastor’s home and have heard the Word my whole life. I attend a church with a dynamic, spirit filled pastor as well, but before my friend introduced me to SRT my daily devotions were something I sometimes did out of duty and they were definitely lack luster to say the least haha. I know for sure that it was Devine intervention when my friend Holly told me about SRT. Thank you, Amanda, Racheal, and all the other wonderful devotional writers, for helping to shepherd all of us wandering Shes. :)

  • About Simeon….
    “And the Holy Spirit was upon Him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit…”
    I love when I read something I’ve missed my whole life. I also love when it involves seeing the Trinity at work before each person of the Trinity is “formerly introduced.” Example….Jesus talking about sending one that will be their Helper to dwell with us. John 14

    I had never read that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon but I always wondered how he knew because Jesus had just been born. I knew God must have revealed it to Him but I missed that God actually tells us how Simeon knew. What a sweet gift to Simeon and what a sweet gift giver our God is!

  • this devotional brought me to tears. prone to wander, yes I feel it. so so greatly appreciative of our high priest, my Sheppard.

    • She Reads Truth

      Grateful for you, Naomi! Thanks for joining us today!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • I am so glad I have a shepherd who CAN’T and WON’T let me go. I have been struggling in my faith these last few days and that discourages and scares me – I haven’t felt that much before. So remembering that Jesus my priest will NEVER let me go – that is heartening news.

  • Lindsay Sterchi

    First, as a mother of twin two-year-old girls, today’s illustration connected perfectly with me. :-) I love the idea of Jesus being our perfect priest that makes it impossible for us to be separated from God’s love. He made a way for us to approach God boldly and without fear, because we will always find love, mercy, and grace.

  • Shelly S.

    Thankful today that I can approach that throne of grace on behalf of dear ones with such great need and suffering. My sister’s 33 year old son (a twin) took his life 6 weeks ago. It is a pain unimaginable. And another dear friend whose adult son is on a path of sure destruction. And yet I know Jesus is our great sympathizer. And then in the midst of great pain around me, I am experiencing immense joy at the birth two weeks ago of our first grandchild. Really it’s almost too much to comprehend. I don’t even know how to express it. But I have a High Priest that understands. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

    • Lana

      Praying for you and your loved ones, Shelly. Have you read Mourning and Dancing here on SRT? If not, it might serve as a blessing in your life right now. Really helped me. Sending you lots of love.

      • Shelly S.

        Thank you Lana I will definitely read that study. I am new to SRT, over from IF. Thank you for your prayers!

        • Verna

          I totally agree with Lana….the Mourning and Dancing devotional was a tremendous help. I highly recommend reading it! Prayers coming your way.

        • Alexis

          Shelley, I hold you in my heart and pray for peace from the Lord for you, your friends and your family.

          Btw, what is IF?

          • Linda Ruth Ciglen

            IF:Gathering http://www.ifequip.com/ – founded by Jennie Allen – gatherings and online Bible studies for equipping and discipling women. There are several of us here who found out about SRT from IF.

    • Kellie

      Oh Shelly, my heart goes out to you. Prayers to you and your family ❤️

  • Because our savior came, we have a perfect high priest who understands our neediness, weakness, and wandering hearts. And yet although he understands, he does not falter in his perfection. And so, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence. Praise Him!

    With love from Northwest Arkansas!

  • Thank you Jesus for loving me so! You are always with me and you always know exactly what I need. I am so grateful today. So very comforted.

  • Maria Baer

    33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” The story of baby Jesus always marvels me mostly because I always wonder about her strength and bravery Mary. Even knowing that she was giving birth to a son of god that must’ve been so hard to know that you delivered a baby it would be a sacrifice for our human beings in this passage today was a been hard for her to hear.

    • Robin W.

      I love the song, Mary Did You Know. I often try and imagine what it would have been like to “kiss the face of God.” Crazy to think about.

  • Tricia Cavanaugh

    I also am studying God’s Word from Pennsylvania today. So grateful that we can come to God whenever, wherever.

  • Feeling so thankful and overwhelmed that the Creator of this world wants us to come boldly to His throne of grace. He deeply cares for each and every one of us. That reality truly makes me feel so loved and significant!

  • April Heather

    So well written Amanda. Loved your analogy and the thoughtful weaving of your parental challenges into the important message today. I’m enjoying this study immensely! (Checking in from PA this morning!) xo

  • Susan Dexter

    Prone to wander, but kept. Thank you, Jesus!

  • Oh, how I needed this reminder today.

  • churchmouse

    In Christ Jesus there is freedom. I do not have to go to a certain person at a certain time in a certain place or offer a certain sacrifice. I commune with God, confess my sin and receive forgiveness wherever, however, whenever . There is such comfort in His availability. Such comfort in His open arms and listening ears. Nothing can separate me from His love. Nothing. I am free to delight in Him. A glorious and humbling reminder this morning!

    • Sue D.

      I love your comment; such comfort in His availability! He is always there for us! Thank you Jesus for not being too busy to meet our needs, and we are needy!

  • Greetings from PA-
    Thank you Amanda for your analogy, twins must certainly be a handful!! …as I lay awake some evenings, worrying about my children and choices they make…I think of God – wondering how he watches and loves all of us-despite the choices we make. Thank you Jesus for making it impossible to be separated from the love of God!!

  • Thanks Amanda! Right on!

  • I love how you said we no longer have to rely on a priest. Thank God we don’t have to confess our sins to another human, but we have the right to go straight before Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

  • There would come a perfect Priest into the world who would not just make it improbable but impossible for us to be separated from God’s covenant love. He would be the Shepherd of shepherds, the Messiah, and He was coming to be our forever priest….

    Thankful for the gift of our perfect Priest , who has made a way for us NEVER ever to be separated from Gods convanent love..
    Sheperd of sheperds..
    Messiah..
    Amen.

    A Blessed tuesday to you all…xxxx

    • Verna

      So lovely to read your comments again, Tina! I always look forward to reading them. I’ve been gone for awhile but am back doing the Advent study with all of you. Blessings and love to you! ❤️

    • Mamajonk

      Have missed your lovely thoughts. Praying you are well. Blessings.

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