At a time when there was the need for leadership in Israel there wasn't any. The Lord had called specific men to stand in the gap for His people. They were to be like shepherds caring for a flock. A shepherd is faithful to care for the flock because he loves the sheep. He will defend the flock from predators seeking to harm the flock. He will feed the sheep in order that they would remain healthy. He will lead the flock to green pastures and still waters. When sheep are without a shepherd they are in an extremely vulnerable state. Without a shepherd they are prey to wolves. Bottom line, Sheep need a shepherd.In the scriptures our Lord is referred to as the Good Shepherd. The church is referred to as the sheep of His Hand. The Lord Jesus is a faithful shepherd, that loves the sheep. In fact He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us. The Bible also refers to pastors as "under shepherds" to the "Chief Shepherd." Pastors have a role in the body of Christ to care for God's people.
The Lord Jesus exhorted the Apostle Peter to feed, tend, and care for the flock. The Apostle Paul exhorted the elders of Ephesus to shepherd the flock of God which was among them. The Apostle Peter said that as pastors serve as shepherds, they are to to serve not out of obligation or restraint. They were to be examples to the flock of a godly life.
Yet reading through Zechariah this morning you can see what happens to the flock when the Shepherd is absent. First of all "they go their own way". There is no direction for the flock. They go in all kinds of different directions. Going here, going there, starting this, starting that, with no real vision. It is a picture of wandering sheep, with every individual doing what is right in their own eyes. Second it says the sheep are "troubled". Without a Shepherd attending to the flock, there will undoubtedly be trouble in the fold. Divisions occur, jockeying for positions of authority, quickly individuals begin to tear down brick by brick what the Lord wants to build. It is an all around unhealthy situation. One other tragedy that occurs in a flock without a shepherd, "sheep begin to turn on one another." Zechariah 11:9 gives to us this picture, of a flock without a shepherd and the results..." Then I said, " I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each others flesh."
Without a shepherd to feed, lead, and tend to the flock things begin to dry up and die spiritually. Because the sheep are not fed, they are starving. What happens when your starving? You will eat anything, you become desperate for nourishment, and turn on one another.
As I read this passage this morning, it reminded me of how important it is to attend to the needs of the flock. To be a faithful shepherd and not a hireling. A hireling is one that attends to the sheep if the pay is good, or if it benefits him. Yet shepherd is one who loves the sheep, and loves the Chief shepherd, Jesus Christ. To all my pastoral friends may God help us to know the state of the flock. One way to know the state of the flock is to be with the sheep.