Shepherds After My Own Heart

A few years ago, a read a great book by Timothy Laniak entitled, “Shepherds After My Own Heart.” It’s an overview of the pastoral tradition found in the Bible. I re-read the introduction tonight and I was struck by the following passage. I wanted to post it here so I could easily access it for use in a later sermon:

The apostle Paul assumed shepherds were among the Lord’s gifts to the church: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors (shepherds) and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). The pastoral role was central to the ongoing life of local churches in the Christian movement, just as it is today. Still, the biblical background of this pastoral language, especially in the OT, has been largely unexplored.

The title of this book comes from Jeremiah, one of several prophets who frequently applied the shepherd designation to Israel’s leaders. Through Jeremiah God promises, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding,” (Jer. 3:15). On the eve of the destruction of ancient Israel, the prophet was painfully aware that God’s chosen people had been misled by self-serving shepherd leaders. They were abused and abandoned not just by their kings, but also by their prophets and priests. The promise in this verse summarizes much of what will surface throughout our investigation. It illustrates what we will call a “divine preference for human agency.” The God of Scripture chooses regularly to engage humans in the tasks of leadership. Appointment by God implies calling, stewardship, and accountability.

This short promise also speaks of a capacity to care for God’s flock with self-sacrificing diligence and compassion. It is not just “heart”, however, but “after my own heart” that matters. A good shepherd is one who sees what the Owner sees and does what the Owner does. He is a follower before he is a leader. He is a leader because he is a follower. The shepherds whom God judges in the Bible are those who forget that the people in their care are not their own.

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