T HEY HAD ONE JOB. These shepherds. They had one job to do. Take care of the sheep. They failed. They failed miserably.
Have you ever failed at a responsibility? How did that make you feel? Were others hurt by your failure. Maybe you got reprimanded. Perhaps an “F” on your paper or project. Even been fired from a job. Or asked to leave the house.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” means these shepherds are in serious trouble. The shepherd is a common ancient metaphor for leaders, and for kings in particular. A person in authority. A shepherd’s role is to gather the sheep together and protect them. These shepherds made decisions that placed the people in peril and ultimately led to their exile.
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MAYBE YOU’VE SAID or done something (or failed to do something) that has caused another great pain. Brought separation. And you feel the “woe” of God on your heart and life. It’s not too late to change. To seek forgiveness. To try to restore what you messed up. To gather what you scattered.
Jeremiah over and again reminds the shepherds of their calling. Reminds them of their relationship with the sheep. Their relatives, friends, employees, classmates who are suffering.
Jeremiah calls to them and calls to us it’s not too late to make things right. Now is the time for being made right with God and with others.
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SCATTERED. Perhaps you’ve been there. On that side of the equation. You didn’t cause the scattering; you were the one left in peril. Maybe you are there now.
We have all known seasons of exile, in one form or another.
Maybe you’ve seen all your hopes, dreams, and plans go terribly awry. Perhaps you’ve endured a time of pain and suffering, whether in your body or from outside afflictions. Maybe it’s separation from family members.
Something came along that brought discord, division, anger, resentment. You might be the victim; you might be the cause. It doesn’t matter how you got there. Whatever the nature or intensity, your exile is grueling, unwelcome, confusing, and often test of faith.
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WHEREVER YOU ARE, all is not lost. You are not lost. God’s judgment of “woe” is tempered with hope and optimism.
God sees a future, a possibility, that is good, pure, and productive. A future that leads to wholeness, holiness, and creativity. Where the broken are put back together. Where the hurting are healed. Where the scattered are gathered. And love reigns.
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A GOOD SHEPHERD is tender and caring. That is God. God is the shepherd who will redeem the people. We are his sheep. We belong to God:
The people are “my pasture,” “my people,” “my flock.”
While others have “scattered” the sheep, God will “gather the remnant of my flock.” God will act on behalf of the scattered as gather them together.
God’s compassionate care for us is a promise of renewal and growth. God’s reign will bring an end to fear. God’s reign contains a promise for you no matter what you’ve done, how you feel, how long you’ve been exiled:
“[T]hey (you) will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing.”
Every single sheep, every one of us, belongs in the fold of God — even those who are now scattered and perhaps given up for lost.
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IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, we have a parable of the shepherd who relentlessly seeks out even the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7). That’s God’s promise. Seek those who have been scattered, separated, exiled. Gather them together under his compassionate care.
God will raise up a new shepherd who will reign with justice and righteousness.
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JESUS IS THE ULTIMATE FULFILLMENT of God’s promise. Jesus sees that the crowd of people are “like sheep without a shepherd” and has compassion on them. Jesus is the good Shepherd.
Jesus lived and died. Jesus was raised from death. Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, reigns in power. We proclaim the new King envisioned in Jeremiah to be Jesus. Loving, caring, shepherding king who gathers us all together from the east and west, north and south.
We will forever be under his gracious and loving care.