Persecution of African (and Middle-Eastern) Christians continues to increase, as does the gradual cultural degradation of historic Christianity in the West. This post is a prayer to the Lord, our Great Shepherd. May He raise his rod and staff high and bring comfort to his persecuted flock around the world. He is the God of both our green pastures and our shadowy valleys.

The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1). I ask that you read this sentence with an intentional stress on the word “Lord.” For indeed, Psalm 23 as a whole is a series of unsupportable claims without the word “Lord” as the subject noun of the first sentence. The entire psalm only makes sense if the Lord is indeed the shepherd; for in that case, the sheep surely shall not want.

The character and the ability of the shepherd is what gives assurance, and our Lord is a shepherd who is both good and strong (Psalm 62:11-12). He is the Lord Almighty and his faithfulness surrounds him (Psalm 89:8). He will never leave nor forsake his own (John 14:16-20). God’s attributes prove the certainty of Psalm 23 as they do the whole of Scripture; therefore, in him we rest assured.

Today, I remember the Good Shepherd in light of the persecuted church. As I write, headlines tell of the murder of some 147 students in Kenya. At 5:30 AM on Thursday, April 2, students attending Garissa University College—a school seated near the Kenyan/Somali border—were battered by gunfire. The 15-hour siege ended with nearly 150 dead; most were identified as Christians—shot execution style as they lay face down on the ground, according to reports from the Telegraph.

Their killers were fighters from the Islamic militant group Shabab. The gunmen’s first stop, upon arriving on the campus, was an early morning Christian prayer meeting. 29 students were gathered in a circle for prayer when the barrel of a gun appeared at the door. The first target was the young woman leading the prayer. The Los Angeles Times reports that of the 29 assembled, only seven survived to tell the tale.

Indeed, Christians in many parts of the world are daily treading the valley of the shadow of death. At the start of the year, the Huffington Post reported increased persecution of Christians worldwide. While we’ve heard a great deal (and rightfully so) about the murder of Christians in the Middle East, sub-Saharan African Christians face increased threats from radical Islamists. Last year alone, 2,484 Nigeria believers were killed by Muslims for their faith. The Huffington Post says in this report, regarding the spike in Christian persecution, “Even Christian majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and…violence.”

In more westernized parts of the world, the threat isn’t direct violence but instead a gradual degradation of orthodox Christianity within the culture. Recent cases in our own country in which Christians have been seemingly “chastised” for voicing historic Biblical views give testament to this increasing trend.[1] Could these events be merely the first fruits of a far more intense harvest to come? To what extent will Scripture be proved true even in our land? “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake,” says Jesus in Matthew 10:22.

Whatever may come, the Lord is our shepherd, and he hears the prayers of his own. So pray, Christians, that our Shepherd will raise his rod and staff high and bring comfort to his persecuted flock around the world. May he be the strength and sustenance of his suffering sheep—an ever-present table before them in the presence of their determined enemies.

Our Shepherd is the Lord. One day he will open a seal and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll and every mountain removed from its place. The just wrath of the Lamb will come and who will be able to stand it (Revelation 6:9-17)? Lest there be any confusion, followers of Christ must leave retribution for the martyrdom of their brothers and sisters to God. We do not reply in kind but trust that he will avenge the blood of his saints.

So won’t you, O Lord, display the power of your gracious salvation today? May the Gospel sustain your sheep and save their persecutors. Redeem lost sheep and let your glorious grace be praised (Ephesians 1:5-6). Please preserve us and help us to trust your voice and follow—whether to green pastures or to the valley of the shadow of death.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/04/anti-gay-pizzeria_n_7003596.html]

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