For some reason the idea of a shepherd has really been striking me recently.
I guess the first reason is related to language. In the english language ‘shepherd’ is a profession of someone who cares for sheep as a living. In the church we often refer to pastors as being shepherds. The interesting thing in spanish is that the word for pastor and for shepherd are one in the same– a shepherd is a ‘pastor’ and a pastor is a ‘pastor.’
Our daughter, Kaia was given a stuffed animal lamb when she was just a few weeks old. Somehow this lamb became her best friend. She can’t go to bed without it. She dresses it in her clothes and shoes. She carries it with her everywhere. She does as much as she possibly can with it, and just the sight of her lamb makes her so incredibly happy. I love watching her ‘care’ for her lamb and observing how she interacts with it.
What does a shepherd do? They care for their sheep. They provide food and water for them. They move them from place to place. They guide them. They establish boundaries about where the sheep can go: with fences or by other means. They protect them. They spend time with the sheep. They get to know them. They want the best for each and every sheep in their flock.
There are several passages of scripture that use the illustration of the shepherd. Ezekiel 34: 1 – 15 outlines shepherds that don’t care for their flock. God steps in and says,
"I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.”
In John 10: 1 – 18 Jesus declares,
"I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 21: 15 – 17 says,
"15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ’Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’”
Acts 20:28 says,
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
What can we take away from this? Must we be a Pastor to shepherd others?
I think it’s safe to say that David was the most famous (literal) shepherd in the Bible. I love that David was younger and smaller than all of his brothers; he was the one tending to the sheep. And it was he that God chose to lead his people. The role of a shepherd may not be the fanciest or the most respected… or the job with the best pay. But investing in the lives of individuals in a deep way– providing them with life… what a beautiful thing!
We’re all very familiar with the 23rd Psalm, but I’m going to insert it here. Take a minute to read it and think about the words without just blowing through it. Let the words sink in.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
I shall not want. What does that mean? It means we don’t need to ‘want’ for things because our shepherd (God) has and will provide for all of our needs. What else does He do? He makesus rest. He knows that we needrest. He created a beautiful world for us and He wants us to be in his creation. It also says that He’ll be with us in times of danger. It doesn’t say that when danger is coming he’ll sweep in and pull us out of it… it says when we walk through: it’s expected. It’s going to happen. But He’s there with us. We’re not alone. We’re not abandoned. He has chosen us, He blesses us, and He has given us the gift of eternal life.
I love the concept of the shepherd because we are God’s sheep. He cares for us deeply. And yet at the same time He also is calling us to be shepherds and care for others as he cares for us.
Are you currently playing a ‘shepherd’ role in the lives of others? Whether your answer is yes or no, let’s ask ourselves today, “How can we be better shepherds?”