A Message of Hope
The Lord said:
1 You leaders of my people are like shepherds that kill and scatter the sheep. 2You were supposed to take care of my people, but instead you chased them away. So now I'll punish you severely and make you pay for your crimes!
3I will bring the rest of my people home from the lands where I have scattered them, and they will grow into a mighty nation. 4I promise to choose leaders who will care for them like real shepherds. All of my people will be there, and they will never again be frightened.
5 Someday I will appoint
an honest king
from the family of David,
a king who will be wise
and rule with justice.
6As long as he is king,
Israel will have peace,
and Judah will be safe.
The name of this king will be
“The Lord Gives Justice.”
7A time will come when you will again worship me. But you will no longer call me the Living God who rescued Israel from Egypt. 8Instead, you will call me the Living God who rescued you from the land in the north and from all the other countries where I had forced you to go. And you will once again live in your own land.
Not too many of us know a lot about shepherds or sheep, but in biblical times they were common. Domestic sheep are not well suited to survive on their own and need the attention and care of shepherds who not only lead them to good places where they can eat and drink but also keep them from the dangers found in wild pastures.
Because shepherds and sheep were common, they were a common image for Israel’s prophets and teachers. There were good shepherds and there were bad ones but always they were revealed as having the power to care for or deny care to their sheep. God’s message through Jeremiah here in chapter 23 is that the shepherds of the society, the leaders, have failed miserably in their task to care for and protect the sheep, the people in their care. They have shirked their responsibility and God says he will do it differently: “I will bring the rest of my people from the lands where I have scattered them…” (v 3).
God goes further and promises that he will then choose good shepherds so that the people need never be frightened again.
Whether we are in leadership positions and therefore like shepherds or followers and more like sheep, the call of God is to respond well to him. In the case of the former, it is our task to be good and faithful leaders just as God is a good and faithful shepherd. And in the case of the latter, we can be confident that God will care for and nurture us.
Lord God, you are the great shepherd. We long to have you care for us and trust you to do that in all circumstances. Grant us both the confidence and the courage to be faithful. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.