Article: Shepherds after God’s own heart | Jacob Varghese, India
Ezekiel 34 uses the metaphor of shepherding to illustrate how Israel’s leaders (shepherds) oppressed the people (flock) within God’s kingdom. This led me to reflect as to why so many Christian leaders fail. We should not think Christian leaders are exempted from sin. No one is! We know none of us crave failure, especially not Christian leaders, but it happens often. Our Christian leaders are humans, so they are likely to sin. A leader’s credibility highly depends upon his/her character more than the competency. Leaders must have integrity and moral ethics.
During my long years in Christian ministry, I have come across preachers, teachers, and leaders whose harsh words have inflicted deep wounds in the hearts of the little flock of God. This happens even in the local churches which are supposed to be places of comfort to the wounded and the afflicted in their life. But often the little ones of Christ return home with broken hearts. The consequences are often disastrous. Some leave the church and go back into the world; some to other churches, some even backslide from their Christian life. But many of the leaders chose to downplay the damage caused to the body of Christ and to go ahead with their busy schedule as if nothing happened.
Christian leaders are often tempted to act like the world, that means, to lord over or to exercise higher authority over others. But Christian leaders are supposed to be shepherds and they should lead the sheep and not drive them away. In Ezekiel 34:10 we read, “This is what the Lord God says: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
The shepherding metaphor sends a message promising judgment on Israel’s wicked rulers and to bring hope for the downtrodden and less privileged. Christ with His matchless tenderness, gentleness, love, and concern lifts the spirit of the meek. He strengthens the weak hands and confirms the feeble knees. Life is very valuable in His sight, and He will take precious care of it. Christ will not use a word that would offend His weak children so that they are cast off. He will not break them down but shall support them and make them strong. He considers our weak frame and nurtures it tenderly. So, God holds the shepherds responsible while reclaiming His flock as the shepherds of Israel have failed to look after the interest of the sheep. In fact, the shepherds have not worked for the interest of the sheep’s owner (God). Thus Ezekiel 34 explains that the leaders are to care for the needs and interests of those under their leadership. Ultimately, the shepherds are to work for the owner to which God is entitled.
I remember reading about the nature of sheep, “Sheep are so dumb that they will only eat what is right in front of them”. Though I laughed at that when I read, I couldn’t help but think about how the Bible often compares humans to sheep. No wonder we need a shepherd! But since sheep are so dumb, not just any shepherd will do rather need a good shepherd- a shepherd who cares about the sheep. God, the Good Shepherd promised to rescue them from the leaders who exploited them. He promised to bring them home, put them in lush pastures, and to give them rest. He would heal the injured and go after the lost. Members of God’s flock are in need of tender care and direction.
We are blessed to have a shepherd who is always leading us to green pastures! When Jesus died on the cross He paid for the sins of the human race. Only those who believe in Him, however, can receive His loving provision. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all, but it is effective only for those who place their trust in him.