Shepherds and shepherding

‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. 

‘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.
Jeremiah 23:1, 4 (NIV)

Read: Jeremiah 23:1-8

Consider: There are a number of passages in the Bible that speak of the harm some people can do to those under their influence.  Sometimes that harm may be unintentional, but can still be very real and detrimental to a person’s spiritual wellbeing.  Unfortunately there are those who think that the Bible is out-of-step with society and accordingly seek to water down what the Bible says about particular topics (e.g. marriage, divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, etc.).  In reality, it is society that is out-of-step with what the Bible teaches.  In Paul’s letters to the churches he often describes such people as ‘false teachers’.  In James’ letter we read this warning: Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).  Judged more strictly against what?  The standards that society embraces?  Definitely not!  Teachers will be judged against the standards set out in the Bible and their faithfulness in teaching the Word of God.  Teachers need to be careful that what they teach accords with the Bible and not seek to twist Scripture to suit their own or society’s ends.

In today’s passage from Jeremiah the image of the shepherd is used to compare those who ‘destroy and scatter’ the sheep and those who ‘tend them’.  A similar image is used in Ezekiel 34 where we read: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (Ezekiel 34:2).  Having accused the shepherds of not taking care of the flock, God says to them: You have not strengthened the weak or healed those who are ill or bound up the injured.  You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.  You have ruled them harshly and brutally (34:4). Later in Jeremiah’s prophesy he shares what God says: ‘My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray …’ (Jeremiah 50:6).

Jesus told the people the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7) to illustrate God’s concern for those who are lost.  Jesus taught that every person is valuable in God’s sight and that: ‘… there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents …’ (15:7).  In describing his mission on earth Jesus said: ‘… the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).  Can you see that anyone who shares the good news of the gospel with others should have a burden for the lost?  Any pastor or minister who does not have a burden for the lost, or whose burden has waned, needs to bring the matter before God, asking him to reignite their fervour for teaching the lost and bringing them to Christ.  The example of a shepherd we should follow if of Jesus himself who said: I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

Pray: Father, we pray specifically for those who teach your Word and share the good news of the gospel; that they may faithfully teach from the Bible and have a real concern and burden for the lost.  Help them to ‘tend the flock’ under their care.  For those who have lost their enthusiasm or are disillusioned, we pray that your Holy Spirit would reignite in them a passion and burden for the lost.   Amen

Every blessing

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