Psalm 23:1 NASB - "The LORD is my shepherd . . .”
One of the great metaphors of Scripture is God as the Shepherd of His sheep. This is carried into the New Testament where Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God’s people are sheep in need of a shepherd.
This is an amazing metaphor. Human beings are made in the image of God. We are the most intelligent of all of God’s earthly creatures. We have a wonderful capacity for creativity. We design and build whole cities and there seems to be no end to our resourcefulness. And then we think of sheep. Sheep are not intelligent, they are not resourceful; in fact, they are just plain dumb. They are prone to wander off and have to be under constant surveillance. They have no natural defenses, no fangs or claws, so if they are left to themselves, they are easy prey to other wild animals. They need a shepherd to guide them, protect them, and care for their needs. They are probably unaware of the watchful eye of their shepherd. They are content to feed in the security of the flock as the shepherd leads them to “green pastures” and “still waters.”
Why is it that God describes us as sheep? It crushes our pride and independence. It reminds us how dependent we are upon God’s provision, leadership, and protection. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd who continually leads, feeds, and defends us and will safely bring us home.
It also reminds us of the importance of the local church. We are a flock under the gracious protection of Christ who promises His unfailing presence among us. He has also blessed the church with pastors, Christ’s under-shepherds. Peter writes to pastors, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1). This is humbling for human pastors. How can those who need shepherding possibility shepherd others? The answer is encouraging. Because Jesus Christ is our High Shepherd. Weak, human under-shepherds merely point men to Him. He has provided us with the food of His Word and filled us with His Spirit to lead and guide us. Earthly pastors merely have to feed, lead, protect, and love Christ’s people.