Shepherds and sheep. All leaders of God’s people in Scripture are described as shepherds. Kings, judges, prophets and priests were called the shepherds of God’s people in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34; Psalm 78:70-72). In the New Testament, the elders of each congregation were called shepherds (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). That’s really what the term “pastor” means, a shepherd of the flock. Even Jesus called Himself the “Good Shepherd” (John 10). Peter called our Lord the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).
Jacob, Moses, Amos and David were among many leaders of God’s people who worked as shepherds in the field. They knew sheep. They knew what it meant to be a shepherd. God called David from the “sheepfolds” to shepherd His people Israel (Psalm 78:70-72). Moses spent around 40 years shepherding his father-in-law’s flock in Midian before God called him to deliver Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1). There must be something to this relationship analogy that God keeps using it over and over in the Bible.
There is really no modern day equivalent that matches a shepherd and sheep. CEO? Nope. Cowboy? Hardly. Boss? Not even close. A shepherd lived among the sheep. A shepherd’s life was the sheep, he was completely invested in them. Take time to read Psalm 23 and meditate upon what a shepherd does for his flock. He leads them to green pastures and still waters. His rod and staff are a comfort to the flock. He stays with them, feeds them, walks with them, talks with them and protects them from predators.
The shepherd even slept among the sheep. At night he would bring them into a pen, a pen without a gate or door, and he would lie down across the opening. He was literally the door or the gate for the sheep. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
A shepherd knew his sheep. The sheep knew his voice. He called each sheep by name. Someone else can come to that flock and call that same sheep by its name, but that sheep will not follow a stranger. Look at what Jesus said about this in John 10.
“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:1-5).
Men, if you want to be a leader in God’s church, you must learn about shepherding from a Biblical perspective. You have to know your sheep. It is about relationships, not about getting to tell people what to do and making all the decisions for the church (1 Peter 5:3). You have to be completely invested in people and their souls, because if you want to lead their souls, then you will give an account for those souls (Hebrews 13:17).
Solomon’s advise is, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). Know! Pay attention! Sheep wander. Sheep sometimes get sick. Sheep have needs, and those needs change as the sheep grows. Wolves like eating sheep…they are tasty. Sheep need a shepherd.
That involves time. Ezekiel the prophet was sent to live among the captives in Babylon. He said, “I sat where they sat” (Ezekiel 3:15). Men we need to do the same for others. Sit where they sit, look at life from their perspective. It takes turning off the TV and getting in the car and driving to see someone who needs encouragement. It means that we don’t hang around the same people at church, but we get to know others. Being a shepherd of souls requires that we invite new people into our homes for a meal, or do activities with them to invest in their souls. It means that you are up at night praying for them.
Jesus does this for you. He truly is a Good Shepherd. He knows you. Will you be a shepherd for the souls of others?
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah (Jesus), “will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:11).
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).