There is no greater imagery in the New Testament than the leader and caretaker of God’s people than “shepherd.” The job description of the shepherds of the New Testament congregation is close, if not identical to that of the Near Eastern shepherd.
The job description is as follows: -to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep - to defend the sheep from attackers - to heal the wounded and sick sheep - to find and save lost or trapped sheep -to love them, and to make sure the sheep have adequate food and water.
No domesticated animal is as helpless and needy as sheep. Sheep happen to be the one animal that cannot live on its own without the intervening help of a human being.
The problem with most sheep is that they are stubborn, “self-willed” and difficult. There is no doubt that sheep need strong leadership, constant care, and even discipline.
I love this imagery. However, it is tragic when the “sheep” forget to whom their very own Christ and Savior likened them. Today’s “sheep” (read average congregation member) disregard the shepherd/sheep relationship and actually try to usurp the position of the shepherds.
Today’s sheep refuse the leadership and care of the shepherd. More and more we are seeing today’s sheep refuse the “voice” of their shepherd and listen to the voice of “other” or false shepherds.
Today’s sheep are biting, crowding, and attack both the shepherd and the other sheep in the “flock.”
Just like in the days of David, today’s sheep want to run off into fields with harmful and nutrition less pastures. Today’s sheep run towards harmful water.
God has given a tremendous responsibility and privilege to the leaders of the New Testament congregation. These men are called “under-shepherds,” men who are under the Great and Chief Shepherd, Jesus the Christ. God has charged these men with the feeding, care, and protection of God’s precious sheep and lambs.
Hebrews 13:17 states, “Obey those who rule over you. And be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews admonishes the “sheep” of these various congregations to πειθω (peitho) those who rule over them. Peitho is translated twenty two (22) times as persuade and eight (8) times as trust. It is only translated as obey seven (7) times. It is used some fifty five (55) times in the New Testament.
The writer of Hebrews uses this word, peitho, five (5) times of those fifty five (55) times. It is translated as “trust” or persuaded four (4) of those five times. It is only translated as “obey” one time in the letter to the Hebrews.
I think the writer actually said, “Be persuaded [by their words, actions, position, appointment, and et. Cetera] to be submissive, [why?] for they watch are vigilant and watchful for your souls…”
Shepherds need to be intimately and actively involved in the lives of their sheep. Shepherds need to know everything they can about the sheep in their charge. They need to be able to know how to reach them, correct them, how to teach them [according to their own individual personalities]; they need to know how to help the sheep remain happy, healthy, vibrant, and responsive to the Great Shepherd.
What a great job!