One of my favorite Biblical descriptions of a pastor is shepherd, an analogy that Scripture frequently uses. For instance, Ezekiel 34 pictures those caring for a “flock of people” as shepherds. Consider the following passage and notice the imagery:
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock.
Certainly the correlation between this Old Testament account of the shepherd and the responsibility of the New Testament pastor is evident.
In the next few paragraphs, I will consider the concept of shepherding God’s flock. In calling a man to pastor, God gives to that man a daunting task. He expects His pastors to “undertake” for His sheep. In the middle of the passage above, God explains that the shepherd is responsible to lead and guide his sheep. The passage also indicates that if the shepherd does not do his job properly, “beasts” enter and ravage God’s flock. When this happens, God places the blame on the shepherd.
Additionally, this passage provides a descriptive word picture in verse 4, detailing the responsibilities placed on the shepherd:
- Strengthening the diseased
- Healing the sick
- Binding broken limbs
- Rescuing those driven away
- Seeking those that are lost
- Resisting force and cruelty in love and care for the flock
This is a convicting verse for a pastor. Many sheep come into our church fold that are diseased, have broken bones or limbs, are sickly, or need rescued. The shepherd needs to attend to these needs. As an undershepherd, are you caring for the flock as God commands?
One of the specific jobs in the pastoral ministry is to help wayward sheep get back into the fold. Many examples in the Scriptures provide guidance on this. I would like to consider one of these instances — David’s sin and restoration. Most readers are familiar with account of the sinful choice of adultery that David made, as well as the consequences that followed. There is one interesting aspect of this story that some may not be familiar with, which is the time frame in which the events of the story unfolded. Consider a quick rundown the events, beginning with David’s actual sin:
- Day 1 – The act of adultery
- The revelation by Bathsheba that she was expecting a child – 2-3 weeks later
- The betrayal of Uriah – 2nd month
- Uriah’s death – 2nd month
- The confrontation by Nathan the prophet – 8th month
- The child’s death – 8th month
- The repentance of David – 8th month
This timing may not be exact, but comparing all scriptural references to this account makes this timing feasible. As you can see, a lot of time transpires between David’s act of sin and his repentance, which was initiated by the confrontation with the prophet Nathan. Many times we think that if there is not immediate confession and repentance, then there is no hope. The Bible seems to indicate that the pathway of returning to God is not an easy path, and that the work of God in plowing up the hard ground that is in a person’s heart often takes time. When we read the two Psalms that David wrote after God dealt with his heart, we can find some great truths to help us in ministering to our flock.