Shepherding God’s People Series:
- Shepherding God’s People – Overview
- Shepherding Weak Sheep
- Shepherding Sick Sheep
- Shepherding Broken Sheep
- Shepherding Lost Sheep
Here is the transcript of this video lesson…
Shepherding God’s People
A good Shepherd provides personalized care based upon the sheep’s spiritual condition. The prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah bring “woes” against the Shepherds of Israel that are described as “faithless,” “foolish” and “worthless.” The Shepherds of Israel that didn’t provide individualized care were accused of taking a position of leadership in order to just feed themselves rather than the flock of God’s people entrusted to them. God was not ambiguous about what He thought of these men – “I am against the Shepherds” (Ezekiel 34:10).
Ezekiel 34:1-16 and Zechariah 11:15-17 break the flock of God down into seven kinds of sheep that need specialized care. Each believer under your care, these people in your class, will move from one category to another depending upon their spiritual journey and life circumstances.
Let’s look at these two passages of Scripture:
Ezekiel 34:1-16 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Shepherds of Israel
34 Then this message came to me from the Lord: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3 You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5 So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6 They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.
7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.
The Good Shepherd
11 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. 12 I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. 13 I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. 14 Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!
Zechariah 11:15-17 New Living Translation (NLT)
15 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again and play the part of a worthless shepherd. 16 This illustrates how I will give this nation a shepherd who will not care for those who are dying, nor look after the young, nor heal the injured, nor feed the healthy. Instead, this shepherd will eat the meat of the fattest sheep and tear off their hooves.
17 “What sorrow awaits this worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! The sword will cut his arm and pierce his right eye. His arm will become useless, and his right eye completely blind.”
As we study these passages, you will see that God desires shepherds to:
- Strengthen the weak
- Heal the sick
- Bind up the broken
- Bring back the scattered
- Seek the lost (perishing)
- Seek the young
- Feed the standing (healthy)
Today I want to present an overview to look at these sheep, and some scripture to help us know and minister to these people who are in our care.
Weak Sheep [Ezekiel 34:4]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Strengthen the Weak
Description: Weak sheep are not necessarily “unruly” or “fainthearted,” they simply don’t have the strength to stand on their own without support (Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Sometimes, Extra Grace is Required (EGR), so these types need to be shepherded with patience. It’s also important that these individuals don’t become dependent on the shepherd, but learn to ultimately stand on their own. These sheep need to be able to one day feed themselves. It’s important to remember the principle “Weakness prolonged becomes willfulness.”
Hebrews 11:33-34 – who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 – We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
Romans 7:15, 19, 22-23 – For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Acts 20:35 – In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Broken Sheep [Ezekiel 34:4,16; Zechariah 11:16, Psalm 147:3; Matthew 12:20]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Bind Up the Broken
Description: Broken sheep are those who have been injured or wounded in some way. Sometimes the wound is a broken heart from the loss of a loved one in death. They need to be bandaged up and given a lot of TLC (tender loving care). Others have had their will broken through the discipline of the Lord and need to be carried after their dislocated or broken legs are bound up. Others have broken relationships that, apart from a third party (like a shepherd’s intervention), are unlikely to be restored.
Psalm 147:2-3 – The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
Matthew 12:17-21 – This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;
My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased;
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off,
And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
Until He leads justice to victory.
21 “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
Lost (Perishing) Sheep [Ezekiel 34:4,16; Zechariah 11:16, Luke 15:1-7]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Seek the Lost. These people need to hear the plan of salvation
Description: Every flock is just one generation away from extinction. Every shepherd is one generation away from unemployment. As shepherds, we must not rely on “transfer growth” (sheep stealing from another flock) to increase our flock size but must be actively and intentionally seeking out lost people who are perishing. This includes finding new and innovative ways to introduce church life to those who feel “cut off.” These folks feel there are no points of re-entry into the congregation.
Ezekiel 34:4 – … the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.
Ezekiel 34:16 – “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; …
Luke 15:1-7 – Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Scattered/Driven Away Sheep [Ezekiel 34:4,5,6,8,16, Matthew 9:36-38]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Bring Back the Scattered
Description: The longer you wait to retrieve scattered sheep, the less likely they are to return. Some have strayed on their own for a variety of reasons, but others have been “driven away.” It’s the shepherd’s responsibility to make a sincere and conscientious attempt to bring them back.
Matthew 9:36-38 – Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Ezekiel 34:6 – My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.
Ezekiel 34:8 – …My shepherds did not search for My flock,…
Ezekiel 34:16 – I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; …
Sick Sheep [Ezekiel 34:4,16]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Heal the Sick (physically)
Description: Some sheep that are sick have physical health problems while others are spiritually sick. Sin-sick sheep often need to be reminded that the words “by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24-25) are just as applicable to a believer who has sinned as they are to an unbeliever. Physically sick sheep often need a shepherd to provide care while they are sickly. It’s also important to help sick sheep to discern the kind of sickness they are experiencing. Is it a sickness unto death, a sickness unto chastisement, a sickness to manifest the work of God and to glorify Him, or to teach contentment with the sufficiency of God’s Grace in the midst of sickness?
1 Peter 2:24-25 – and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
John 11:14 – But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
1 John 5:16 – If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
1 Corinthians 11:32 – But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Hebrews 12:4-6 – You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation, which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Young Sheep [Zechariah 11:16]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Seek the Young
Description: Young sheep are very vulnerable and impressionable. The pattern that is set for them in those early years of their newly found faith is usually characteristic of the rest of their Christian lives. Getting off to a good start is so important. A newborn baby in the natural world needs lots of attention; parents who don’t provide specialized care are often accused by civil authorities of child neglect or abuses.
It’s no different in the spiritual world. It is so important to pour into the lives of young sheep!
There is plenty we can do to raise up these young sheep to make a significant difference in the lives of other around them. The goal is to move them from infancy to adolescence, to adulthood, and eventually into parenthood (making disciples of others). This is all about the Discipleship Pathway and our Small Group Strategy.
Standing (Healthy) Sheep [Zechariah 11:16]
Shepherd’s Responsibility: Feed the Standing
Description: Sheep that are “healthy” have the greatest potential for spiritual growth. They also represent the pool of individuals from which workers and future leaders will come, those who can move the church’s mission forward. Unfortunately, these individuals are often neglected because we are in crisis mode dealing with other kinds of sheep. The old saying is often true, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It is important to set up a “growth plan” and work with them so that they can progress further rather than becoming complacent or stagnant. This is intentional discipleship that has the end goal in mind from the very beginning. We can easily see of the disciple is making progress toward the biblical image of Christ himself.
Credit for the original teaching goes to my
mentor, teacher, and friend, Rick Leineweber.