What exactly is a shepherd and what are his duties? Back in 1984-85 the first time I lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area we lived at Williams AFB which at that time was in the country a few miles drive from the city down a long road. There was the season of the year when you would see actual shepherds out herding sheep up into the mountains getting them out of the oppressive heat of the desert summer which would be coming soon. It was neat in this modern age to see actually sheep herders, also known as shepherds, tending to their flocks in America. When I moved back to Phoenix in 1996 this area had been developed, Williams AFB was no longer open due to base closures and I did not see any more shepherds. Perhaps the development of the city had squeezed out the livelihood of the sheep farmers and shepherds.
A shepherd is defined as somebody tending sheep or somebody who is responsible for caring for and guiding a group of people, especially a Christian minister. Psalm 23 is a familiar passage often associated with funeral services that speaks of the Lord being your shepherd. In this passage it says that 'he makes us lie down in green pastures'. When a shepherd gathers up his sheep he counts them and makes sure they are all there and probably has them lying in the pasture as well. The Lord cares for us like we are his sheep. Each of us is valuable to him. He tends to us and wants what is best for us.
Matthew 18:12-14 tells us "If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish." The meaning of this is two fold in that he looks after all of us and secondly it is not his desire that any of us not go to heaven. But we have free will. We can choose to follow Jesus or reject him. In Isaiah 53:6 it says "All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all."
Sheep need a shepherd to guide them. The shepherd loves his sheep and cares for them. He does not lord over them but is gentle and loving. John 10:11 refers to Jesus as the 'good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep." In the Bible we humans are referred to or compared to sheep because we can not do things on our own either. We may think we can but then we get caught in the 'briarpatches' of life and need the shepherd to cut us out and rescue us.
We humans serve as shepherds to those the Lord has entrusted to us as well. Parents guide and 'shepherd' their children into adulthood til they are released to lead a life on their own without mom and dad. The parent 'shepherds' them through the thorny areas of life and through valleys and over mountains to help them grow to be strong in the Lord and a great member of society. 1 Peter 5:2-4 says in relation to this "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." I often think of this when leading a Bible study or prayer group that I am like a shepherd leading and guiding but not lording over them.
So are you letting the great shepherd lead and guide you? Are you following him or fighting him. He, the Lord, the great shepherd is here to tend to you and help you if only you will let him.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord for leading us and guiding us and keeping us from falling over the 'clifts' of life. It is awesome to think about how much you love us and care for us. Forgive me when I have tried to do it my own way and not seek your guidance. In Jesus Name. Amen.