Author: Ron Graham
Sheep Without Shepherds
—The role of parents in the home
Jesus was concerned that people lacked leadership. "Seeing the multitudes, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). When Jesus looks at our world today, no doubt he feels the same compassion for the same reason.
This lesson is about the responsibility of shepherding, especially in our homes.
1 The Shepherd of Bible Times
The Bible often likens the leadership of people to the shepherd leading his sheep. In our vernacular, when we say that people are like sheep, we mean that they follow others blindly. However in the Bible, the shepherd is pictured as dedicated to his flock, and his sheep hear his voice, and they follow him, and will not follow a stranger (John 10:1-5).
We are all familiar with the twenty-third Psalm which begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul; he guides me in the paths of righteousness" (Psalms 23:1-3).
So in speaking of people as sheep, and their leaders as shepherds, the Bible is not being derogatory, but is evoking the respect that rural communities of Bible times had for the shepherds who tended their flocks in a responsible manner. Good shepherds loved their sheep, called them by name, protected them from wolves, led them to pasture, rescued those who strayed.
Of course such a lovely relationship with animals is not confined to Bible times. Many people today love and nurture their animals as though they were their own children. So the image of the shepherd and the sheep is a very good metaphor of leadership responsibility.
2 We As Sheep
In this lesson we are going to focus on the role of the shepherd, but the shepherd does not alone have a responsiblity. We, as the sheep, have a responsibility to accept and follow right leadership. This is especially true of our relationship to the greatest Shepherd of all...
- Isaiah 53:6 "Like sheep, we have all gone astray. We have turned each to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"
- John 10:3-4 "The shepherd calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out... the sheep follow him for they know his voice"
- 1Peter 2:25 "You were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls"
The principle in these passages can be applied to lesser relationships where people are to subject themselves willingly to good leadership. There are many such relationships in our society and community. The shepherds in those relationships have responsibility, but so do the sheep.
3 Parents as Shepherds
The relationship between parent and child is extremely important. Society depends upon it. Although the State can educate children, it cannot substitute for the upbringing that good parents can give good children.
That upbringing is a foundation of life, and does much to determine life's quality. God requires parents to shepherd their children well, and children to accept and submit to that good leadership.
- Colossians 3:20-21 "Children obey your parents in all things, for this makes the Lord very pleased. Fathers do not antagonise your children, lest they become discouraged."
- Ephesians 6:1-4 "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother (the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth. Fathers, do not stir up your children to make them angry, but raise them in the nurture and counselling of the Lord."
- Proverbs 17:25, 23:23-26 "A foolish son is a misery to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him. Buy the truth and do not sell it.
- The same goes for wisdom and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he will delight in the wise child he begets. Make your father and mother happy. Let her who gave birth to you rejoice. My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways".
- Ezekiel 18:20 "Behold, all souls are mine says the Lord. The soul of the father, as well as the soul of the son, is mine. The soul who sins shall die... The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor shall the father bear the guilt of of the son"