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Lessons from Psalm 78: The Leadership Metaphor

By Michael Roop

Everyone has influence. While the scope may vary, every person has some capacity to affect their will. It’s one of the great gifts God has given us, a particular means to bear His image. In my brief years of study, no passage has been more instructive for stewarding my influence than Psalm 78:70-72. In a few short lines, we can learn three critical lessons.

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. Psalm 78:70-72

Asaph, the author of this psalm, gives us a metaphor for how David used His influence during his days as king. I would argue that this metaphor is the Bible’s primary image of godly influence. In verse 71, Asaph describes David as the “shepherd” of God’s people.

A quick scan of Scripture reveals the significance of the shepherding metaphor. David’s soul is restored by the care of the LORD, his Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-3). God condemns the shepherds of Israel for abusing those under their influence, then promises to shepherd Israel Himself (Ezekiel 34:1-16). Isaiah calls us wayward sheep who are saved by the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:4-6). Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:10-18).

Try not to roll your eyes at the Sunday school answer, but Jesus is the perfect example of shepherding His people, of using His influence in a godly way. Nearing the end of His life, Jesus told His disciples, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

What do we learn from Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of Psalm 78? Godly leaders leverage their influence on behalf of those in the reach of their influence. It’s a principle my dad taught me, and one I’m hoping to teach my sons as well. Whatever the scope of influence you’ve been given, it has been given to you on behalf of those under it. It is a responsibility, not a right or a privilege. That’s how we’ve been shepherded by the Good Shepherd, even to the cost of His life.

Who in your life has less influence than you? Whether it’s positional authority, access to a network, or just a less respected voice. Take some time this weekend to write out a list, and pray for eyes to see how your influence can be used on their behalf. In this way, you can play a small part in the soul-restoring care of the Good Shepherd.
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