SHEPHERDS BAD AND GOOD
Lord, I am aware that we all have different roles to play in Your kingdom: some lead and most follow.
Read JEREMIAH 23:1–8
The Righteous Branch
23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
7 “So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Note how God considers pastors who are derelict in duty as evil (2). Do you still want to be the pastor?
As I write, there are a number of significant elections going on around the world, with leaders of various kinds seeking more power, longer power or a fresh mandate. Leaders can have a huge impact on the people whom they lead, but that impact, for better or worse, depends on whether the leaders in question see their roles as helping the people they are appointed to lead or augmenting their own power and privileges. Jeremiah puts firmly in the latter category those who are leading Judah as he writes. Their actions and decisions harm, not help, the people. They have failed to recognize their calling as caring shepherds, serving on God’s behalf those who are God’s sheep. They view the people under them rather as those called to serve leaders. Jeremiah knows, however, that God has no intention of allowing this to continue. He will eventually remove these failed shepherds and replace them with a better class, leaders who put the needs of the people above personal ambitions.
At this point, Jeremiah is given insight into God’s future plans to send a transforming Savior who will bring justice, safety and righteousness into the broken community. It seems clear that he expects this to come at the time when the exiled community returns to their homeland, but the New Testament constantly sees prophecies like this as fulfilled by Jesus, who is indeed “The Lord Our Righteousness” (6)! This passage stands as a warning to national leaders, yes, but more prominently to church leaders who forget that they are but under-shepherds and who tend to consider the sheep as servants for themselves rather than the Lord’s flock for whose spiritual growth these leaders are held personally responsible.
Reflect on any leadership position you might have, in home, church or work. Ask God to help you to be the kind of shepherd that he wants you to be.
Lord, I lean on You primarily and on our church leadership secondarily. Grant them an awareness of the degree of accountability they shoulder.