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The Good Shepherd Bible Study (Ezekiel 34, John 10:11-16)

In the biblical era, shepherds were an integral and vital part of the community. They cared for the sheep and modelled a perfect example of leadership and sacrificial love; God compared himself to the good shepherd; Jesus said he was a shepherd, and David noted that God was his shepherd. This article is a bible study about the good and bad shepherds with lessons we can learn from Ezekiel 34 and John 10:11-16.  Let’s study the bible together.

Who is a shepherd according to the bible?

In literary terms, a shepherd is someone who cares, feeds, and tends to the sheep. A shepherd has the best interest of the sheep at heart. I once watched a movie; the shepherd in the film was very close to the sheep; he toiled day and night taking care of the sheep.

According to the bible, a shepherd is someone who sincerely and genuinely cares for the sheep. The Bible uses the word shepherd to represent leaders of Israel who were given the responsibility to take care of God’s people. In modern terms, shepherds are leaders in the body of Christ. It doesn’t necessarily mean leaders with millions or thousands of followers. As long as you have someone who follows your example, God sees you as a leader and expects you to be a good shepherd to his sheep.

Who is a good shepherd?

Our scriptural reference stated that a good shepherd cares for the sheep and takes care of them like God would. He is close to the sheep, understands the sheep, and the sheep knows him.

The good and the bad shepherd bible study
Image credit: Pexels

Qualities of a good shepherd

A good shepherd has many qualities highlighted in our scriptural references. From Ezekiel 34, we can identify several qualities of a good shepherd as God describes His shepherding care for His people. Let us look at the qualities mentioned:

  1. A good shepherd seeks out the lost sheep (Ezekiel 34:11)
  2. He gathers the sheep after seeking them and ensures they are returned to the flock. (Ezekiel 34:12)
  3. A good shepherd ensures the sheep have a safe place to graze and rest. (Ezekiel 34:14)
  4. A good shepherd provides rest and safety for the sheep. (Ezekiel 34:15)
  5. A good shepherd tends to the wounds and injuries of the sheep. (Ezekiel 34:16)
  6. A good shepherd supports and strengthens the weak sheep. (Ezekiel 34:16)
  7. A good shepherd judges fairly between sheep, ensuring justice and fairness. He gives justice to the sheep that are oppressed. (Ezekiel 34:17)
  8. A good shepherd protects the sheep from predators and dangers. (Ezekiel 34:22)
  9. A good shepherd ensures the sheep are well-fed and not exploited. (Ezekiel 34:23)
  10. A good shepherd creates an environment of peace and safety. (Ezekiel 34:25)

In John 10:11-16, Jesus emphasize these essential qualities of a shepherd, and he noted some more qualities. Here are the qualities mentioned in these verses:

  1. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
  2. Unlike the hired hand, the Good Shepherd stays with the sheep and does not abandon them in times of danger.   (John 10:12-13)
  3. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep intimately, and the sheep know Him. (John 10:14): “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
  4. There is a reciprocal relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, mirroring the relationship between Jesus and the Father. (John 10:15)
  5. The Good Shepherd seeks to bring other sheep into the fold, showing inclusivity and a desire for unity. (John 10:16)

When Jesus revealed himself to his disciples in John 21:15-18, Jesus gave Peter the mandate to be the good shepherd of the flock. Jesus gave Peter the responsibility of caring for his flock when he couldn’t be there physically for the flock. Jesus gave him the instruction to care, feed and tend to the flocks. I believe that is the same instruction God has given to every leader.

Who is a bad shepherd?

A bad shepherd is a shepherd without love for the sheep. He is interested in scattering, killing, and stealing the sheep. He could also be caring for the sheep for monetary benefits when the sheep are in danger. He won’t be willing to take risks for them.

Characteristics of a bad shepherd

In both Ezekiel 34:3-8 and John 10:11-16, the Bible speaks about the qualities of a bad shepherd. Here are the characteristics of a bad shepherd as outlined in these passages:

1. Neglectful of the flock’s needs

2. Fails to strengthen the weak

3. Neglects the sick and injured

4. Do not seek the lost

5. Rules harshly and brutally

6. Allows the flock to scatter

7. Selfish and self-centred

8. Abandons the flock in times of danger

9. Lacks genuine care for the flock

10. Prioritises personal gain over the flock’s well-being

How to Recognise Bad Shepherds in the Modern Era

Bad shepherds are cleverer than ever before, especially in the body of Christ. The Bible referred to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15); we have to be alert to avoid falling into their traps. Here are some ways to recognise bad shepherds in the modern era:

 Lack of Accountability

Bad shepherds do not want to be accountable to anybody. Their goal is to divide the flock; therefore, they are their own masters. They display a Lack of accountability in various ways like;

1. Leaders who prioritise their interests and well-being over the needs of those they lead may be exhibiting selfish behaviour.

2. When leaders consistently deflect blame or fail to take responsibility for mistakes or shortcomings, it can indicate a lack of accountability.

  Lack of Transparency:

Transparency is necessary for justice, equity and trust. A true shepherd’s dealings and actions with the sheep will be plain. Lack of transparency may include:

1. Leaders who make decisions without transparency or input from others may not have the group’s best interests at heart.

2. Concealing information or intentions from those they lead can indicate dishonesty or manipulation.

 Lack of Integrity:

Bad shepherds lack integrity. They are not honest and sincere in their role as leaders.

1. Leaders who engage in deceitful practices, such as lying or misleading others, undermine trust and integrity within the group.

2. Their actions violate ethical standards or moral principles, such as exploitation or corruption, and reflect poorly on leadership integrity.

Lack of Empathy

A true shepherd will empathise with the sheep but a bad shepherd will not empathise with the sheep because he doesn’t care about the welfare of the sheep.

1. Leaders who show little concern for the welfare or feelings of those they lead may lack empathy.

2. Insensitive remarks or actions towards vulnerable or marginalised group members can indicate a lack of empathy.

Lack of Vision and Guidance

A shepherd should have vision and direction. He is a guide; therefore, he should receive God’s vision for the sheep and lead them to the promised land.

1. Leaders who fail to provide a clear group vision, goals, or direction may lead to confusion and stagnation.

2. Leaders who prioritise short-term gains or personal agendas over long-term sustainability and growth may not be effective in guiding the group towards success.

Lack of Communication and Collaboration

In Nigeria, I often see cow herders lead their flock. They usually tell the cows what to do and how to behave.

1. Leaders who fail to communicate effectively or openly with those they lead can lead to misunderstandings and disengagement.

2. Leaders who dictate decisions without seeking input or collaboration from others may foster resentment and resistance within the group.

 Recognise patterns and methods

When it comes to recognising bad leaders, we must identify patterns and methods which bad shepherds use to lure sheep and oppress them.

1. Observing behaviour patterns over time can help identify whether specific actions or attitudes are consistent with effective leadership or symbolic of poor leadership.

2. Pay attention to feedback from group members, peers, or others regarding their experiences and perceptions of the leader’s effectiveness.

Trust your instincts

You must also be willing to trust your instincts.

1.  Trust your instincts and gut feelings about a leader’s behaviour and character. Something that feels off or inconsistent may warrant further investigation or consideration.

2. be alert to warning signs or red flags that suggest unethical, manipulative, or abusive behaviour from a leader.

Let the Holy Spirit be your guide

Our greatest asset as believers is the Holy Spirit. He knows the intentions and desires of every man. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us in every matter and decision we make, we will not be prey to bad shepherds.

1. Seek the discerning Spirit of God. Ask God for a discerning Spirit and be willing to obey his voice at every point.

2. Have a consistent and close relationship with the Holy Spirit. We should also strive to reach spiritual maturity.

Jesus, the ultimate good shepherd

Jesus exemplified the characteristics of a good shepherd. He is our perfect example of a good shepherd and the benefits the sheep get from having a good shepherd. Here are five qualities that make Jesus our perfect example of a good shepherd.

1. He laid down his life for the sheep by dying on the cross and redeeming us.

2. He constantly feeds the flock with both spiritual and physical food.

3. He empathised with the flock, sharing their sorrow and joy.

4. He constantly sought the lost, preaching the gospel to them.

5. He never despised or judged anyone; instead, he allowed them to change and be included in the flock.

The good and Bad shepherd  Bible Study (Ezekiel 34, John 10:11-16)
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

What lessons can we learn from the good Shepherd?

The qualities of the Good Shepherd described in Ezekiel 34, and John 10:11-16 provide a blueprint for leadership in the church. Here are the key lessons from the good shepherd leaders should emulate:

1. Model Sacrifice and Commitment: Be willing to make personal sacrifices and remain committed to your role, especially in challenging times.

2. Build Relationships: Spend time getting to know your members personally and understanding their needs, strengths, and challenges.

3. Provide Guidance and Protection: Offer clear guidance and create a safe environment where followers can thrive.

4. Offer Support and Healing: Be attentive to the needs of struggling people, offering support and resources to help them recover.

5. Ensure Fairness and Justice: Practice fairness and impartiality, ensuring everyone is treated justly.

6. Foster Inclusivity and Unity: Strive to be inclusive, bringing diverse individuals together into a cohesive group. Remember that everyone has a unique talent and gift which can be harnessed to build the church and glorify God.

7. Provide for Needs: Actively work to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your followers.

8. Communicate Vision and Direction: Clearly articulate your vision and direction, inspiring and guiding your followers towards common goals.

9. Create Peace and Security: Foster a culture of peace and security, ensuring everyone feels safe and valued. Do not trample on anyone or oppress them.

10.  Seek the Lost: Actively reach out to those who have become disengaged or lost. Do not leave them for the Devil; pray for them and guide them as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

One lesson from the good and bad shepherd bible study is; Leadership is a great responsibility, and God wants leaders who care for his people sincerely. We must model our leadership style according to the good shepherd; we must never become a bad shepherd that God hates. As long as we walk with the Holy Spirit and yield to his instructions, we will triumph.

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