The Heart of the Shepherd

Feeling a bit convicted this morning. Had a conversation with someone last night about leading in the church. About setting the right expectations for the people of God and holding them accountable in the right way. While I think there was a level of agreement, our discussion really came down to the difference the heart of leadership makes in leading. Isaiah reminds me this morning that it’s the heart of the shepherd.

Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
    and His arm rules for Him;
   behold, His reward is with Him,
   and His recompense before Him.
He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
   He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.   
 (Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV)

The prophet is given a vision of that day when “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (40:5). That day, if I’m understanding it correctly, when Messiah returns. That day when the Son of God establishes His earthly rule upon Zion. That day, if putting it in the context of my conversation last night, Jesus comes back to lead.

And what’s clearly evident is that He comes with might . . . with a strong hand . . . with a firm grip upon things. The strength of His arm establishing His rule. He returns as conquering King and undisputed Lord. Sounds like strong, powerful leadership?

He also returns as the great Benefactor bringing reward. Reigning with the authority to assess and “to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). Sounds like strong, generous leadership?

But then, you see the heart of this One who rules with power, authority, and just discernment.

He will tend His flock like a shepherd . . .

And, in case the picture isn’t clear enough, the Spirit explicitly reveals what tending the flock looks like. It’s marked by one who gathers lambs in his arms . . . carries them in his bosom . . . gently leading those that have their own responsibilities to care for. And the juxtaposition of might and tenderness strikes me. Did I mention being a bit convicted this morning?

To be sure there is the need for strong leadership in the church. The need for authority, sound judgment, and appropriate action. But real power is wielded as lambs are gathered up and born in their shepherd’s arms. Real leading happens when shepherds are prepared to carry the sheep, if need be, to green pastures and still water. Godly rule is manifest when leaders have the heart of the Shepherd.

The heart of the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11). The mind of the Great Shepherd, brought again from the dead with power and might, who entered covenant with His flock by His own blood (Heb. 13:20).

Praise God for the compassionate, caring heart of Jesus . . . the Shepherd that leads His people gently and tenderly . . . gathering them and bearing them in His mighty and powerful arms.

O that His under-shepherds would own His heart . . . and so, model His leadership.

All because of His grace . . . all by His grace . . . and all for His reigning eternal glory.

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