A couple of days ago I talked about sheep. Many places in Bible the Church in general is compared to sheep and it only takes a little observation to see why. They know a few things, but they’re a little naïve. They have a desire to eat the good things but they don’t know where to get them. They need a shepherd, in other words, in order to be healthy and strong. Shepherds are very prominent in the Bible for a reason. There are a great number of benefits to be gained from being ‘shepherded’. Here are a few David, also a shepherd, wrote down for us:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even 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 overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
–Psalms 23:1 – 6 (ESV)
Yeah I know everyone quotes that one. There are a few other examples of note.
Rachael was a shepherdess of her Father’s sheep (Genesis 29:9). She must have been something because Jacob served fourteen years and married her other sister too just to get her. She was used by God to teach Jacob a very important lesson about harsh dealing in one of the only ways he would listen. They Egyptians hated shepherds (Genesis 46:34) which was part of the enmity between them and the Jews. Numbers 27:17 tells us that Moses described the people of Israel as ‘sheep without a shepherd.’ It’s as if God sent Moses to the desert for 40 years to take care of sheep so he could learn to take care of people. I guess there’s more than one way to go to seminary. God appointed Joshua to ‘shepherd’ them in Moses place. Most notably we see in 1 Samuel 16 that God anointed a shepherd to rule over Israel as King in the place of Saul who is described as tall and handsome. Perfect king material to the eye of man…but God sees the heart. David was a shepherd too. His heart was like God’s. He knew how to take care of his sheep. They were the chosen heralds at the birth of Jesus which I suppose is what got me thinking about this in the first place.
The concept of a pastor comes from shepherd as well. The ministry of a pastor in the New Testament church is similar to shepherding. It’s not easy work either. The pastor is to be available 24/7 for funerals, weddings, and all manner of personal crises. And yet they are to orate in a pleasing fashion from Sunday to Sunday, to preach the Word boldly and yet not step on any toes. They are to be, like our politicians, perfect in every way. This means, in practical terms, that the pastors who are the best at covering their own sins are the most desirable.
But that’s merely a symptom of our own sickness as well.
I’m being a little overly cynical here on purpose because I think that we—meaning Southern Baptists—treat our pastors very poorly.
And I think there’s a reason for it…