shepherds

2 Chronicles 27-28, Zechariah 10

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Zechariah 10.

This devotional is about Zechariah 10.

One of the metaphors that repeats throughout scripture is that people are like sheep. Like sheep, people are given to wandering off on their own. They will follow the voice of a leader--a shepherd--they trust but without a shepherd, they tend to wander into trouble. A good leader of people, then, both provides a clear voice for the people to follow and watches out for them to keep them from straying too far from the group. When sheep stray too far from the herd, they are vulnerable to predators and to accidents. A good shepherd leads his sheep and watches out for them.

Here in Zechariah 10:3 God expressed anger toward the leaders of his people. The reason for his anger is that these shepherds give voice to lies. Verse 2 says, “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” The result of these false, destructive, deceitful instructions was that “the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”

God promised to provide the leadership that the kings and priests and prophets were not providing. Verse 3c-d says, “the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah....” But notice the result of that leadership in the next phrase of verse 3, “and make them like a proud horse in battle.” The metaphor changes, then, from the pool being like wandering sheep to becoming strong, able horses in battle. This suggests that God’s leadership takes us when we are weak, foolish, and vulnerable but develops us into strong, capable creatures.

Jesus was the shepherd God had in mind for this as we see in verse 4a, “From Judah will come the cornerstone” which is one of the images used to describe Christ. Christ has become the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He is the cornerstone on which God’s people and our lives are built (1 Peter 2:6-7). Part of the leadership he provides is to give undershepherds (1 Peter 5:2-3) to his people to serve the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). The elders of our church, then, are here to provide you with the spiritual leadership and nourishment you need to make you strong and able to serve the Lord like a warhorse in the spiritual battles we face in this life.

Thank you for spending the time to read the Old Testament with me this year and to mediate with me on the meaning of these texts each day. I trust this is helpful to your life and that you’re using the word to grow in your faith.

But be sure to put what we’ve been learning into practice in your life. This is the goal of spiritual growth--to make us useful to God and his cause. What have you learned as a believer this year? How have you grown in your faith? Where are you serving the Lord more capably than before?

John 10

Today, read John 10.

There have been so many religious leaders throughout human history and they have spawned so many different religions. Some of these are connected to Jesus in some way, denying some biblical doctrines about him while affirming others. How does someone know that they have found the truth?

A big answer to that question is given to us here in John 10. Jesus described to the religious leaders (v. 1--“you Pharisees”) many truths about himself and his followers. Using the metaphor of shepherds, sheep, and the pen those sheep are kept in, Jesus taught that the true sheep know the difference between him--the good shepherd (v. 14) and false leaders (vv. 1, 8, 10, 12-13). Because they are true sheep, they know Jesus, Good Shepherd (vv. 3, 14). Because they are true sheep, they enter through Jesus, the true gate (v. 9). All of this describes the spiritual life that God gives to those who genuinely come to Christ. Following Jesus is not a matter of rationally choosing him over other leaders and instead of other religions. It is the result of the new life that God gives by faith. That new life--we call it regeneration--causes us to recognize Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the only way to the Father (to paraphrase 14:6).

Do you ever wonder why some people follow Jesus intensely for a time, then are diverted by the voice of another shepherd? It is because they are not really sheep. Do you ever wonder why some sincere people don’t receive Jesus as the one the Bible describes him to be? It is because they are not true sheep. Anyone you meet who tells you that they are spiritual, that they love God, and/or that they like Jesus but don’t think he was really God is telling you that they are not part of God’s flock (vv. 25-26).

One of the benefits of being part of God’s flock is eternal security, which is taught here in verses 27-30. Verse 28b says, “they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” The reason is given in verse 29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” There is no need to worry about losing your salvation. Your salvation is not up to you because salvation is a gift given by God that makes you a sheep. It is not dependent on you to remain saved because Jesus and the Father are holding on to you. So, take joy in the gift of eternal life and follow the voice of the shepherd. Continuing to follow him--the doctrine we call preserving in the faith--is evidence of your genuine nature as one of his sheep. Like literal sheep, you may stray at times, but when the shepherd calls you in repentance, you will listen and follow him. This is how you can know that you have eternal life. Let it give you confidence and joy as you serve him today.

Judges 10:1–11:11, Acts 14, Jeremiah 23, Mark 9

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.