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Shepherd of the Flock

Most churches have a pastor. The title pastor comes from the Latin word for shepherd. A pastor is someone who cares for God’s people the way a shepherd watches over a flock. Many of the Old Testament prophets used this title to refer to kings. Today’s reading is aimed at those rulers who had led God’s people poorly.

The focus in these verses is on past rulers. “During the time the temple was being built the community had good leadership. But it had not always been so,” commentator J. A. Motyer notes. “The scattering of Israel, culminating in the exile to Babylon, had been largely due to the bad leadership of rulers of both the northern and southern kingdoms.”

The Lord promised to provide a leader out of the tribe of Judah. In verse 4 he is called “the cornerstone.” Paul uses the same title to speak of Jesus in Ephesians 2:20, when he says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Jesus called Himself the “good shepherd.” His leadership differs radically from one who is only a hired hand (John 10:12–13). Jesus purchased the church with His blood. Caring for the flock is not merely a job to Him. The flock belongs to Christ. Those who lead the church as pastors serve under Christ’s authority. They are called shepherds, but Jesus is the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).

The Messiah will strengthen and multiply His people (vv. 5–8). The church’s leaders do the same. They “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:12). The church cannot be all that God intends it to be without its shepherds.

Apply the Word

Take a few minutes today to pray for your church’s leaders. Ask God to encourage them in their shepherding work, guard their hearts, and guide them with His wisdom. If you feel led to do so, write a brief note of appreciation describing how your church’s ministry has blessed you.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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