The Lord is my shepherd. Psalm 23:1
Shepherding was a common occupation for those in the Middle East. The Patriarchs were all shepherds, as was Moses and, of course, David. The terrain and geography of the area lent itself to the raising of sheep. Everyone was familiar with shepherding so no wonder God used it so often in the writing of the Scriptures. The people to whom they were first written had a working knowledge of the concept.
But here’s the thing ~ The motif of shepherds as leaders is not exclusive to the Bible. King Hammurabi of Babylon called himself a shepherd. Homer, in his writing, refers to Greek chiefs as shepherds of their people. The royal staff, or scepter, a common accessory for kings in the Ancient Near East, was itself a form of shepherd’s rod. Shepherds commonly used long poles such as these to poke around crevices in caves to scare out scorpions and snakes. It came to be a symbol of protection, power and authority. Even in Egypt, a divine symbol of kingship was the shepherd’s crook.
However, God wants us to know, since we understand shepherding, that He is the ultimate Shepherd. With the perfection of His shepherding, He takes this concept to a level not present in any other cultures. It makes sense that God would ask this question in Jer. 49:19.
Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?”
As righteous a ruler as King David, his shepherding of Israel was imperfect. As successful a president as Abraham Lincoln, his shepherding was imperfect. As loving a father as you and I may have had growing up, their shepherding was imperfect. Shepherds are flawed human beings, products of the fall. The sting of their failures to guide, protect, and care for us can be devasting. At some point, they will fail to guide; they will lead us astray. At some point, they will fail to protect; the result is a loss of innocence. At some point, they will fail to care for us; our needs will go unnoticed or even worse, they will be ignored. The result is a rejection so deep that only God can heal it.
The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is your shepherd. One of the great proclamations of the God of Israel is this ~ I am God and there is no other. Today, I lift up my hands and worship with this prayer ~
You are my Shepherd and there is no other. You saved me from wolves. You added me to Your flock. Now, with Your staff, You guide me to perfect pastures. Amen