Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 19 2019 - Jeremiah 23 – False shepherds

In psalm 23, David the shepherd boy thinks of the way the Lord has been his shepherd. The Lord has cared for him, protected him and directed his paths. God's love and faithfulness has surrounded him all the days of his life. The Lord chose David, a man after his own heart, to be king over his people. God's plan was that the king, along with other leaders of his people, should be caring shepherds, reflecting God's own love and care for his people.

But Jeremiah is sent to declare that the leaders of God's people have abandoned God's calling:

"Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture! … Because you have scattered my flock … and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the Lord. (vv.1-2)

The prophets and priests in the land have turned away from the Lord so that even the temple has become a place of idolatry (v. 11). The prophets are not listening to the voice of the Lord but are making up words of their own or are copying one from another. They are preaching a message of peace, assuring the people that all will be well, when God is speaking words of warning and of judgment (vv.16-17). Prophets from Samaria are even prophesying in the name of Baal (v.13). Others are telling people of the dreams they have had, visions of purely human origin (vv.25-27). God declares that he will bring disaster upon them and on the people that have delighted in their soothing message. He calls the people not to listen to the voice of these false prophets with their continual message of peace.

But once again there is hope beyond judgment. "The days are coming" (vv.5,7) when God will come to rescue and restore his people. He will bring them back from the land of their captivity and will raise up a new king to rule over them. He will be from David's descendants yet will be a greater and better king than David, the best of their kings. He will reign wisely and justly and will be called "The Lord our righteousness [or righteous Saviour]" (vv. 5-6). The name "Lord" in verse 7 is the name of the living God; the one who comes to save and reign over God's people will be Yahweh himself. He will be the righteousness of his people.

This is what God declares through Jeremiah:

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. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing. (vv.3-4)

And this new act of God's saving power will be more dramatic even than when he rescued Israel from Egypt all those years ago. That event was remembered and celebrated by God's people, especially at Passover time. But when God himself comes to save his people it will be this new act of redemption which will be continually celebrated by them (vv.7-8).

We know that Jesus is the one who came to fulfil this ancient prophecy. He is Emmanuel, God come among us to save us. He is the one who has rescued us from slavery to sin and to death through his own victory at the cross. He is the Messiah, God's anointed king, who reigns over us in wisdom and gracious power. He is the Good Shepherd. He is our righteousness and our peace. And he is the model for leaders among his people (v.4). They also are to be shepherds of God's people, caring for the flock of God, the church of God which he bought with his own blood.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep. We pray for all those who are called to be leaders among your people that you would fill them with your Spirit and make them like your Son. So may we be led in paths of righteousness and be used of you to continue your work of gathering a people for yourself from every nation under heaven.

Peter Misselbrook