The Lord is my Shepherd! The man who penned these words knew something about shepherding. In fact, that seems to be all he knew during his early years. Whereas his brothers had graduated to other roles and responsibilities, David, the youngest, was “out with the sheep.” What could David have been implying by this famous statement? That is the focus of this blog.
Psalm 23 was most likely written in David’s latter years as he reflected on what was most important to him. God is trustworthy! Timothy Laniak in his outstanding and well-researched book, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, distills the functions of a good shepherd to provision, protection, and guidance. These gracious acts were exercised with the animals under David’s care. He guided the sheep to where they could flourish, he protected them from harmful predators, and he provided for their health needs. From all we know about David, he was good to his sheep as any shepherd should be.
David also recognized a direct correlation to how God guided, protected and provided for him. We don’t know why God chooses the sheep He does. We do know how undeserving we are to be His children. If we only saw how God shepherded our lives we would be overcome with humility and gratitude. In Psalm 23 David writes about his awareness of God’s amazing shepherding of him. We would do well to take time to reflect on how God has exercised shepherd leadership in our lives!
I am the Good Shepherd! The God-man who spoke these words also knew something about shepherding. Although He grew up as a carpenter’s son, he was surrounded by shepherds. He was such a diligent student of the Old Testament that He was intimately familiar with the Father as Shepherd. Jesus chose this metaphor above all else to identify His leadership.
John 10 gives us a glimpse of how Jesus related to His disciples and how He expected His disciples throughout the ages to relate to Christ followers. By Jesus adding the word “good” He pointed to His attractiveness and admiration. He was worthy of the term by His thoughts, words and deeds toward sheep. We learn of His perfect self-sacrifice for and His perfect knowledge of His sheep. His model is a challenge to every shepherd leader today to provide, protect and do whatever is best for the healthy development of the sheep.
When a leader today seeks to live out the spiritual DNA of the Father and the Son, he or she has a sacred responsibility. In Ezekiel 34 we read a chilling chapter about how leaders abused their shepherding responsibility. “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?’” (verse 2) Leading, developing and caring for God’s sheep is not to be taken lightly.
Whether we shepherd our family, our children, our work team, our church congregation, or any other individual or group, we have the privilege of living as a shepherd like our Father and Savior. Who are you specifically serving as a shepherd? How well are you doing? How well would your “sheep” say that you are doing? If you are not shepherding as well as you ought, what changes should you make? May God help us to shepherd well.
Next Blog: Leaders as Under-Shepherds