The Statesman as a Shepherd During a Time of CrisisDownload a PDF of this essay
It is useful to pause and reflect on our responsibilities. The Creator of this whole system, within which we operate, has commanded leaders to shepherd those within their care:
Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
During times of crisis, there is major stress on the Statesman. However, at the same time, we must also be aware of the needs of the individual sheep within our folds. We are told that Jesus, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus was at this point teaching us how to view people – as “sheep without a shepherd”. There could not be a better illustration in understanding our peoples’ needs at this time. Literal sheep are among the most vulnerable of God’s noble creatures. Their capacity to defend themselves against danger is extremely limited. They are often powerless in facing their challenges and that leads to fear. We as shepherds are leading our people as we are forced into uncharted territory – what for the sheep is dangerous and frightening – filled with frightening scenarios. If we are healthy, we have a healthy concern as well. And we must deal with our fears. However, in the midst of this, we must be sensitive to the fears of our sheep.
Man has amazing capacity for hope and we must feed that hope. God has a history for providing for the sheep in each and every nation. As we seek to instill hope, we must remind them of this truth – that our Lord has never let us down. Hope does not come from our ability as human beings and as leaders. Rather, it comes from the proven track record of our Creator and our Lord:
God has given us His rich promises through several of His servants:
King David: Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. (Psalm 62:5) King David: You answer us in righteousness, with awe-inspiring works, God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the distant seas. (Psalm 65:5) You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word (i.e., promises). (Psalm 119:114)
King David reminds us:
Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
We must lead our sheep to that hope rather than expecting them to build their hope on us or our ability. Both shepherd and sheep must have a healthy respect for what we face. We must make sure the sheep know where to go in order to drink and be satisfied. Jesus tells us:
If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! (John 7:37)
We, as their shepherds, must be filled up and then we can give out to the sheep – help them come to the springs of life, and be satisfied.
We, as shepherds, must be confident as we lead and as we instill hope. Hence, we must make sure we are coming continually to the springs of life. If we are less than confident, God’s words remind us:
I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
King David, based upon his life experience as a shepherd boy, reminds us:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23)
God reminds us through the prophet Daniel:
The people who know their God will be strong and take action. (Daniel 11:32)
After we have gone to our Shepherd, drunk deeply from Him, and been satisfied, then, we must instill that same sense of hope and confidence in the sheep. In the process, we must teach the sheep to appropriate God’s promises.
At the same time that we are seeking to make their grazing lands safe, we must also address their hurts. This is a huge burden for the shepherd who may feel beyond his or her resources at this time.
Jesus illustrates the heart attitude of the true shepherd at the time the sheep are in danger:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. (John 10:11-13)
God Himself challenges us:
Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
Jesus challenges to us:
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)