Shepherds, of course, can refer to those who tend or care for sheep, like the first people who were invited by angels to see the baby Jesus on that night long ago. But the term “shepherd” is also often used in the Bible for leaders. In today’s OYB reading in Ezekiel 34, there is heavy criticism of the “shepherds” of Israel.
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?... Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd… My flock was scattered…. and there was no one to search or seek for them." (34:2, 4-6)
The leaders of Israel, both religious and political leaders, had failed in their responsibilities to their people. This can instruct us as well in whatever leadership responsibilities we may have, whether political or civic or church leadership, or leadership in our homes as husbands or parents—let’s not fail the Lord in whatever leadership responsibilities He’s given us.
We can balance out this criticism of failed leadership with two verses from our Hebrews 13 OYB reading: (13:7), “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” And (13:17), “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Our Lord is a perfect Shepherd (Psalm 23:1), and we in turn should shepherd well those who are entrusted to us.