Since I am counseling a number of pastors, missionaries, and other christian leaders I have been thinking a lot about the life of shepherds of God’s flock. Shepherds spend their life in and among sheep. They worry over the health of the flock, finding the best food, protecting from dangers. They risk their own lives (and reputations), They consider how to comfort and correct. Good shepherds know and value their flock.
The sheep, on the other hand, rarely think about the shepherds; rarely concern themselves with the well-being of the shepherds. And so the life of the shepherd is a lonely life–if not in close community with other shepherds.
So, yesterday I had a thought. What does Psalm 23 read like from the human Shepherd’s perspective? Yes, this Psalm is about the Lord. But we have our human shepherds to guide us as well.
The shepherd guides the sheep on the right path? Who guides the shepherd?
The shepherd leads through the valley of the shadow of death. Who calms the fears of the shepherd?
The shepherd prepares an overflowing table in front of enemies. Who protects the shepherd?
The shepherd anoints the sheep. Who binds up the Shepherd?
We know from the prophets that there are many dangers for the Shepherds. They can abandon the sheep out of their own fear. They can speak “peace, peace” to avoid conflict. They use the sheep, feed on the sheep to satisfy their own desires.
So, where do the shepherds receive their care? From each other and the Lord. Here’s where the analogy breaks down (and good that it does!). In our case, our shepherds are also sheep like us. So, we can care for our shepherd/sheep when sheep cannot care for their shepherd.
I’m reminded of Isaiah 40 of the example of God as Shepherd. He comforts Israel despite her sin and punishment. He reminds Israel that he is greater than all of Creation and that the sheep should look at his incomparable majesty and be comforted. And while human shepherd grow weary (v. 30f), the Lord renews those who put their hope in him in order to run and not weary, to walk and not faint.