Slumbering Shepherds

The prophet Nahum characterized the chaos which would accompany the destruction of the Assyrian Empire in this way:

Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.

Nahum 3:18

As Ezekiel would later point out, a shepherd is supposed to be both alert and conscientious:

My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them….

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;…

Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand,

Ezekiel 34:6, 9-10

And Jesus later contrasted the “hireling,” who runs away when there is danger, from the “good shepherd,” who is willing to lay down his life to save the sheep. (See John 10:11-15.)

The prophet Alma echoed this principle in his sermon to the people of Zarahemla:

For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him.

Alma 5:59

Referencing all of these passages, Elder Gerrit W. Gong said:

Our Good Shepherd cautions that shepherds in Israel must not slumber, nor scatter or cause the sheep to go astray, nor look our own way for our own gain. God’s shepherds are to strengthen, heal, bind up that which is broken, bring again that which was driven away, seek that which was lost.

Good Shepherd, Lamb of God,” General Conference, April 2019

We sometimes talk about leaving the “ninety and nine” to find one sheep that is lost. (See Luke 15:4.) But Elder Gong points out that the ninety and nine also need our attention:

Our Savior reaches out to the one and to the ninety-and-nine, often at the same time. As we minister, we acknowledge the ninety-and-nine who are steadfast and immovable, even while we yearn after the one who has strayed. Our Lord seeks and delivers us “out of all places” [Ezekiel 34:12].

Good Shepherd, Lamb of God,” General Conference, April 2019

Today, I will be conscientious in my responsibilities. I will remember that each of my leadership roles represents a sacred trust, and I will be alert and diligent in looking after the people I am called to serve, beginning in my own home.

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