Reflections from Jeremiah 23:1-15

Jeremiah 23:1-15

1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.

 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares 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. 6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

 7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he[a] had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

 9Concerning the prophets:

    My heart is broken within me;
    all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
   like a man overcome by wine,
because of the LORD
   and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
    because of the curse the land mourns,
   and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
   and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
   even in my house I have found their evil,

         declares the LORD. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them
   like slippery paths in the darkness,
   into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
    in the year of their punishment,

         declares the LORD. 13In the prophets of Samaria
    I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
    and led my people Israel astray.
14But in the prophets of Jerusalem
   I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
    they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
   so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
   and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
15Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
    and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
   ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

  • Leaders have a responsibility to rule well and under obedience to God: God’s judgment is directed toward the shepherds (leaders) of his people for their failure to lead rightly. They are scattering and doing harm to the people. Just prior to this passage, God has been calling out judgment and warnings against the kings and rulers of Israel. He concludes this passage with specific judgment directed at the prophets.
  • God’s purposes supersede man’s sin: Note that in verse 2, it is the leaders who are scattering the sheep, but notice the shift in verse 3. There God has scattered the people. Though the leaders have sinned before God by their evil actions and failure to rule rightly over the people, God has a divine purpose in it. In other words, though the people are scattered, God has not abandoned them and he has a purpose in it.
  • God will redeem His people:The leaders scattered and harmed the people, but it will be God who will bring them back and restore them. Notice the things he will do:
    • God will gather a remnant from all the nations.
    • God will bring them together in his place where they will prosper.
    • God will raise up leader (shepherd) who will care for them rightly.
    • God will raise up a descendent of David who will rule with justice and righteousness.
    • God will bring His people to safety through this ruler.
    • God will bring righteousness to an unrighteous people through this one he sends to them. The people will say of him, “The Lord is my righteousness” (compare with 2 Cor. 5:21). The salvation that God will bring is more than just temporal blessings, he will deal with the sin of the people fully by providing righteousness.
    • This salvation will be greater than the salvation God worked for the people in the Exodus. It will be a new exodus.
  • God will not allow sin to go on unchecked. Starting in verse 9, the prophet addresses the prophets, who are acting sinfully. Those who should be closest to God, living lives in a holy manner before the people, and calling them to righteousness, have instead become the most corrupt. God will not hold them guiltless. Their sin has plagued the land and will be judged.

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