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Like a Skillful Shepherd

God chose the servant David and took him from the sheepfolds; from tending the nursing ewes God brought him to be the shepherd of God’s people... With upright heart David tended them, and guided them with skillful hand. - Psalm 78:70-72 (NRSV)


Today is Primary Day in New Mexico and other states. If they haven’t used mail-in ballots or early voting, people across the country will go to the polls to make decisions about our political leaders for the coming years. In my state, those decisions include not only the U.S. president, but also our U.S. and state legislators, county commissioners, county clerks, district attorneys, and the state treasurer.


Psalm 78:70-72 speaks to such decisions about leaders as it recounts God’s choice of David the shepherd boy to be the shepherd of God’s people. The psalmist underscores David’s qualifications for leadership: He didn’t come from royalty or wealth but from the working class, the “sheepfolds.” His bravery in facing down wolves and jackals to protect the flock—part of a shepherd’s job description—isn’t highlighted in the psalm; instead, it tells of David’s care for the most vulnerable, “tending the nursing ewes.”


Most of all, the psalmist doesn’t portray David as a “strongman” leader who ruled by force and fiat, but as a leader remembered for his “upright heart” and his ability to guide the people “with a skillful hand.”


To be sure, David had his feet of clay, but Psalm 78’s remembrance of God’s priorities for leadership could be a plumbline as we choose leaders for our time. I’ll take it with me when I go vote today.



Thank you, God, for your guidance in choosing leaders with upright hearts and skillful hands. Amen.

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