A shepherd is a man who takes care of, protects, and guides sheep. Sheep without a shepherd wander, get lost, encounter predators and even die. God chose Moses to be the shepherd over His people. Moses was to lead them in their journey to the promised land. Toward the end of Moses’ life, he ask God to give them a new shepherd. One that would take his place after his death.
Numbers 27:15-17 NKJV
“Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”
In this country we see less and less spiritual leaders that exhibit selfless, sacrificial service. A true shepherd, according to the Word of God, does not put themselves or their needs, wants or desires above the flock that has been entrusted to them. Godly leadership is not self-serving. A true shepherd does not seek to gain position or wealth at the expense of the flock.
Ezekiel 34:1-4 NKJV
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.’ ”
A true shepherd will seek to serve, not to be served. Jesus is the greatest example of a True Shepherd. A true shepherd knows his position and his power, however he does not flaunt it over those that he is leading. He chooses to serve his flock rather than being served by his flock. According to the above Bible passage, a good shepherd will feed the flock, strengthen the weak, heal those who are sick, bind up the broken, bring back those driven away, and seek the lost.
Ezekiel 34:5-6 NKJV
“So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
When a group of believers or a church (a flock / sheep) does not have a true shepherd several things happen. They are scattered, they became food for the enemy, they wander through all the mountains, and they go up on every high hill.
I. Without A Shepherd The Flock Is Scattered
Matthew 9:36 NKJV
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
A flock (church) is thrown here and there without a shepherd. They are separated and driven off in different directions.
Scatter means to throw here and there; sprinkle; strew; separate and drive off in different directions; dispel. It can also mean to separate and drive away so that an original form or arrangement is lost.
Without a shepherd many things change within a church. People can be “scattered” in their thoughts, ideas, goals, purpose, mission, and vision for the church and still be sitting under one roof. This “scattering” leads to disunity. Disunity is disunity, no matter how quiet it is. God does not bless disunity, nor does the Holy Spirit move in disunity. All the blessings that the church receives comes from unity.
Psalm 133:1-3 NKJV
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing–
II. Without A Shepherd The Flock Becomes Food For The Enemy
Paul knew that when a shepherd is taken away from a flock that the enemy will move in and devour the sheep.
Acts 20:29 NKJV
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
A wolf will threaten sheep in two ways – from without and from within. The same is true concerning the church. The enemy will threaten the church from the outside and from the inside.
The enemy will attack from the outside. Unbelievers are a dangerous threat from the outside when we do not walk in the Spirit and begin to listen to worldly opinions. Especially when we make alliances with them.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NKJV
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’Therefore
‘Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord. And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.’”
The enemy will also attack from within. Self-serving people are a threat from inside. During a period of time without a shepherd, the sheep must be very careful to guard them selves against false prophets (a person speaking in the name of God) who seek to build themselves up and to turn the people away from the truth.
Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
III. Without A Shepherd The Flock Wanders Through The Mountains
Without a shepherd the flock (sheep) wanders throughout the mountains in search of grass to eat. If good food cannot be found they will eat what ever they find in an effort to stay alive. Sometimes the food that they find to eat is bad and will eventually take their life.
When a church is without a shepherd they become hungry and begin to seek out food for themselves. After being hungry for an extended period of time they will “eat” whatever is placed in front of them – good or bad.
Proverbs 27:8 NKJV
“Like a bird that wanders from its nest
Is a man who wanders from his place.”
When we wander away from sound doctrine, and partake of whatever comes along, it means losing our security and becoming open to new and powerful temptations. Partaking of whatever comes along will eventually lead to spiritual death.
IV. Without A Shepherd The Flock Goes Up On The High Hills
The high places are on the high hills. Without a true shepherd the sheep will wander up to the high places. In the Bible “high places” were places of worship on a hill or on a platform in a temple. The Canaanites usually built their places of worship on a hill. They considered the high places a gateway between them and heaven. It was their ‘way’ to their god. High places are ‘footholds’ that you allow the enemy to have in your life.
Some Israelites began to use these same places to worship God. The people used the high places to worship God, Baal and Asherah all at the same time. Trying to mix the two types of worship (true and false) together eventually led to idolatry.
Many times when a flock does not have a true shepherd they will begin to do what is right in their own sight, other than what is right in God’s eyes. They will begin to mix their own ideas and beliefs in with their worship of God.
When we allow “high places” in our lives and in our churches, we are defiling ourselves. We loose our purity and play the part of a harlot.
Ezekiel 20:30 NKJV
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers, and committing harlotry according to their abominations?’ ”
God does not desire for us or our churches to defile our worship to Him. We cannot worship God in Spirit and in truth up on the “high places” (the high hills). When we began to mix the things of the world with our worship to God it can lead to idolatry in our lives. God has called us to be separate and to destroy all the ‘high places’ in our lives and in our churches. We are not to compromise our worship with sinful values or practices. We must maintain integrity in all parts of our lives, including our worship.
2 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV
Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
The Israelites used the excuse that they did not have a place to worship God in order to use the high places. Without a true shepherd, there will be some people that begin to make excuses about the compromises that are being made.
I Kings 3:2 NKJV
“Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.”
The high places were defiled and therefore not an acceptable place for worship for God. God had specifically told the people (in the Ten Commandment) that He would not accept defiled worship. The people tried to justify (defend, to make right) their sinful actions. God tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. Sincerity (freedom from pretense or deceit; honesty) and obedience (doing what one is told, submission to authority) are the prerequisites for worship that pleases God.
When some churches find themselves without a shepherd (or with a shepherd that is not a true shepherd) they begin to mix things of the world in with their worship to God and they too, make excuses for it. They seek to justify their “watered down” religion. They have not headed to the instructions of keeping themselves separate from the world. Disobedience in our worship is idolatry because we are putting our will before God’s will.
1 Samuel 15:22 NKJV
“So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.’ ”
When a person or church begins to dabble with high places (mix the things of the world with our worship to God) they will set themselves up for pain, trouble and eventually judgment. Denying God’s authority always has consequences, even when we have no shepherd!
Psalm 78:58 NKJV
“I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense alters, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you.” Leviticus 26:30 NKJV
“For they provoked Him to anger with their high places And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.”
When we find ourselves as sheep without a true shepherd, must be careful to stay away from the high hills. The Canaanites thought that their ‘high places’ would lead them to their god- it was their pathway to their god. Today there are many people that are trying to reach God through many different ways, other than the pathway that God has given us. A true shepherd keeps everyone (the sheep) on the right path and to keep them off the “high hills”.
John 14:6 NKJV
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
A church needs a shepherd. Without one the church and the people suffer. Shepherds go before their flocks and lead them. they do not “drive” the sheep in front of them. A true shepherd will feed, protect, and guide their sheep.
Jeremiah 3:15 NKJV
“And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”