What Does “Pastor” Mean?
Shepherding in the Old Testament
1 Peter 5:1–4
1 Peter Lesson #147
October 4, 2018
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, it’s a great privilege that we can come together. We have freedom in this country because of our forefathers. We think about what happened 501 years ago with the Reformation and the impact that that decision by Martin Luther had on his nation—and on other nations—as it transformed Western civilization. It pulled us out of the quicksand of mysticism that had come to dominate the Middle Ages and opened people’s eyes to the truth of Your Word and, as an unexpected consequence of that, brought forth all of the wonderful blessings of the modern world and modern civilization. Above all is the freedom that we have: the freedom to meet, the freedom to study Your Word.
“Father, we do pray that in the midst of all the battles, all the shenanigans, and all the chicanery that goes on in Washington DC, that Your hand will work to bring to the fore men and women who understand the truth, will fight for the truth, will be solid in their standing in Your Word, and that they will be a real light in the darkness of government. And that, as a result of their work, we will have our freedoms maintained and preserved.
“Father, we pray that as we study tonight about the church and church leadership, that You might encourage us and strengthen us because if the pastor’s role is to feed the sheep, then the sheep’s role is to be fed. And that is an important responsibility in each life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are studying about the role of church leaders and church government in 1 Peter chapter 5. Tonight we’re going to look at something, this week and next week, to try to understand what this means when we talk about the “pastor.” What does a pastor do?
Now, most of you are pretty squared away. But that’s an interesting question. You go out, talk to the hoi polloi, and say, “What does a pastor do?” Who knows what kind of responses you might get. Some people think of a pastor as some sort of religious social worker. I know I had a relative who, as I was dealing with the different health problems with my parents, made the comment, “You ought to know what to do. You’re a pastor! You do all this kind of social work.” I thought, “Wrong kind of pastor!”
Others think of a pastor as a religious psychologist, a counselor, a community organizer even, or an activist who represents their community before the local government. There is a segment of our Christian community that puts that burden on their pastors—that’s a primary responsibility for them. I don’t find that anywhere in the Scripture.
Others think of them as public relations men, or spiritual babysitters. Others look at a pastor as a fundraiser. And others look at him like the CEO who is primarily overseeing the church administration, publication of newsletters and prayer lists, and other things like that—spending a lot of time doing hospital visits and home visits.
I remember a pastor who was really cynical that I met many years ago. He had been a pastor for three or four years, and he said, “I’m tired of telling people I’m a pastor! They look at me like I’m a third gender.” Some people think that pastors are just monks who spend their whole time locked away in prayer all week and come out in the sunlight on Sunday morning to deliver a 10-minute homily.
Even among those who are Bible churches, you often hear people say, “Well, that was so pastoral.” What do you mean by that? I’ve never seen a definition of that in Scripture. A lot of what Christians think of as “pastoral” has been shaped by church culture, not necessarily by the Bible. So we need to go to the Scripture to find out what a pastor does.
But before we do that, I thought I would read to you. I ran across this years ago. It’s been modified and changed and adapted over time, but it describes the perfect pastor. “The perfect pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but he never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 8 AM until midnight, and he is also the church janitor. The perfect pastor makes $400 a week. He wears good clothes, drives a new car, buys good books, and donates $300 a week to the church. He’s 29 years old and has 40 years of experience. Above all, he’s really good looking. The pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face. He has a sense of humor that keeps them seriously dedicated to his church. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed.”
Now, my first church was like that. It was an evangelical church that was a blend of people from different denominations. And if I spent all my time studying, I would hear them complain and gripe about the fact that I wasn’t with the people. And if the next week I was gone visiting people, then they were complaining that I was never in the office. You know, the sad thing is that’s true in a lot of churches.
Bob Salstrom preached my ordination sermon, and at the time he was a crusty old curmudgeon, just a great old retired pastor. He was the head of alumni and placement at Dallas Seminary. He took me aside and he said, “Now, Robby, you need to understand that about 80% of the churches that come to Dallas Seminary looking for a pastor don’t deserve one. So don’t get caught in that trap!”
Continuing the “Perfect Pastor.” “The perfect pastor always has time for his church council and all of its committees. He never misses the meeting of any church organization. He is always busy evangelizing the unchurched. And the perfect pastor is always in the next church down the road. Now, if your pastor doesn’t measure up, simply send this notice to six other churches that are tired of their pastor, too. Then bundle up your pastor and send them to the church at the top of your list. If everyone cooperates, in one week you’ll receive 1643 pastors; one of them should be perfect.”
The sad thing is that very few churches pay much attention to what the Bible says about the role of a pastor—even in Bible churches! And we have to define these terms. So that’s what we’re starting to look at this evening, “What does ‘shepherding’ mean?” If “pastor” is just another term for “shepherding,” what does a shepherd do? We’re not talking about the literal meaning of a shepherd, but we have to understand that before we can understand the figurative meaning of a shepherd. So we’ll spend most of our time tonight looking at the Old Testament.
We have looked in the past at our key passage, the passage we’re focused on, 1 Peter 5:1–2. “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elde r...” Peter writes. That’s the word PRESBUTEROS. It’s the noun.
Then he says, “Shepherd the flock ...” That’s the verb. The noun “pastor” is only used one time in the New Testament, and that’s in Ephesians 4:11. We’ll get to that, probably, next time. It’s a command to elders, and they are to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you …” So you have to figure out, “What does that metaphor mean?”
“… serving as overseers.” That’s the word EPISKOPEO. The noun is EPISKOPOS, where we get our word Episcopalian or Episcopal form of government. It has to do with an overseer. It came into Latin. It dropped the E at the beginning, so it’s EPISKOPOS or bishop. And that’s how it came over into English.
What we have to do is go back to the Old Testament to look at what the Bible teaches about the shepherd. The reason we do this is because when Jesus shows up and refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John, there is already a very solid understanding of what a shepherd is supposed to be doing in terms of leadership. It was a term that was developed in the Old Testament. So we need to go back and examine that.
What we’ve done so far is we’ve looked at terminology. We looked at the church, that this is a new term, new concept. The term itself is a general term used for any kind of assembly, and so it applied to Israel as the congregation of the Lord in the Old Testament. But when Jesus talks about it as something in the future, that “on this rock I will build My church,” He told Peter, then that meant, “This is something future, something new and distinct.” And at that point it began to pick up a new term.
We saw that, secondly, when the church began, it began on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, about 10 days after the Ascension. Third, we looked at how leadership developed in the early church as described in Acts. And there we saw that it starts off with the apostles as the authority. But apostles and prophets were temporary offices, and as they were beginning to fade, which you see by the time you get to Acts 15, you start seeing the emphasis on the apostles and the elders. Then, by the time you get to the end, you see the elders meeting with the Apostle Paul at Miletus. So that becomes the primary name for the early church leadership, even though those three terms (elder, pastor, Bishop) are synonyms of each other.
We talked a little bit about how the leadership developed in the early centuries of the Church Age and the different models. There are three basic models. There is the Episcopal form. There is the Presbyterian or elder form. Then there’s the congregational form, and one aspect of that is what we might call the single elder or single pastor view—and that’s typically a Baptist influence.
By “Baptist,” I don’t mean Southern Baptist or conservative Baptist. What makes a Baptist a Baptist? Two things make a Baptist a Baptist. Number one, a Baptist believes in the separation of church and state, and number two, a Baptist believes in baptism by immersion after a person’s profession of faith—not before. It doesn’t have anything to do Jesus; it doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible; it doesn’t have anything to do with anything else. Historically, what made a Baptist a Baptist was those very two things.
You had these three or four men under Ulrich Zwingli in Zürich break out and say, “No, no, no—we can’t do this infant baptism anymore, because the Bible talks about adult baptism on profession of faith.” Until that happened, there wasn’t a break from the church/state identification. And that was one reason why the Anabaptists were viewed with such hostility by the governments: they were breaking this church/state identification.
So you had the rise of the Anabaptists, and so we are Baptist. That’s our ideological theological heritage. We’re not Presbyterian. We’re not Roman Catholic. We’re not Lutheran. We have a Baptist heritage. That’s also within the DNA chain of the churches that most of you here have been influenced by. That doesn’t mean we’re part of any Baptist denomination, but we have those two beliefs fully in common.
We’re looking at this fifth question. We’ll be spending time on, “What are the scriptural terms used for biblical leaders?”
As I pointed out last time … I’m changing up these definitions a little bit. An elder, I think, refers to the office or the spiritual maturity of the person in the office. It is someone who is mature, someone who’s older, but I don’t think it just focuses, in this case, on chronological age as much a spiritual maturity. Bishop—overseeing—that’s the function of the office. And pastor emphasizes the role and responsibility, which is to feed the sheep through teaching.
So, we’re focusing on this fifth question.
Now, let’s look at the Old Testament a little bit. We’ve spent a lot of time over the years in the Old Testament looking at how that informs us on New Testament language. The Hebrew verb that we find … What’s interesting is the verb is turned into a participle which means it’s used as a noun, but it’s still the verb used participially as a noun. It has the idea of feeding, grazing, pasturing. Genesis 29:7, in the New King James Version, will say “feed them,” and the New American Standard translates it “pasture them.”
Genesis 30:31; 30:36; 37:2, Joseph is “pasturing” or “feeding the flock.” So what that tells us is the literal meaning has something to do primarily with providing nourishment for the sheep—literal sheep. It is taking them to pastures where there is plenty of good grass and forage, and it is also taking them where there’s water. So those are the things that will be brought out here. But what we see, even from Genesis, is that the ultimate pattern to understand what shepherding is is going to be God. God is the eternal Shepherd.
We see this at the end of Genesis in two key verses. We see this metaphor used to describe God in Genesis 48:15 where Jacob is blessing Joseph and says, “ ‘God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me’ …” The word there translated “fed” is raah “ ‘The God who has shepherded me all my life long to this day’ …” I think that’s a better way to put it, because the nourishing, feeding aspect is primary. But there is something else going on there; there are some other facets to the meaning of that word that we’re going to see. It has the idea of oversight, and leading, and guiding, and protecting; all of those are part of that. We’ll see how that is developed in other passages.
Then, in Genesis 49:24 (which I thought was a fascinating verse here), “But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob [parenthesis—a name for the God of Jacob] (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) …”
It is calling God by a name, by a title, “(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) …” The word there for stone is the Hebrew word eben; we have that in the word Ebenezer, which is sometimes translated “a rock.” So, we see the term “rock” is often used as a term for God, indicating He is immutable, He’s immobile, He’s steadfast. You can count on Him. He’s unshakable. He is always faithful. All that is bound up in that picture image of this rock. It’s not a small rock; this is talking about a huge, huge boulder!
So, this image pictures God shepherding His people. He is pictured that way in the wilderness. We’ll see a couple of verses that talk about that: God leading Israel through the wilderness. That is a picture of God being a shepherd to His people. So, it brings out that aspect of leadership. For example, we’ll see that in Psalm 78:70–71, I believe.
Then there are other passages where we read that God led Israel into captivity in Lamentations 3:2. So that’s a function of God as a Shepherd Who’s bringing correction and discipline on His flock, on the sheep. That’s a function, as we’ll see, of the rod in a well-known passage in Psalm 23, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” And it has both a positive and a negative aspect to that.
God is pictured as a Shepherd and also that He will be the Shepherd of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom when they come into their kingdom. He is pictured as One Who will finally bring them to safe and secure pastures, and He will provide for them throughout all of the future. So, if this is the picture of God from the very beginning, then one of the things we learn from Him is that He is One who comforts us and He provides security for us, and that comes out a lot in the passages that we’re going to look at.
I want you to turn with me to probably one of the most well-known passages dealing with the Lord as our Shepherd, and that is Psalm 23. Six verses; one of the most favored psalms. Many, many people have memorized this. It is a psalm that focuses on the Lord, and His name is used twice in the psalm. It is used in Psalm23:1, “Yahweh my shepherd,” and it’s used again in Psalm23:6, in the last line, “And I will dwell in the house of Yahweh Forever.”
That forms an inclusio. You remember? An inclusio is like you bracketed something; you said it at the beginning, you said it at the end, and it ties the whole package together. So this emphasizes that this psalm is all about Yahweh’s provision for us and all that He has given us, which is what’s emphasized in the very first verse. “Yahweh is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I have no needs; I lack for nothing! So then the rest of the psalm is going to develop that.
But our focus here of looking at this psalm is not to look at it from the vantage point of exposition or exegeting it, but what do we learn about the role of God as a Shepherd? Because God takes care of each one of us as members of His flock. So, let’s just read it through and then I’ll go through it.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
What are some things that we learn about God as a Shepherd as we look at Psalm 23?
First of all, we learn that, as our Shepherd, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures …” So, what’s going on here? It’s an interesting word here that we find cropping up in some different places for “lying down.” It’s the Hebrew word rabas, and it means to lie down or to rest—but not like when you take your afternoon nap.
But it’s emphasizing that you are being able to relax and go to sleep because you know you’re in a totally secure and protected environment. There are no threats; there are no problems; everything is secure. We see that, for example, in passages like Isaiah 14:30, “The firstborn of the poor will feed, and the needy will lie down in safety …”This is not talking about now; this is talking about in the Millennial Kingdom in the time of perfect righteousness. The needy will lie down in security.
“I will kill your roots with famine, and it will slay your remnant.” What God is saying there is, “I’m going to destroy your enemy so you can lie down in security.”
In Ezekiel 34:15 we read [God saying], “ ‘I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord GOD.” This is very similar language to what we have here in Psalm 23:2, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures …” God takes us to these green pastures. They are lush, and there’s plenty to eat—plenty to nourish us spiritually—and then we can lie down there. It also emphasizes the idea of resting in God.
We talk about the faith-rest drill. Faith is our trust in God, but rest is when we can completely relax in His provision and His plan and His purpose. That no matter what’s going on around us, we can lie down and rest and trust in God. We’re not overwhelmed by anxiety or fear; we’re not worried about the future because we know we’re in God’s hands. So, God is the One Who gives us that security.
Another important verse where this is used is Genesis 49:9, in Jacob’s prophecy about Judah, that the lion of Judah would come from his descendants. He says that the lion of Judah “lies down as a lion.” The lion, as the king of the beasts, lies down and nothing’s going to threaten him. He lies down totally relaxed and secure because he knows that he is the meanest one around, and he doesn’t have anything to worry about.
In Isaiah 11:6, talking about the Millennial Kingdom again, it says that the leopard will lie down with the young goat. That doesn’t happen today. That tells us we’re not in the Kingdom at all—and we’re not—in any way, shape, or form. The leopard will lie down with the young goat so that the young goat is totally safe and secure!
That’s an emphasis there: when God leads us to these green pastures, we’re secure. And there are just so many applications there that what provides that security is going to be the nourishment that God gives us—and for us that’s the Word of God. That security comes from understanding and acting on the Word of God.
When the Word of God says “hear” or “listen,” that’s not just getting your ears stimulated and being able to hear the words audibly that somebody pronounces. In the Bible when God says, “hear,” it means “hear and respond a certain way.” It means, “Listen and do what I tell you!” It doesn’t just mean, “Hear the words … and then go on about your business and forget what I said.” It means to do it!
The same thing is true with the word “remember.” When God says, “Remember,” He’s not just talking about having recall of who you are but, “Remember and do something about it!” For example, when the thief on the cross is talking to Jesus and he says, “… remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” he doesn’t just say, “Have nice thoughts about me.” He means he wants to be saved! He wants to be there in the Kingdom!
The leopard shall lie down with the goat. He is going to have relaxed security and be fed by the Word.
The second aspect of what God does as a Shepherd is He leads us. So, first of all, we saw that He causes us to lie down, to be relaxed, and He provides security, which comes from the presence of His Word—nourishment. He provides all of our needs: we shall not want. Second, “He leads me …”; this is the word nahal, which has a range of meanings.
Nahal is actually used twice here. It’s used at the end of verse 2, “He leads me beside the still waters.” And then in the middle of Psalm 23:3, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness …” Some versions translate that “lead” and “guide”; others translate it both times with the same word.
“He leads me …” So, God is the One Who leads us. And He leads us, as believers, through His Word. He doesn’t get up every morning and give us a to-do list for the day. He leads us through His Word so that we are forced, again and again, to go to His Word, to read about Him, to learn about Him. And we’re impressed, as Jeremiah writes in Lamentations, that His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) So every morning we reconfirm our relationship with the Lord; we refocus on Him and are reminded of His faithfulness to us.
“He leads me …” And where He leads us is “beside the still waters.” So we have this great image of green fields for food and also plenty of water. “… beside the still waters.” Emphasizing not the turmoil and chaos of living in a corrupt world, but that everything is calm and orderly, and that God is providing everything for us. What we learn from this is that, as a spiritual Shepherd, God provides for us the spiritual food necessary so that we will be relaxed and we will be completely nourished upon His Word.
The third thing that we learn is, at the beginning of verse 3, “He restores my soul ...”We hear a lot of talk in our culture and have for the last 150 years—ever since Freud—that we have a soul problem. We do have a soul problem—and it’s the result of sin! But Freud, who claimed to have authority over the soul based upon his incomplete and incompetent observations of the soul, came up with the wrong conclusions. The One Who is able to restore our soul and to solve the problem is God, not the psychologist! The psychologist is guessing just as much as you might be.
So, the idea of “restoring” here is to return. That happens in two ways. Our soul has gotten cut off from God in spiritual death. So it’s restored to God when we are saved, when we trust: in the Old Testament when they trust in the promise of the Messiah; and in the New Testament it is restored when we believe that Jesus IS the promised and prophesied Messiah and He died on the Cross for our sins.
So, God is the One, then, Who is able to restore our soul. It starts with justification, where we’re made a new creature in Christ, and then it continues through sanctification (a separate process) where we are matured through spiritual growth. God is the only One Who can restore our soul.
Fourth, He guides us. This is the next line in Psalm 23:3, “He leads me [or guides me] in the paths of righteousness ...” This is, again, a repeat of the word we saw at the end of verse two, “He leads me …” It indicates that part of the role of the Shepherd is to lead and to guide. But in these passages, first of all, He’s leading to nourishment and refreshment.
Second, He is leading in the direction of a righteous life—how to live in righteousness, in conformity with God’s plan, “For His name’s sake.” What that means is, God is the standard for righteousness! His righteousness is the standard of His character! We are to live according to that standard, which means we are set apart unto Him—which means we’re holy, sanctified, set apart in the progress of our spiritual growth.
Psalm 31:3 says, “For You are my rock and my fortress …” Again, that word for “rock” takes us back to what I just read in Genesis 49:24, that He is our Rock, our Stone. “For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” And that’s where you have nahal in both of those terms. There it is translated two different ways, but that repetition reinforces God is the One Who guides us. So, that’s the role of God. How does He guide and direct us today?
God guides and direct us providentially. A human pastor can’t do that. But secondly, God guides and directs us through His Word. That’s the role of the pastor: to open up the Word of God so that people can use it effectively in their lives to guide their thinking and to guide their lives.
Fifth, the direction where we are guided is the paths of righteousness. Psalm 17:5 says, “My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.” The word can refer to a path, a way, a track, a course of life. So God is directing us and guiding us toward a course of life, a course of righteousness. This idea is essential to much of the Proverbs. “Living in the way of the Lord” is a synonym for this.
Sixth, we come to the rod. At the end of Psalm23:4, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” So, a Shepherd would have two things. He would have a shepherd’s staff that had a crook in it so that he could reach over and grab a sheep if it got caught in some sticker bushes, or in a tight spot, or whatever. He could use that to grab the lamb or the sheep and then pull it out of harm’s way. He also had a stick that he could use to fight off wild animals. This is what David did!
We’ll look at that passage in a little bit. But that’s what David did as a shepherd, which exhibits the protection aspect. David says that as a young shepherd what he did on a regular basis was that whenever the bear or the lion would come in to try to steal the sheep, it was his responsibility to stop them. He didn’t say, “Wait a minute, I’ve got to go get my Tavor; I left it in my backpack,” or “I’m going to have to get my AR-15, or my M-16”, or whatever. He goes and he grabs just his club—his rod. And he would fight and kill the carnivore. That takes a man of both moral and spiritual courage to be able to do that—and to understand what the truth is.
This is also mentioned in Micah 7:14. Micah writes about the same time as Isaiah. This is a prayer to God, “Shepherd Your people with Your staff ...” It was not only part of protection, but it might be used to whack an animal on the rump to get it moving—or something like that. So, it had a corrective aspect to it as well.
“Shepherd Your people with Your staff, The flock of Your heritage, Who dwell solitarily in a woodland, In the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, As in days of old.” So, what do we see when we look at all of these different aspects of God’s work as a Shepherd? Well, the primary emphasis that we see here is that of leadership, of taking care of, having responsibility for that flock.
That leadership is marked by, number one, provision. He’s going to take care of them. He is going to provide food and water—provide nourishment for them. He is going to protect them from marauding animals. And He is going to lead them to the places they need to go in order to have nourishment.
We learn that God providentially protects us through His sovereign oversight, that He protects us indirectly through His Word. Which means that if you’re going to be protected by His Word, then you need to know His Word. It doesn’t do us any good to just show up in Bible class three times a week if we haven’t internalized His Word. That’s the protection: we need to know His Word!
So, He protects indirectly through His Word. He provides His Word to protect us from false teachers, to protect us from heresy, to protect us from sin—because sin wars against the soul. What does Jesus do when He confronts temptation at the beginning of His ministry? When the Holy Spirit led Him out into the wilderness and Satan began to tempt Him in those three temptations, each time there’s a temptation Jesus quoted from Scripture. It’s the Word of God that is “alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,” not “the abstract theological principle” that is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword!
We need to know the Word of God. Just grab a phrase that we’ve learned or maybe quote a whole promise and apply that.
This imagery of God as a Shepherd gets developed in the Old Testament, and then we see it in the New Testament. One of the things that I want you to think about as I go back through this passage, we see that there is a focus on God as the One Who causes us to lie down and to rest. He leads us. He restores us. There’s recovery from spiritual death first, and there is recovery from the devastating effects of sin.
He guides us into the paths of righteousness. His rod and His staff, they comfort us. All of those things. So, there is a leading; there is feeding; there is security; there is protection; there is guiding; there is restoration; and there is correction. Sounds a lot like 2 Timothy 3:16–17, doesn’t it?
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching [that’s the food; that’s the nourishment; that’s the green pastures and the water], for reproof, for correction [that’s the rod and the staff], for instruction in righteousness [guiding us in the paths of righteousness] …” Interesting how that just sort of fits together, isn’t it? See, that’s what God is doing.
The point I’m making here is when we take the metaphorical application of shepherding as it’s applied to God—and as we’ll see with others in the Old Testament—and we connect that, we see that the primary focus that we have in shepherding is not touchy-feely. It’s not administration. It’s not counseling. Although I think that there are times when somebody’s got a situation and they say [to a pastor], “Help me understand this.”
You’ve got new babies. We’ll talk about that later. You’ve got spiritual babies who haven’t been around long enough to learn anything, and they have situations. They just want to ask a question and get some guidance. All of that is part of the role of a pastor-teacher. But you’re feeding with His Word. That’s the role; it’s that nourishment through His Word. And that leadership comes from the Word of God.
That first example is Psalm 23. The second example of God as a Shepherd is in Isaiah 40:11. Isaiah 40 is one of those great chapters that we have in the Old Testament. It ends with Isaiah 40:31, which is a great passage talking about those who wait on the Lord. “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” But there’s a lot more in this chapter. That’s verse 31, and I’m talking about verse 11.
Remember, this is in the prophetic section that really focuses on the Servant of God. It starts off, “ ‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her’ …” It’s talking about the comfort that God will bring to Jerusalem. Remember, this prophecy is talking about their future destruction when Babylon will conquer them, and so now He is talking about the comfort that will come as God restores them and brings them back to the land.
And there’s the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 related to “the voice crying in the wilderness,” which starts to point us toward the Messiah. In Isaiah 40:5, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together …” Then there’s a reminder that that which has eternal stability is the Word of God, “ ‘All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God shall stand forever.’ ”
The focus throughout this chapter begins to narrow onto what will happen when the Lord returns and establishes His Kingdom. He will establish His rule. “And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.”
So we have the word “feed” in the first line and then the word “shepherd.” Both of them are based on the Hebrew verb, raah. Both have to do with this action, and so it tells us that what God does is, He’s going to feed or pasture. “He will feed His flock like a shepherd …” Those who have gone through the Tribulation, those who have been scattered, those who have been beaten up and who are immature and young, they need special attention.
The application? When you look at a pastor or good teacher, then what that pastor does is understand that there are those who are spiritual babies and haven’t learned much—and those who are more mature. So special attention is given to those who are younger and need that to grow.
Let’s look at a couple of examples in the Old Testament. The first example is Moses, and we’re going to go back to Exodus 2. Exodus chapter 2—God is beginning to bring Moses to the point of leadership. After Moses has killed the Egyptian and Pharaoh kicks him out of Egypt, he flees to Midian. That is where (in Exodus 3) he sees the burning bush and decides to turn aside. So he schleps up the mountain to find out what’s going on with the burning bush.
But here we’re talking about what happens during those 40 years when he’s shepherding. “Now the priest of Midian [this is Jethro who will be Moses’ father-in-law] had seven daughters. And they came …” Now, the English says, “to draw water,” and the Hebrew said, “to draw water.” But when the rabbis who translated this into Greek translated it, they translated it with POIMAINÓ, which is the Greek word for “shepherding.” So they see that bringing water to the sheep is shepherding.
Again, like we saw in Psalm 23, feeding in terms of solid food and liquid nourishment is part of taking care of the sheep; it’s providing nourishment for the sheep. Then we have the bad shepherds who came and ran them away. Moses stood up for them and watered their flock.
Then we look over and we see another picture of this in Exodus 3:1,when Moses is shepherding the flock. This is when he sees the burning bush and he’s going to lay aside things and go up the mountain to find what’s going on there. He’s tending the flock of Jethro; so he’s taking them to pasture where they can be fed. That seems to be a primary part of what is in this word “to shepherd.” It has to do with leading or guiding with a view towards providing nourishment and provision for them, as well as protection for them.
We see this again in the next great example, which is David, in 1 Samuel 17. There we see it applied to David. Here we learn little bit more about the responsibility of a shepherd. This is a scene in 1 Samuel 17:34–35 when David has brought lunch to his brothers who are on the front line. This is already well into the many days that Goliath is coming out, beating his chest, and telling the Jews that they are bunch of losers, that he’s going to whip up on them, and if they have the guts they’ll send out a champion. But nobody will come out—not even Saul.
So David hears this challenge and, first of all, we know he’s got a spiritual focus because he said, “How come this uncircumcised Philistine is allowed to do this?” By saying “uncircumcised,” he immediately puts that into the context of the Abraham Covenant—that this land is our land. This land was given to us by God and sealed in that covenant with Abraham, and now we’ve got somebody who’s not a part of the covenant claiming it for his own.
So, David takes the initiative to go to Saul and say, “I can do it. I can defeat him.” Saul then says, “Well, you’re just a kid—you’re not even military age yet!” Military age was about 20, so David was probably around 18 or 19. Just wasn’t ready yet to go into military service. “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock …’ ”
Let me point out another word. Remember when we were studying worship in Genesis 2? God puts Adam in the Garden and He says to tend, to serve, and to keep. I said that that’s the word shamar, which means “protect something.” That’s the word we have here, “ ‘Your servant used to keep [shamar] his father’s sheep …’ ” He used to watch out for them.
What’s the context here? He’s protecting the sheep from any enemies that might come in. That’s why I said in Genesis 2 that there’s a hint there that there may be something that would come into the Garden that wasn’t supposed to be there, and Adam had a role to protect.
“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, ‘I went out after it …’ ” I’m not going to ask for volunteers to see how many of y’all would do this.
“ ‘I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth …’ ” Now, this isn’t quite the same scale, but how many of y’all have had a little terrier the gets a hold of a tennis ball and you want to try to take that tennis ball out of that terrier’s mouth and you run the risk of getting bitten! Well, just expand that, geometrically, and you have a lion or a bear that’s got dinner in its mouth—and you’re trying to take the dinner away! And you’re just some puny little Jewish boy.
So he goes after it and strikes it with his rod and delivers a lamb from its mouth. “ ‘ … and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.’ ” So, first of all, he cold-cocks this lion or bear and gets the lamb free. Then he gets into a second round where he goes after it and grabs the animal by its beard and then brains it with his club. David was tough! He had great courage, but his courage is in the Lord!
And he says, “ ‘Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’ ” So, this is showing that the role of the shepherd is also to protect the sheep. That means he’s got to be skilled and trained at identifying enemies and protecting. When we transfer that over to a pastor, he’s got to teach about false teaching and the errors that creep into the church. He has to focus on those things and contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. So, this gives us an example.
Another example of “shepherd” used with David is in 2 Samuel 5:2, which is the passage we have diverted from, as we’re in our study of worship on Tuesday nights. We covered chapters five and six, and we’re somewhere in there. Second Samuel 5:2, “Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you [so there was divine revelation, which we know of from 1 Samuel 16], ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel …’ ”
This takes the term “shepherd” and applies it to a ruler in Israel, “You shall shepherd.” So all of these characteristics we looked at already now apply to what makes a good leader. “ ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’ ”
Second Samuel 7:8, “Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel.” ’ ” So, there’s a sense that the pastor is the ruler; the shepherd is the ruler.
We’ll get into this when we get into the New Testament. He doesn’t rule and lord it over like the Gentiles do. He doesn’t rule from a position of arrogance, but from a position of being a servant and from a position of humility.
One last passage on David. In Psalm 78:70, we read, “He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; From following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.” So, it’s that rulership responsibility that’s reinforced there.
Now, when we get into the prophets, when we get into Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Zechariah, we have mostly negative examples of a shepherd. Jeremiah has a positive one in Jeremiah 3:15, “And I will give you shepherds …” This is talking about in the Millennial Kingdom after He’s brought them back, after restoration into the land. “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
This is an important passage because it tells us that feeding is informational. That feeding is not hugging and caring and psychoanalyzing; it is giving them biblical knowledge and understanding—discernment that comes from it. So that’s what a good shepherd is going to do. So, the point that I keep seeing here is that shepherding involves feeding, nourishing, guiding; all of this is done through the Word.
Now we get into the negatives, and we’ll see just the opposite: the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2:8. “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ ” See, the priests are being condemned here as false shepherds, and they don’t say, “Where is the Lord?” Because they don’t care! What happened? By the end of the seventh century BC, the 600s, the priests are ignorant; they don’t know anything.
See, this is what happens when churches aren’t taught the Word—and where procedures and promises are not explained. That’s where we are. You can go to most churches today and there’s not a whole lot of explanation that goes on. People do things that they’ve always done, but they don’t know why. They don’t know the Word. They don’t read the Word! The Word is not hidden in their heart. They are just having, basically, a great social club. And maybe they’re running a pep rally for Jesus, but that’s about as far as it gets!
These priests were much worse: they were leading the people into idolatry. But that’s what happens. Once you get away from actively worshiping God and teaching about Him, then it’s easy to bring in the metaphorical golden calf and lead the people into idolatry.
“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers …” That is, the shepherds. That’s the literal term there, “The shepherds also transgressed against Me …”
“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers [literally, shepherds] also transgressed against Me; The prophets prophesied by Baal [they’re bringing in not only idolatry, but they’re bringing in the fertility religions of Baalism], and walked after things that do not profit.” In other words, leading them in the wrong direction.
Jeremiah 50:6, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray [shepherding has to do with leading—but in the right direction, on the right basis]; They have turned them away on the mountains [which is where they would have the high places]. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.” God takes us to still waters where we lie down and rest. But here, there’s no resting place.”
Jeremiah 10:21, “For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the LORD …” They are spiritually blind and have hardened hearts. Why? They haven’t sought the Lord! They are seeking everything else—but not the Lord. “Therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”
Then there’s a judgment announced on the shepherds in Jeremiah 23:1–4. And God’s promise at the end, in verse 4, is what will happen when He gathers “the remnant of My flock out of all countries” at the beginning of verse 3.
Jeremiah 23:4, “ ‘I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them …” Again, He repeats that shepherds feed the sheep!
You have a lot of false shepherds mentioned in Ezekiel 34. You can read through. It’s, again, a condemnation of the false shepherds. And Ezekiel is commissioned to prophesy a judgment against the shepherds of Israel because they have fed themselves. They have been self-centered.
It has this whole imagery here, “You eat the fat.” Who got the fat? God got the fat! Why? The fat was because God had blessed them; the animals had plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and they grew fat. So, when they would go to the altar, they would give the fat to the Lord. The priests are taking the fat, so they are defrauding God of what was rightfully His.
Ezekiel 34:3, “ ‘ “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool [instead of using the wool for other aspects of providing for the poor, they are using it to clothe themselves]; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.” ’ ” You’re not providing for the flock.
Ezekiel 34:4, “ ‘ “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.” ’ ” Wrong kind of ruling. The point is that a pastor is one who’s going to feed so that the weak are strengthened and so that those who are spiritually sick are going to be healed. And they’re going to have the biblical content to restore themselves; that goes back to Psalm 23, “You restore my soul …”
Then there is a restoration. That’s what’s described here—being brought back. Those who are driven away are brought back; that which is lost is sought. So, this is the role of the pastor. But he does this through the teaching of grace, the teaching of forgiveness, the teaching of the spiritual life and forgiveness.
So, our conclusion here is that what we learn about the shepherd is that he leads, he guides, he feeds, he secures, he restores, he protects, and he corrects. For the New Testament pastor that’s the imagery, and he does this through the Word of God.
We’ll come back next time. We’re going to get into some of the Great Shepherd passages. We’ll see that “pastor” is only used of a leader in the church one time as a noun. The other times all refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. So we need to understand that before we get into some other aspects—trying to understand the role, the function, the purpose of the pastor in the local church.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things, to reflect upon them, to be reminded of biblical leadership that’s based on humility and grace orientation—not what’s in it for me but is totally focused on serving others.
“And the real source of restoration and healing and health is Your Word. It nourishes us, it restores us, and it is the focal point of real biblical ministry. Strengthen us with Your Word. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”