Shepherd Authority

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The word “authority” is often brought up in certain religious circles, usually in context of arguing whether or not something is allowed or spiritually “legal.” Certainly the word is used prolifically in scripture, but when speaking of God’s authority over man, the Bible paints quite a special picture.

God is most often envisioned as a shepherd and humans as sheep. The shepherd has total authority over the flock, but he does not rule them with laws. Something far deeper and more abiding holds the sheep under his will, and it begins at the birth of a lamb.

A shepherd’s life is bound to his flock; he must keep eyes on every sheep at all hours, and know everything that happens among them, no matter how large the flock. When a lamb is born, he is there to warm it, ensure the mother feeds it, and guard against the predators that lurk for the one minute his back might turn. He cradles the lamb in his arms, whispering to it and carrying it to a safer place. The shepherd’s voice is known as soon as the ewe’s, and is immediately associated with comfort and safety. If the ewe rejects a lamb, the shepherd feeds it himself, adding recognition of the shepherd as the source of life.

Such a beginning establishes both a father’s affection and intimate knowledge of the lamb in the shepherd, and unbreakable trust of the shepherd in the lamb. This trust and affection mean that for the rest of its life the sheep will do anything for the shepherd, and the shepherd will do anything for the sheep. If the shepherd calls, the sheep will run to him immediately; he is the source of everything good in her life, and she wants whatever he has to offer. If the sheep becomes ill or injured, or is separated from the flock by distraction or hunting predators, the shepherd can instantly sense that something is wrong and will quickly find the sheep to fix the problem.

There is no need for the shepherd to beat or threaten the sheep; in fact, such treatment would only confuse and frighten the sheep. There are no rules or laws to be enforced, no “command structure” to keep organized. Sheep operate on instinct and have no need of such things. They follow the shepherd because he feeds them, protects them, heals them, rescues them. They follow wherever he calls, stop wherever he rests, eat whatever he provides, simply because he loves them and they trust him. They are connected to the shepherd as surely as if they were part of him, and cannot conceive of life without him.

This is the authority of God for His people. We allow Him to provide for us, to lead us, to protect us, because He loves us and we trust Him. When we struggle, we call for Him; when our souls are threatened, we run toward Him. When He calls, it doesn’t matter what we think or want; what He offers is better and we rush to receive it. He loves us with incomprehensible love, and knows every part of us even more deeply than we know ourselves. There is no need for laws or command structures, no possibility of quibbling over legalities. We are connected to Him, part of Him, and cannot exist otherwise.

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