The Bible is filled with stories and analogies of shepherds, the most well-known of which is probably Psalm 23. The Psalmist calls the Lord his shepherd, and because of this he wants for nothing.
Imagine wanting for nothing! So what actually is a shepherd’s job description? According to the Mountain Plans Agricultural Service* a shepherd’s responsibility is ‘the safety and welfare of the flock’. The shepherd will graze the animals, herding them to areas of good forage, and keeping a watchful eye out for poisonous plants. I love how the shepherd is keeping the sheep safe even from his own bad choices. Sometimes what may seem good to the sheep may actually be harmful and the shepherd redirects the animal.
Shepherds protect sheep from predators, such as coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bears and even domestic dogs, which are the most common of all the listed predators! According to a report by the USDA domestic dogs will chase the sheep to exhaustion and then attack the poor weary sheep who has no fight left in him. Jesus says to come to him if you are weary and need rest (Matthew 11:28). According to the job description, shepherds carry rifles to shoot predators. Shepherds check their flocks often for minor skin ailments that can turn into big problems if left uncared for. The shepherd is expected to be on round-the-clock watch for the sheep, especially watching out for those that are most vulnerable, the very young and the pregnant ewes in particular.
Experienced shepherds will shear their sheep as well, without nicking or cutting the skin. In watching a video of a shepherd performing the shearing, it looks like it could go very wrong in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, but to an experienced shepherd, he or she knows how to handle the sheep with as little upset to the animal as possible.
After reading the job description of the shepherd, it is so clear why our Lord is called the Good Shepherd and why the Psalmist has no ‘want’: every area of need in the sheep’s life is covered by the shepherd.
Isaiah 40:11, NIV
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Today each of us who are part of God’s flock, and call Him our Shepherd, can trust that He cares about our well-being, protection, and sustenance. He handles us with His expert care and He is carrying us close to His heart, a place of affection, so that not only are our physical needs met but our need to be loved is covered as well. Declare over your life today that you will allow Him to be your Shepherd and that in Him you have all you need.