This is the Lord’s Word about David. Asaph says concerning the Lord that:-
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skilful hands he led them. (Ps. 78:70-72.)
As we read this scripture and ponder, we may be perplexed. Perplexed because there is no mention of David being king in Israel. The emphasis is upon him being a shepherd to the nation of Israel. It is as if the Lord is saying to David that whatever else you may be, this is what you are primarily to be; you are a shepherd. David had to remember this when he was king. He was to rule as one who had the best interests of the nation at heart. His rule should always be shepherd-like. Every elder must remember that as well.
In being a shepherd he always had to remember that the people were the Lord’s people and the Lord’s inheritance. He was shepherding that which belonged to the Lord. Similarly, as elders, we need to always remember that those in our care are not “any-old-sheep”, they are the Lord’s flock. So if you have been placed over a church to exercise rule as an elder, you must never forget this. You are first and foremost a shepherd looking after the Lord’s sheep. Everything you do, every action you take should be done for the benefit of those sheep.
Yes David was to lead the sheep, but not to lead them as a demanding ruler, but rather as a kindly shepherd. The sheep have to be fed and provided for. We have a responsibility to emulate the Great Shepherd and make the church lie down in green pastures and to lead them by still waters (see Ps. 23:2)
The characteristics of one who was a capable shepherd were that he operated with integrity of heart and skillful hands. An elder should not be careless with his heart. He needs to guard it so that no hardness develops which will turn him against the beloved sheep he is to shepherd.
Moreover, he must devote himself to developing skills so that he can shepherd well. Never should he be complacent that he has learned enough or knows enough. He continually needs to equipping himself through training and study. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15 is what Paul says to Timothy and truly we should be doing that.