Between His Shoulders

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Atop my bookshelf stands a small wood carving of Jesus as a shepherd, with a staff in his hand and a lamb across his shoulders. It is primitive and roughly carved, yet I contemplate it often because I sometimes see myself as that lamb in need of care.

It is a reminder of the countless times Jesus has carried me when I’ve been too weak and wayward to take my next step, when He lifted me up and draped me across His shoulders, rescuing me from outer circumstances or inner failures I could not escape myself. More than that, it is a vivid picture of His love being a place of protection and rest.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deut. 33:12 NIV)
Before the patriarch Moses died, he pronounced this blessing over the tribe of Benjamin, along with blessings for the other tribes of Israel. The temple, God’s dwelling place on earth, would be located in Benjamin’s territory, surrounded by the protection of shouldering hills. Benjamin is spoken of as a beloved tribe, enjoying intimate communion with the Lord.

This verse also reminds me of the shepherd, Jesus, portrayed often in the New Testament. In Luke 15 Jesus uses a parable about a lost sheep to convey the lengths He will go to seek a lost sinner. In the parable, when the shepherd finds his lost sheep, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” A lamb carried on the shoulders of a strong shepherd or God’s temple secure in the folds of shouldering hills; quite different perspectives, yet vividly depicting the protective, caring heart of the Good Shepherd of my soul.

Not only do I see myself, a child of God, secure and shielded on His shoulders, I also draw comfort from being “the beloved of the Lord” and “the one the Lord loves.” Like a warm blanket, these words wrap around my heart with the everlasting, perfect love only God can provide. What more selfless act of love is there than that of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf?  “I came to give life with joy and abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep in His care.” (John 10:10-11 The Voice)

There is a rest like no other found in the care of the Good Shepherd. The image of resting between His shoulders gives me such a sense of peace and safety. I can rest calmly there, even in the midst of trials and chaos, because I know what it is to experience that peace which passes all understanding, coming from His indwelling Holy Spirit. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller writes, “Our Shepherd knows best when He leads us through the dark valleys with Himself. He knows where we can find strength, and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.”

My rough little carving represents the safest, most loving place I can be, resting between the shoulders of the Shepherd of my soul.

Beckoned

2007_0715BC0111She stands on chubby feet, knees flexed, arms up for balance. For weeks she has been standing on her own, yet not quite ready to take an independent step. Across the room someone kneels to her level and beckons with arms held wide, calling her to come. She recognizes the person as someone who brings delight, someone safe and loving. With eyes focused on that familiar face, she takes her first wavering steps, forgetting herself for the joy of responding to the affectionate beckoning of her daddy.

I remember when Jesus first beckoned me. I always had a curiosity about Him. I even asked for a bible for my birthday, a strange request in our family. Then I was invited to a children’s camp where stories and songs were all about Jesus. There I saw His love reflected in the glad faces of people who talked about Him as a friend. They told me He could be my friend too; in fact, He would come and live in my heart if I asked Him. I discovered He was not a distant deity high up in heaven too holy to care about a shy, eleven year old girl. I may not have understood the verses in the bible that told me so, but I knew He actually wanted to be my friend. He beckoned me in ways I could not define at the time, but now I look back to see His hand offered, saying “Come!”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 30:3 NIV)

“Come!”, sang the beauty of sea, sky and earth; of stars and sun, color and music. His lavish creation beckoned me to Him, spelling out His love in a language my young heart instinctively knew. “Come!”, beckoned those who already knew Him, not so much with their words but with lives lived in joy and contentment not found in circumstances. “Come!”, was the wordless invitation pressed on my soft soul in nights of searching and wondering.

So I came in all sincerity, but I did not stay. The world lured me away. too fresh to faith to resist. Sometimes I would hear His voice in the distance, calling, but it was too daunting a task to untangle myself from the darkness. Until the time came when I stumbled beneath a load I could not carry myself, and He beckoned again. Then I saw His arms stretched wide on the wood, His hands held out with a warm red bloom in the palms. What kind of invitation was scribed in blood, what door flung open through the sacrifice of His flesh?

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Give ear and come to Me: hear Me, that your soul may live.” (Isa. 55:1, 3)

When I came this time, I came broken, sin sick, desperate for grace I knew I did not deserve. But this was an invitation freely given without condition but that my heart accept the hospitality of the Divine Host. In the grasp of His beckoning hand waited a life for my soul, not just here and now but forever.

Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me
and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come.                    ~Charlotte Elliot  1835~

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.