While writing The Davidic Covenant 7 – The Kingdom, the phrase “from following the sheep” used in NKJV & NASB versions in 2 Samuel 7:8 caught my attention. In some Bible versions, the word “tending” was used but the versions I use for Bible study use “following” and so my discussion will be based this. The sheep follows the shepherd, why is it the reverse here? I went on a side quest of finding out more if this phrase has any significant meaning while writing on the Davidic Covenant.
The Way of the Shepherd
One of the most interesting find in my search was the phrase “leading from behind”, a leadership concept in the marketplace that is rather revolutionary or even debatable. This leadership concept is derived from the how shepherd’s the lead the sheep from the rear. Thought this blog post is a great read about leading from behind after going through quite a number: https://saffold.com/blog/2016/12/15/leading-from-behind-the-shepherds-way/.
The shepherd’s usual practice is to walk behind their sheep to guide the sheep and to allow them to run ahead. So visually, the shepherd is following the sheep. This is completely different from my visual image of the shepherd with his staff walking ahead to lead the way. The sheep is allowed to run ahead! It might be easily misunderstood, at least for someone who grew up in an urban city, that the shepherd is skiving or not doing his job if the sheep is running ahead. Standing behind the sheep makes sense as the shepherd is able to immediately notice if any sheep goes off track, use his staff and hook it back. If he is walking in front, he will only notice any lost sheep after he stop and count, which might be too late.
My next question is how will the sheep know where to go if no one is leading in front. I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching in John.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” – John 10:27
The Nazareth Village where I visited when I was in Israel had some sheep and of course there was a shepherd who took care of them. The shepherd did a demonstration of calling out the sheep and the sheep responded immediately. The sheep did not cared about anyone of us who were making all sorts of noise to get attention from the sheep. I believe this is how the shepherd leads the sheep from behind – using his voice.
Yet when danger comes, the shepherd will move to the front to protect and fight off the enemy. This is the time when David will run to the front to face the bear or lion whom he defeated over and over. A good shepherd does not run away when danger comes. Instead he rises up to the occasion and get the sheep behind him, standing between enemy and the sheep.
God as a Shepherd
God showed David how He was the Shepherd to him in 2 Samuel 7:9 “I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you.” Such a beautiful image here that God is the lead Shepherd. God as a good shepherd who moves to the front to cut off David’s enemies, just like how David would do for his sheep. God speaks to David in the very methodology that he is so familiar with since a young boy. The abiding presence of God was His way of leading in an unassuming way, similar to a shepherd leading from behind. Yet God never fails to show up when dangers come because He is near even though not always visible in the front.
Where is God?
“Where is God?” is a very common question that both believers and non-believers ask. Based on the way of the shepherd, I will say God is behind, usually! We probably cannot see Him but He has full view of us. Sometimes we wonder if God is leading the way, waiting for Him to come to the front and lead the way as we expect from most leaders. Yet, His way is for us to hear His voice to guide and direct us to the pasture He wants us to move to. We can run along, skip and be free to move towards the destination when we hear His voice leading! On top of this, we have the full assurance that He will come between us and our enemies when danger comes.
So let us rest in our Shepherd’s leading and protection.