As the enemy occupation of the Netherlands increased, Anne Frank and her family bravely prepared and then moved to a secret hiding place to escape the danger. They hid there two years during World War II before being found and sent to concentration camps. Yet Anne, writing in what became her famous Diary of a Young Girl, said this: “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”
Gentleness can be a complicated issue as we deal with real life.
In Isaiah 40 we get a picture of God that shows Him to be both gentle and powerful. In verse 11 we read: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms.” But that verse follows this: “See, the Sovereign
And think of Jesus, who fashioned a whip and brandished it as He flipped over the money-changers tables in the temple but who also gently cared for children. He used powerful words to denounce the Pharisees (Matthew 23) but forgave a woman who needed His gentle mercy (John 8:1–11).
While there may be times to stand up with power for the weak and challenge others to pursue justice—we’re also to “let [our] gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). As we serve God, sometimes our greatest strength reveals a heart of gentleness to those in need.
How can you gently but firmly promote justice and mercy today? How does the Holy Spirit help us be both gentle and powerful?
The theme of shepherds and sheep is repeated in Isaiah’s prophecies. In Isaiah 40:11, Isaiah paints a picture of God Himself as the loving, caring Shepherd of Israel. In 38:12, the prophet quotes King Hezekiah referring to his own dwelling as a “shepherd’s tent”; and in 44:28, God surprisingly refers to the conquering King Cyrus as God’s own shepherd! Finally, in 63:11 the people reflect on God’s care for their ancestors in the wilderness and long for that care afresh. Isaiah captures four different speakers (himself, Hezekiah, God, the people) using the imagery of a shepherd in very different ways, no doubt because it was a word picture that would resonate with people living in an agricultural culture where sheep and shepherds were common sights. This imagery of shepherds and their care for their flocks reminded the people of their need for that same care from their God.