KEY THOT: The great metaphor of God is our Shepherd. Even Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd. Unlike modern shepherds who drive their sheep from behind using sheep-dogs, the ancient shepherds of Israel lead their flocks from the front--in person. The sheep follow the shepherd because they recognize his voice. Our Good Shepherd does not lead us into places that He himself has not gone or unwilling to go. He has gone ahead of us, showing us the way of suffering and glory. In this very familiar psalm, David begins by saying that the Lord is not just the Shepherd but that He is my Shepherd. God himself will lead us personally. He is concerned about our needs individually and he leads us gently, not forcefully and harshly: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:11). This picture of God our Shepherd--carrying us in his arms, holding us close to his heart, and gently leading us--stands in contrast to the harsh CEO-style of some pastors who model their leadership after the like of Jack Welsh.
Furthermore, spiritual leadership and shepherding is not mindless love and care, but it is disciplined and intentional: the good shepherd leads his sheep to places where the sheep can be fed with God’s Word and filled with the Spirit. They don't let the sheep wander wherever they like. The shepherding goal is that the sheep will walk in paths of righteousness so that God’s name might be glorified through them. It's ultimately not just about their welfare, but God's glory--it's "for his name's sake" (v.3). Thankfully, whatever glorifies God will also prospers our soul.
Father, thank You that You are our Shepherd, that You lead us by carrying us in Your arms, close to Your bosoms. You lead us with gentleness, not harshly. Teach us to be like You, caring for others with warmth and gentleness. Amen.