The roles of a shepherd

mongolia-419875_640Ezekiel 34:4: The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

This verse talks about the roles the shepherds.

  1. Strengthen the weak

Paul said that they those who are spiritually strong should bear with the failings of the weak and not please themselves (Romans 15:1). The weak needs support; they need help; they need prayer. While Jesus was strong enough to resist the onslaught of the devil against him, the same could not be said about Peter. So Jesus told him: I have prayed for you so that your faith fails not (Luke 21:31-32). Peter thought he was stronger than he really was. But Jesus saw beneath his bravado to a strong need for self-preservation, he saw a weak human being needing help, which he provided for in prayer.

Jesus told him after you are restored, strengthen my sheep, my church (John 21:12-17). Peter was to go about strengthening the weak after he himself have been strengthened.

That means because someone is weak today does not mean he will continue to be weak. The beginner is the one who will the expert tomorrow, i.e. with appropriate discipleship. That was the arrangement Jesus made before he left the earth.

He said once people are saved they are not to be left alone to sort themselves out, find their own way, they should immediately be put through the teachings of Christ. The more we know about Jesus the more fond the heart becomes of him as we share in his life and we are strengthened, i.e. we do what we do better.

  1. Healing the sick

James wrote that if anyone is sick he should call on the elders of the church and that the prayer of faith will save the sick (James 5:14-16). The sick sheep are also the responsibility of the shepherd.

The sick are not to be seen as irritants, they are not to be put down, and gunned down, rather everything should be done to ensure restoration. Healing is a process. And there should be enough commitment of the shepherd to the sheep to see to the end of it.

Jesus said that he lays his life for the sheep as the good shepherd (John 10). In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said the shepherd left the 99 who were safe to look for the one sheep that was lost and brought it home on his shoulder (Luke 15:1-7). The sick are the needy, the one who needs extra attention.

To be healed you need help, you need an introduction of what you do not have already, something from the outside, in the power of God, and outside support.

  1. Bound up the injured

In another parable, Jesus spoke of a traveller going from Jerusalem to Jericho who was waylaid by the robbed, beaten and left for dead (Luke 10: 29-37).

The priest and the Levi, passing by that way, did nothing to help him. They were more concerned about themselves and either felt nothing for the man or not enough for them to pay attention to him. They disregarded him, full of their own ways, in pursuit of their own agenda.

But another man a Samaritan who was not over-encumbered by his own pursuit allowed himself to be moved by the need of the man, stopped his tracks, and invested money and effort in helping the injured to get better.

Injury comes in various ways. One of it is through the words people speak, the bible says that there are those who speak like the piercing of the sword (Proverbs 12:18). But the tongue of the righteous brings life, brings healing.

The word of God brings healing. It is about helping the injured to be better than they can be on their own. Injury slows people down, it reduces the pace of advancement.

Inner wound exists as bitterness within. The bible warned that we should not allow the seed of bitterness to take root in us. It feeds on our spiritual energy, leaving us empty. It has a wounding effect, polluting our spiritual senses, blurring the sharpness of our spiritual antenna, constitution a major distraction (Hebrews 12:14-16).

It slows you down, it is a bug in your system, and your spiritual programmes cannot run properly giving you an error message. It is a weight that needs to fall off you, that you may run as you should.

Jesus said that we should come to him if we labour and are heavy laden and we will experience rest through him (Matthew 11:28-30). And part of rest is healing, freedom from things that make us less than we are. You are at rest if you do not go about dissipating your energy over unnecessary things. That is what wounds do. They direct energy away from making progress to the inner issues that just won’t go away. Part of the healing is to have the eyes on Jesus, the balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22).

  1. Bring back the stray/Seeking the lost

It is the role of the shepherd to bring back those who are lost. When you are afraid for your life you will not be able to do what it takes to save the lost. The shepherd needs to forget about a good night sleep, forget about socialisation to be there for the lost sheep, take the pain, make the effort, invest the time.

There is no going after the lost without love. Jesus said that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, but the hired hand couldn’t care less. He cares about himself, the money that will come to him at the end of the day. He does not risk anything. He offers services giving the minimal effort, limited commitment.

But the true shepherd has an attachment, has a love, and that motivates the action. Jesus in the bible says that he has compassion for the people as sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:35-36, Mark 6:34), he was driven by his love for them to teach and to heal the sick.

Writing about the Lord as shepherd David says that he leads him besides green pasture, leads him beside still waters, guides the sheep with the staff, and protect him with the rod. Everything the shepherd stands for is for the benefit of the sheep (Psalm 23).

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