The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Jer. 23:1 “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ‘You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,’ declares the LORD. 3 Then I Myself shall gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and shall bring them back to their pasture; and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the LORD. 5 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’”
Last week we were visited by the prophet Amos. He was a prophet sent to the Northern Kingdom to call them to repentance. They didn’t and the kingdom fell in 722 B.C. to the Assyrians. The kingdom and ten tribes that made up the Northern Kingdom were lost forever.
This morning we consider the prophet Jeremiah, born 650 B.C. died 570 B.C. He was a prophet of the Southern Kingdom. It was through him that the Lord God said to the people and the kings of Judea, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!”
First an exegetical point. The word shepherds is used here. But in this context the word “shepherds” does not refer to shepherds “who stay out in the fields and keep watch over their flock by night.” Jeremiah is referring to the kings of the Southern Kingdom in Jerusalem. The kings who are suppose to shepherd the flock of God. Those kings are discussed more specifically by Jeremiah 22.
A righteous shepherd-king was supposed lead the people as they followed the God of Israel. The kings of Israel did the opposite. God said “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them.”
It’s an indictment. The kings had scattered them. Driven them away from. These are statements signifying abuse, aggression, contempt, and neglect. The kings had not attended to the needs of the people. Israel was suppose to be one and it was suppose to be theocracy. But the policies of these kings were corrupt and unjust, just as many of our governments’ policies are corrupt and unjust. Their practices consisted of shedding innocent blood and violent oppression. They burdened them high taxes, rules, and regulations. One king after another had led the people away from true worship of the true God and toward the worship of idols.
The unfaithfulness of the kings and religious leaders eventually brought about the need for the invasion by Babylonians
The Lord God says through the prophet Jeremiah that the shepherd-kings are to blame for the condition of God’s children. The kings “scattered” the flock, “drove them away,” and “did not attended to them.” In response the Lord God passed judgment. “I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds.”
Kings, monarchs, dictators, ruling classes of politicians, and the titans of industry (and I might as well add, the church politicians) are all too often self-serving. The old adage is all too often true: Politics is about power, getting power, and keeping power.” We are seeing that when it comes to God, family, country, and money. A great many of the titans and ruling class are choosing money. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Some people would have us believe that the biggest problem in the church is unruly sheep. Now unruly sheep are a problem and indeed baby boomers and Gens. X, Y, and Z have all gone astray. They do not tolerate sound doctrine. They want their ears tickled and are accumulating for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires. That’s 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
Sheep do wander. We’ve watched sheep in our own families and congregation wander off. But sheep are not goats. Sheep also know the voice of their shepherd. It is also a fact that sheep cannot live without the shepherd. They are entirely dependent on the shepherd for everything. They require constant care and watching over. They lack the ability to protect themselves. Leaving them unattended can put them at risk and endanger their lives.
According to the Old and New Testaments, the biggest problem in the church is unfaithful shepherds – false teachers – who teach wrongly and replace the Word of God with ideas, words, morality, and religious beliefs that come out of the heart and mind of sinful humanity. When it comes to God’s judgment the strongest words of the Law are reserved for the shepherds. “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer 23:1).And in fact, the sheep were scattered among the nations. In 587 BC, Babylon came, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and exiled the people.
But the Law and judgment never have the last word in regard to the Christian. After telling the shepherd kings that they will be dealt with according to their sins, God says, 3 “Then I Myself shall gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and shall bring them back to their pasture; and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing.’”
Did you hear the mystery in what I just read? God said in verse 2 that the shepherd-kings had scattered and driven the people away from Judah and Jerusalem. In verse three He said, “I Myself shall gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and shall bring them back to their pasture.”
On the one hand, the rulers drove the people away. They are thus rightly judged according to the Law. On the other hand, God says He had driven them and He is going to bring them back. Puts me in mind of the response of Joseph when he confronted his brothers over what they had done in selling him into slavery. What they meant for evil, God meant for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.
The Lord God scattered them, then in His good time brought them back and promised that He would raise up real shepherds, faithful pastors who would be undershepherds to the One and True Shepherd.
5 “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’”
In contrast to the wicked and unrighteous kings Jerusalem, the Lord God will send the true King, the Good Shepherd, the Righteous Branch from the line of David to restore the fidelity and righteousness that had been lost.
God began to restore His exiled people back to the land of Israel and Judah in 538 B.C.. Then in 457 B.C. all were set free and returned to the promised land.
Six hundred years after Jeremiah’s promise, God the Father sent His Only-Begotten Son, the Shepherd-King into the world and into the flesh to join the human race, to become Israel’s Shepherd-King.
That brings us to the Gospel lesson this morning. 6:34 “And when Jesus went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
The solution to the sheep who have a tendency to wander and who can’t survive without a shepherd, is a shepherd who cares for, protects, and teaches the sheep what it means to be a sheep in God’s flock. The solution is not a shepherd entertaining the sheep. It’s not a shepherd telling sheep that they need to decide to be sheep. It is not a shepherd who goes about his duties like a amateur psychologist. Rather the answer for the sheep is a shepherd who teaches them what it means to be a sheep in the Lord God’s pasture. That means a life lived in the church making use of the means of grace.
What was done by sinful and unfaithful shepherd-kings, God would undo through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God Himself will 3 “gather the remnant of [His] flock out of all the countries where [He had] driven them and bring them back to their pasture; and they will be fruitful and multiply.” This was the first of three promises the Lord God gave the people in our Old Testament lesson this morning.
Everywhere Jesus went people gathered together to hear Him– Jew and Gentile alike. Even in His crucifixion Jesus created a gathering as He said He would in John 12:32 “If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” He also said in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
The second promise given in the Old Testament was also fulfilled in the Gospel reading. “I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing.”
The Gospel reading this morning began with these words; “And the apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.”
The twelve were the first group of under-shepherds that the Lord God who were called, ordained, and sent after Pentecost Sunday who were not afraid and who tended to the sheep of Christ’s flock, principally by teaching them to observe everything that Christ had commanded them.
As for the third promise; “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’”
God gave you the Righteous Shepherd-King. Unlike the kings and ruling elites we are use to in this world, this One looked upon the flock and had sinless compassion on them. This compassion caused Him to do what a righteous king was supposed to do. He taught them, forgave them, healed them, fed them, brought them into His sheep pen, and protected them.
Jesus is the Shepherd-King who unites His people like a shepherd unites his sheep. He adds to His flock through the preaching and teaching of His Word and through Holy Baptism.
He taught us to pray. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” The kingdom comes “when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.”
You belong to the righteous Shepherd-King of Israel and He is the Lord our Righteousness.
MAY THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEART AND MIND IN CHRIST JESUS. AMEN.