Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Sheep Without a Shepherd

By and large, Americans know so little about sheep, yet the Bible is filled with references to shepherds and their flocks. My nearly ten years of living in New Zealand allowed me to be around them. When I went to New Zealand, there were three million people living in that beautiful land and there were eighty million sheep!

I remember driving to conduct a Bible study at a residence on one of the large sheep farms (in New Zealand they were called sheep stations), and found the road blocked by a vast flock of sheep. Some of the stations in New Zealand had flocks that had over 15,000 sheep on them. There were not this many on the one where we were headed to teach the gospel, but it did not take us long to discover how “dumb” sheep are. There was no leader among them as we attempted to drive through them, so they aimlessly meandered around but never moved off the road to give us a path. Sheep will follow a shepherd and his dogs, but they are hopeless without a leader.

In Mark chapter six, Jesus saw a similar disarray, but it was not with sheep. “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). Neither sheep nor people do well without a shepherd. They are hopelessly lost without someone to guide them.

There were shepherds in the Old Testament who needed to care for God’s flock (Israel). The problem was that they received the honor of being shepherds, but they never actually did the work of a shepherd. “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with wool, you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 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 when was lost, but with force and cruelty you have ruled them, so they were scattered because there was no shepherd” (Ezek. 34:2-4).  God looked down and saw exactly what Jesus saw in Mark six.  His sheep, His people were scattered because there were no shepherds

What better illustration could there be about the importance of the work of elders in the church today? What a joy it is to see shepherds in our day who truly care for the sheep. They not only care for the ninety-nine sheep who are doing well, but they especially focus their attention on that one sheep who has wandered away. Without shepherds, Christians struggle, for we need godly men to lead us. Thank God for those men who have hearts of compassion for those of us who are part of His flock!