If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Judges 10:1–11:11, Acts 14, Jeremiah 23, Mark 9. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Jeremiah 23.
One of the reasons that Israel had problems following the Lord is that their leaders didn’t follow the Lord themselves. Jeremiah 23 opens with a declaration of woe: “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord.” Because the New Testament uses the word “shepherds” to describe the elders of the church, we might be inclined to think that this declaration of woe applied to the priests or other religious leaders in Judah. The priests had their problems, to be sure, and Jeremiah had already prophesied against them in Jeremiah 20. But Jeremiah 23 is probably talking about the king (continuing from the previous chapter) and other leaders, including prophets and priests (see 23:11). If your king is exploiting you and worshipping idols (Jer 22):, your priests are worshipping idols (23:11), and your prophets are speaking lies in God’s name to turn people away from him to idols (23:25-27), what hope is there for the average person?
Jesus. He’s the hope God’s people needed. Although God spoke judgment to these ungodly shepherds through Jeremiah in this chapter, he also promised to gather his people like a shepherd after they have been scattered to the nations (vv. 3-4). This would be accomplished through Christ, the righteous Branch (vv. 5-6) who would gather God’s people and appoint good shepherds to watch over them (v. 4). This is where the apostles and other leaders of the church come into the picture. And, like the shepherds who lived during Jeremiah’s time, we are accountable to God for how we lead his people. That leadership consists of faithfully teaching his word. As verses 28b-29 put it: “…let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” It is God’s word that melts and breaks the heart of sin within each of us, so it is exactly what God’s people need—and have always needed—from their spiritual leaders.
Unfortunately, entertainment seems to dominate the church today more than the word of God. In the past few months, people from three different families who have found our church have told me how hard it was to find a church that taught the Bible. They came from different areas around us and from different church backgrounds, but were all looking for one thing—God’s word. I’m glad they’ve found us; may others who are looking for the Lord find their way to us, too. But, whether it is my Sunday teaching, or our children’s or adult ministries, our mission and mantra should always be: “let the one who has my word speak it faithfully” (v. 28b).
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.