A Whimsical Dictionary: S is for Shepherd

A Whimsical Dictionary: S is for Shepherd

A Whimsical Dictionary of Surprising Influences.

S is for Shepherd –

A somewhat surprising symbol for leadership throughout scripture. A shepherd was pretty much at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, way below minimum wage. Shepherds were chronically underemployed, relegated to grunt work, underappreciated and overlooked by polite society. He had to sleep outdoors, make do with the weather, fight off the sheep’s predators, spend countless hours away from civilized humanity.

Yet the shepherd is used as the picture of a king, a leader. An unexpected, humble picture, to be sure. What does a good shepherd/leader look like? Well, the Lord unpacks the good shepherd rather well in Ezekiel 34:15-16, as He describes how a shepherd treats his people: “I myself will tend the sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Here we see the Father as the prototype of the Good Shepherd, hinting at Jesus to come.

It’s pretty clear what a bad shepherd/leader looks like, and Ezekiel once again lays it on the line: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” (Ezekiel 34:2-4). If you’re trying to discern whether a leader is worth his/her salt, that’s a good place to look.

Finally,when Jesus claims to be the one and only Good Shepherd in John 10:11-15, all the Bible-believing Jews knew what he was talking about. They recognized His reference to Ezekiel 34:23-24: “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”

That’s right, here is the Son of David, the prince, the Messiah, the Good Shepherd. Is it any wonder why the angels sang first for the shepherds, announcing the birth of the Shepherd King?