Psalm 78: A Shepherd Like David

Peter Barnes: Psalm 78:72 – Elders Ordination sermon

(29 April 2018)

Throughout the Old Testament, leaders of God’s people – elders, priests, and especially the kings – are often referred to as shepherds. In addition, there are prophecies of a great and perfect shepherd of the line of David who was to come (hence John 10:11; 1 Pet.5:1-4). Psalm 78 tells of Israel’s sin throughout its history – Ps.78:18, 41, 56. Yet God was merciful to His people, and near the end of the Psalm speaks of the sanctuary on Mount Zion (78:68-69); and King David who points to the greater King David (78:70-72).
1. Elders shepherd the flock.

– 78:72. John Wesley: ‘This is the great work: not only to bring souls to believe in Christ but to build them up in our most holy faith. How grievously are they mistaken who imagine that as soon as the children are born they need take no more care of them! We do not find it so. The chief care then begins.’ Timothy Witmer lists four things:
(a) knowing. John 10:3-4. Hence Rom.16:1-16; 2 John 12.
(b) feeding. John 21:15-17. Feed them with the Word of God.
(c) leading. 1 Tim.3:4-5; Heb.13:7.
(d) protecting. 1 Sam.17:34-37 (for literal shepherds); Acts 20:29-31 (re. battling false teachers). Hence Tit.1:9.
2. Elders are to maintain an upright heart.

– 78:72. Acts 24:16. Lose that, and you lose a lot.3. Elders are to govern with skill.

– 78:72. The Psalmist is writing of applied wisdom, as in the book of Proverbs. God is wise – Ps.136:5; 147:5. There is a link between what is right and good and what is wise – Prov.14:29; 15:21.

– There is a time for out and out confrontation (John the Baptist’s ‘You brood of vipers’) and there is a time for subtlety (Nathan’s ‘You are the man’ to David).