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Getting Ready for a Shepherd

What is God like? One of the ways God uses to help us understand him is to use the language of a metaphor. God uses certain analogies in the Bible to help us understand him. These metaphors are things from the human experience that we can see or experience to explain what he is like. One of the key metaphors in the Bible is a shepherd. In the Psalms, David declares, The LORD is my shepherd (Ps 23:1). In Ezekiel 34, God criticizes the leaders by calling them false shepherds . He then makes an incredible promise. He declares that he himself will shepherd the people. When Jesus taught, he made an amazing declaration: I am the good shepherd  (John 10:11). Jesus was claiming that he is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises of a shepherd leading Israel.

Why does God use the metaphor of a shepherd? The illustration is very appropriate. Like a shepherd, God watches over and protects His people. God also provides for his people. It was not uncommon for shepherds to know their sheep intimately. Shepherds are wiser than sheep and have the skill to protect them. God used a real example from life to tell Israel what God is like.

But the metaphor of shepherd is not just limited to God. This metaphor is used for leaders in the church- particularly the elders. Consider 1 Peter 5:1-5:

[1] So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3] not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. [5] Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.(ESV)

Notice the verb that Peter uses to tell the elders how to take care of the church. He tells them to shepherd them. In other words, Peter instructs the leaders to care for the people of the congregation in a similar way that a shepherd cares for the flock. Leaders should care for the congregation in a similar way that God cares for his people. Notice also how Peter calls Jesus. He calls him,  the chief Shepherd (v. 4). In fact, the word pastor actually means, shepherd. In one sense, the pastor is a shepherd. But he is an under-shepherd.

Peter also has instruction for the congregation. He calls them to honor the instructions of the elders. For both the leader and the congregant, we are called to act with humility with each other.

How does this passage help us to prepare for a new Pastor? There are several ways. First, it should lead us to pray. We should pray for a pastor who has this heart. Pray that God would strengthen the person to be an example to the flock. Pray that the Pastor would be protected against the temptation of money, pride and power.

Second, It calls us to prepare ourselves. Change is coming. No matter what happens, things will not be the same. The pastor will make mistakes. But let us be willing to allow him to lead and demonstrate honor as an under-shepherd.

Third, it should give us comfort. He is our chief Shepherd. He cares more for this church than any of us ever will. Christ shed his own blood to purchase her from sin and death. Christ did not just die for our sin and leave us alone to fend for ourselves. He is guiding and leading us through the shepherds he has given us, and sometimes in spite of them. Christ will not abandon his church and he has promised to be faithful and will one day rescue us completely.