Shepherds and Pastors

Jeff Munroe

READ : Psalm 23

You prepare a table before me. (v. 5)

I have a friend whose family is from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. One day he surprised me by telling me his father was a shepherd. A shepherd! Before his admission, I really had never thought much about the shepherds who populate our Christmas pageants as being real people. Having been born and raised in the United States, I’d never seen a shepherd.

Or had I? Did you know that the words shepherd and pastor are interchangeable in the Bible? The words don’t look similar in English, but think instead of the words pastor and pasture and you are on the right track. In both Hebrew and Greek, the same word can mean either thing, and translators have to use the context to know which word to use. It’s possible to translate Psalm 23 as “The Lord is my pastor.”

If you want to know what your pastor’s job description should be, read Psalm 23. The job of both pastor and shepherd is the care of the flock, especially keeping them fed. Jesus pointed this out repeatedly to Peter in John 21, when he told him three times to feed his sheep. Is it any wonder, then, that the first people who heard the news about the birth of the Messiah were shepherds, or that Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep?


Thank you, Lord, for the pastor-shepherds among us, who feed us and lead us along your paths.