There is a repeated pattern throughout the history of the Old Testament where God set up a shepherd over a household or a family, but that shepherd failed to lead completely righteously. It can seem so confusing at first, but God has a point. First, though, let’s look at the leaders he raised up.
You have Adam, the first shepherd over his family. In his silence and passivity, he allowed his wife to go off into sin. Instead of rebuking and correcting her, he entered into that same sin with her. He wasn’t a faithful shepherd.
You go on then to Noah. A lot of us say Noah was a righteous man. He faithfully built the ark and led his family through a world-wide flood. A rainbow appeared. God gave them a great promise, and what happened next? Noah was in his tent, getting drunk then naked. Was he a faithful shepherd? God said no.
How about Moses? He was charged with making sure the people of Israel witnessed and trusted God’s promises and victory. Moses got the whole nation to the Promise Land border, but because of his unbelief and outburst of anger, he couldn’t go in himself. Someone else had to do it.
David did a pretty good job, except for adultery and murder and a couple of other problems. At one point, he offered to build this beautiful tabernacle for the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “You’re not the kind of shepherd that I want to build my house; your hands aren’t clean.”
All throughout history you see God raising up shepherds. Some of them do a decent job, but none of them are completely righteous or good. They aren’t able to get people into the place God longs for them to be. It seems hopeless, but the prophet Jeremiah tells us that this was part of God’s glorious intention from the foundation of the world. The imperfect pastors and leaders would prepare us to see why God needed to send the perfect shepherd, Jesus Christ. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5, ESV).
Only Christ’s leadership is perfect. Only he can shepherd us along the right path. Jesus is the only way and truth which brings out abundant life in our hearts.