Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible by Timothy S. Laniak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shepherds after My own Heart is a wonderful, rich overview of the shepherding tradition in the Scriptures. The author begins by discussing the nature of metaphors and how they work. He then looks at what shepherding was like in the ancient world and how leaders, both human and divine, were described in shepherd language. The rest of the book is spent looking at the shepherding motif in various books of the Bible. He looks at the Pentateuch and David in a broad way. He then looks in depth at Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, the four Gospels, I Peter, and Revelation. Throughout he keeps his eye on the theme of shepherding, but also takes necessary tangents that help the reader. Here were the points I particularly enjoyed.
First, God and His Son Jesus Christ are the ultimate shepherds. It is His flock, not my flock. The repetition of this theme creates a sense of humility and accountability in under shepherds, such as pastors, elders, fathers, mothers, and government officials. We will give account (Hebrews 13:17)
Second, he weaves together the theme of sacrifice and authority very nicely. This is true throughout the book, but is most clear in his look at Revelation. Christ is both sacrificed Lamb and Shepherd. Again those in leadership are called to imitate Him by leading and dying.
Third, his chapters on the New Testament showed the heavy dependence the authors had on the Old Testament. I was particularly struck by his comments on Luke, which I have always taken to be the Gospel least tied to the Old Testament.
Finally, he shows that shepherding is a comprehensive task. He uses the terms “protection, provision, and guidance” to describe the shepherd’s task. A shepherd has to be ready to do anything the sheep need. He must have vision, courage, compassion, skills to find food, skills to heal the sheep, skills to defeat enemies, etc. I am a pastor and I was struck by the enormity of the pastor/shepherd’s job. Prayers for strength, faithfulness, and wisdom were uttered often as I read.
There were a couple things I did not like. There is almost no application. I think this is common in “Biblical Theology” studies. I could draw applications as I read, but if he had drawn some himself it would have helped. Second, there are just too many footnotes. A lot of them lead you down wonderful rabbit trails, but they were still too much. Third, I wish he had touched on Paul’s use of shepherding ideas and language. He does not discuss any of the Pauline epistles. Maybe this was for the sake of space, but it was still a drawback.
I would highly recommend the book for any pastor or leader.