Thursday, January 24, 2013

EJ100 #22 Jeremiah 23:1-8

Today's Essential Jesus reading: Jeremiah 23:1-8.

Jeremiah is one of the "Major Prophets" because the book with his name is one of the three longest prophetic books. Jeremiah lived, prophesied and wrote before, during and after the final exile of the kingdom of Judah to Babylon.

Shepherds look after sheep. Good shepherds tend to their sheep, shearing them at appropriate times of year, weaning the lambs when they are of a proper age, docking their tails so they don't get fly-struck. A good shepherd will know how to calm his sheep down when they are frantic. A good shepherd will not scatter his sheep; but will send his sheepdog out to round them up, bringing them together as a single flock so they are safe.

However, it is important to understand that Jeremiah wasn't talking about real shepherds when he wrote these verses. He was using the idea of shepherds as a metaphor for someone else. Jeremiah was writing about the political and religious leaders of God's people. When he said they were destroying and scattering the sheep of the LORD's pasture, Jeremiah was talking about what Judah's leaders were doing to the people who were under their care and leadership.
The man in this photo is a "shepherd", or, in more modern parlance, a sheep farmer. But he is also a shepherd in the sense that Jeremiah was writing about. He is an elder in our church, one of the shepherds whom God has placed over his church to tend them [Jeremiah 23:4]. He works hard to ensure that the people in our church are taught God's word faithfully and that they are cared for physically and emotionally as well as spiritually.

God began placing these shepherds over his sheep when Jesus trained his disciples. In particular, we can observe the process of God placing Simon Peter over his sheep as a shepherd in John 21:15-17. Three times Jesus told Peter to look after the people of God's kingdom:
"Feed my lambs." [John 21:15]
"Take care of my sheep." [John 21:16]
"Feed my sheep." [John 21:17]
Jesus was serious about his choice of Peter and his appointing him to the role of shepherd over God's flock, who would one day be known as Christians. Today, we call such shepherds pastors, elders, ministers, bishops, priests ... though whatever we call them, they still have fundamentally the same role: to look after the spiritual welfare of Christians.

But we need to take this prophecy of Jeremiah one step further and see that Jeremiah was not just talking about "shepherds" in the plural. He was talking about one Shepherd, the "righteous Branch" in accordance with God's promise to David [23:5a], the King who reigns with wisdom, justice and righteousness [23:5b], who saved Israel (the True Israel, God's people, now the Church) [23:6a]. This Shepherd is called "the LORD" (Yahweh) [23:6b]. This Shepherd is "Our Righteous Saviour" [23:6b].

This Shepherd is Jesus Christ [John 10:11, 14].

God has given my husband Jeffrey the honour of serving him by serving God's people as a pastor in a small country church. Jeff is one of the "shepherds" whom God has placed over his "sheep".

Why do I love and worship Jesus?
Jesus is the One Righteous Saviour, Yahweh, my good Shepherd, who loves me and cares for me and laid down his life for me.

Please help Jeffrey
as he pastors the flock
you have placed in his care.
Please help him to understand
the issues these people face,
to teach them well
through his sermons,
to disciple them carefully
one-to-one and in groups and families,
to comprehend their needs,
whether physical, emotional or spiritual,
and to feed them
with the sustenance provided in your Word.
Please help me
to help and support Jeffrey
in all these matters
with a cheerful heart
and a respectful countenance.

Tomorrow's reading: Micah 5:1-5.

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