“So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” -Psalm 78:72
There is no more striking image found in the Scriptures to describe the role of the man leading the people of God than that of a shepherd.
Contemporary ministry commentators describe the role of the leaders of the Church in terms found in the corporate world – the world of power and business. In so doing they have found themselves doing the very thing Jesus warned against – seeking those things which the pagan world seeks after.
It is interesting to note that Jesus, in describing the role that His appointed leaders were to occupy in the ministry, turned to the very familiar Old Testament image of a shepherd. From the early days of Israel, this was the term most used by God to help His servants understand how He wanted them to relate to their God-appointed ministry.
Perhaps this is most graphically seen in the contrast painted between God’s choice and Israel’s choice over who would be their first king. Israel, in choosing a king, chose according to the standards and evaluations that would be common in the world around them when making such choices. They chose a king (Saul) that matched everything that one would humanly expect a king to model.
However, their choice was horribly flawed and would ultimately be rejected by God in front of a watching nation. On the other hand, when God went about to establish the king He had chosen to lead His people, He sent His prophet to a very unlikely place to make this selection – a sheepfold!
From this humble but very significant place, God selected a faithful shepherd and elevated him from shepherding and caring for the sheep of his earthly father to shepherding and caring for the sheep of his Heavenly Father.
There is no greater term to accurately describe what God expects of those called to ministry than that of a shepherd.
There are two primary responsibilities that David was to fulfill as a God-appointed shepherd of God’s sheep (Ps. 78:72).
- He was to shepherd the sheep according to the integrity of his heart.
- He was to guide them with his skillful hands.
Integrity is the essential element in any form of true leadership.
You and I have great difficulty in following – really and truly following – someone we do not trust or whose integrity we question. If our sheep are ever to truly follow our leadership, if we are ever to truly be able to lead them, we must be first and foremost men of integrity.
Integrity has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values . . . the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” The term means whole or complete and carries the idea of healthy or sound.
Sadly, the state of American Christendom indicates a dearth in our churches for this kind of authenticity and genuineness. But if you and I are to follow the biblical injunction to shepherd God’s people, then we must first and foremost be people of integrity.
Integrity does not happen accidentally. This text indicates David was engaged in shepherding sheep with integrity as a young man, long before He was chosen by God to shepherd the nation of Israel.
It is key to note God’s divine choice in this matter. This was not something David chose for himself or volunteered to do – he was divinely selected and appointed and part of this process involved his personal integrity. He had been in preparation for this role long before it was ever announced!
If you and I are to shepherd God’s people, then we must commit ourselves to spiritual preparation that will produce integrity in our hearts.
Our hearts must be sound so we can lead with integrity. Our mind must be strong so we can lead with spiritual confidence. Our lives must be obedient so that we can lead through model and example!
The greatest thing I can do for my family, my church, my ministry, or any one I have been entrusted to lead is to be the right kind of person – a man of God who has a heart of integrity before God, has a mind confident in God, and has a life that models godliness.