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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Heart of a "Real" Pastor (Ezekiel 34:1-2)

 "The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?"

Shepherd: a person who herds, tends and protects sheep or a person who is responsible for the protection and provision of others. By its very definition the one who shepherds is others-centered.

From creation onward God's every action is others-centered. He created a reliable solar system so that man would never fear darkness. He created plant and animal life to sustain man's every need. Throughout the Bible God used the analogy of a shepherd to describe His relationship with His people.

Israel's shepherds, however, misrepresented the "shepherding heart of God" by their "only take[ing] care of themselves." They "fleeced" the flock by using them to sustain their own lifestyles; they utilized the resources of their people i.e. the milk, the wool, and the best lamb chops, for themselves. They viewed the flock selfishly--for how they would benefit from their position as shepherds. Therefore, the weak were not  strengthened; the wounded were not bound up; the strays were left to defend themselves. Because of the self-serving nature of the shepherds of Israel the flocks strayed and were plundered by wild animals.

I'd like to give a shout out to an amazing pastor. My husband is a pastor and not just in name. He will not go to bed until he has prayed for, by name, every active member of our church. He prays for all of the inactive members by name weekly. He knows the state of his people. He encourages strugglers. He pursues those who stray. He praises those who do well. He loves our people and the people know that he loves them. What keeps him so others-focused? Prayer for the flock=care for the flock.

Hebrews 13:8 addresses the shepherding issue: "Obey those who lead you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them so so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable to you." That he must give an account to the LORD for the watch care of those in our church drives my husband to "watch out" for their souls in prayer and in teaching. A pastor is never more like the Shepherd until he takes seriously the admonishment to pray for and "know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds" (Proverbs 27:23).

Intercession is one of the best sensitizers to the spiritual needs of others. Praying for others by name ensures that you will handle them and their problems with tenderness and sensitivity. You are never more others-centered than when you lay down your life in prayer for others. It is difficult to violate or take advantage of those for whom you are praying. A good pastor labors in prayer over those the LORD has committed to his care.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Ezekiel 34-36
  • What grievance does the LORD have against Israel's shepherds?
  • What characteristics should describe those who have spiritual oversight of others?
  • What does the Lord say He will do for the sheep?
  • How were members of the flock treating one another?
  • Why does the Lord have Ezekiel prophesy against Edom and what will the Edomites know about God when He moves against them?
  • What does God promise regarding the mountains of Israel?
  • What does God call the land?
  • Read Psalm 132:13-18. What does God call Jerusalem and what are His intentions for the city?
  • With what does God compare the lifestyles the children of Israel lived before they were carried into captivity?
  • What view of God do the surrounding nations have as a result of Israel's behavior?
  • What does God promise to do for the people upon their return to the land so that they know that He is Lord?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for you pastor. Ask the Lord to give him the heart of a Shepherd.