“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1)
In the other Old Testament passage, King David is resting on his laurels at the moment & thinking about building a house for Yahweh. But eventually Yahweh tells him to just get on with the business of being a king and leave the temple/tabernacle building to the next generation. So, I am leaving King David to that pursuit, and instead am looking at the other Old Testament passage.
The prophet Jeremiah lived several generations down from King David, when kingship was no longer about wisely governing but was indulgences and turning the nation’s face from proper worship. Prophets, both major & minor, had been calling the kings and the nation back to the Lord God. It reminds me somewhat of our nation today; those in control may or may not be guiding the country to be under God and follow authentic (read/understand that to means following Christ’s example of love, compassion, and unconditional acceptance) Christianity. But throughout the nation (any nation, beloved reader) there are scores of people not in control of the nation but living their individual lives as Christ would have them live. So, you have to wonder, who are the shepherds, who are the sheep, and what does the destroying and scattering mean – then and now?
“Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.” (Verse 2)
Do you feel “scattered” beloved reader? Back in the Old Testament, the leaders of and in the nation had the responsibility of leading the people in worship, and setting the parameters and lifestyle that would promote faithful worship. However in the New Testament such responsibilities were taken from leaders and given to each individual. Faith and religion became personal, and access to the Divine was given to everyone through Jesus Christ. The policies of faith and worship had been like that back early in the New Testament; but institutions and structures had taken that out of the hands of the common people and placed it in corporate hands. Jesus wrested it back, but under our generations of ministers, preachers, reverends, etc it has drifted back to them. We still have access to the Divine. So while leaders might be guilty of the above crime, if we have left the fold of Jesus the Messiah and the Lord God then we are just as guilty.
“Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.” (Verses 3 – 4)
Now this is where it gets confusing – the Lord God has both driven out the flock and will bring them back? But think, beloved reader, if the leaders are responsible for both leading the nation in faithful worship, and leading them astray – it makes sense that Yahweh would be given the same control. We can see and understand that Israel’s and Judah’s relationship might have had a large part in these nations being invaded. However, if we said that the leadership of the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland,China, Japan, Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, Philippines, etc (you get the picture – that I am listing all the nations of the world, & excuse if I missed some) has lead their people away from the Divine and so the culpability lies there – we would be completely negating free choice and free will to sin as humanity wants. But we are also ignoring those who have chosen for themselves to live not under political/national mandates but under the Lord’s Kingship. Jesus the Christ was such major break away from the past that we need to acknowledge both the freedom and obligation to chose and live out our faith life.
“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” (Verses 5 – 6)
Now, briefly back to the other Old Testament passage – the writer of II Samuel says,
“And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.” (Verses 10 – 14a)
You may say, that means Solomon. And maybe it does. But as I said, the prophet Jeremiah came after King David and his direct offspring. If this was just about King Solomon, fine. It was earthly kingship that fell apart as all earthly kingship does. But suppose, just suppose, we take the words of Samuel as prophesy for Jesus the Messiah. And why not? Others have appropriated scripture for prophecy concerning Jesus. We are not obligated to follow the ways of those who are human and who will fail. We can and must chose our own way, and to chose people as examples who have also chosen to follow the Divine. It is the better way.
Do not allow yourself to be destroyed and scattered. And so not destroy and scatter others. Seek to be gathered under the Lord God. And lead others there as well. Shalom & Selah!