- The Kind of Shepherds God Raises Up (Part 2) – Jeremiah 23:4
- The Kind of Shepherds God Raises Up (Part 1) – Jeremiah 23:4
- Woe to the Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:1 (Part 1)
- Woe to the Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:1 (Part 2)
- God’s Response to False Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:2
- Hope for Hurting Sheep – Jeremiah 23:3
I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
The shepherds will be active in their shepherding. It seems obvious that shepherds would tend a flock; that is their job. Yet many take the title without taking on the work. It would be much better to take on the work without the title than vice versa. So, the Lord qualifies these shepherds which He would raise as men who would “tend them” or “shepherd them.” In other words, they would do their job. They would be active in fulfilling their ministry. Men would identify them by their work, not their title.
This is a warning to passive overseers. To be responsible for God’s people often means dealing with abuse, error, injustice, self-will, slander, and other sins that, simply put, take a great deal of manliness to confront. Elders do not hide behind shields; they are the shield and take the blow in its full impact, trying to protect the sheep and give them as little concern as possible. Elders do not run from error; they rebuke it. Elders do not turn a blind eye to situations of abuse; they confront the abuser and protect the abused. Elders do not wait on decisions for months and years at a time; they are proactive and prayerful. Elders do not wait to see spiritual gift develop naturally; they foster an atmosphere where gift can be accelerated. Perhaps instead of using titles, we should use verbs. One is not an overseer so much as he is one who oversees. One is not an elder so much as he acts based on maturity. One is not a shepherd so much as he shepherds. This is a role that demands activity. It demands commitment. God is looking to raise up men who work. God is raising up men with hearts like His—a heart that loves with such passion that it despises and opposes what threatens its object of love. Passivity is the opposite of this. Yes, the wise man holds his words until after, but he does give them at some point. Passivity is not wisdom; it is laziness. And it is not the wise man who is lazy, but the fool.
This is also an exhortation for men to make ministry the sphere of their lives if called to it. 1 Timothy 4 makes this clear. Paul tells Timothy to “take pains” with the ministry and “be in these things,” as if Timothy was to immerse himself as a baptism of identification with his ministry. It is not enough to be a shepherd as one calling among many. A shepherd gives himself to the ministry and reserves nothing except his family (which is his priority above all but God). There are many who pursue ministerial training, but they do not pursue excellence in the ministry as such. They are happy with a perfection of preaching methods, but they are not willing to blaze their own trail in the Scriptures, the sanctuary, sanctification, or shepherding. Seldom do men reach new heights, for they are content with the approval of the previous generation and the entertainment of the next. This is all wrong. Men of God are tailor-made for their calling. That does not come by externals. It comes by perfecting the call of God in one’s life.
The sheep will feel secure, for “they will not be afraid any longer.” If sheep do not trust their shepherds, something is wrong. Imagine an assembly where the sheep felt secure. The young could say, “Ah, I know whom I can ask when I have questions about Scripture, and I know they will invest in my growth in return.” The couples could say, “Ah, this is a place where marriage is honoured and fostered; these shepherds bring our bond closer together.” The parents could say, “What a lovely place to raise my children, a place where there are examples—gentlemen who give a good name to godliness.” The elderly could say, “What rest I have, knowing that I am prayed for and visited by men who care.” The wandering could say, “How graciously they corrected me.” The hurting could say, “How dearly they comforted me in my God.” The newly saved could say, “I am so glad these men prioritized the gospel; otherwise, I would still have no hope.” Imagine!
Yet, how far these dreams are for some. For some, there is no leadership. For some, there is a divided leadership. For some, there is a dark overlord who cares only for himself. For some, there is a single pastor who, though sincere, simply cannot bear the weight on his own because he was not designed for it. For some, there is an insubordinate flock who choose not to trust the men who watch over their souls. Dear believers, don’t feel that an assembly as described above is impossible. But it must start with right leadership.
This is a challenge for us who hold a public role among God’s people. Do they trust us? Can they trust us? Should they trust us? Trust goes beyond a handshake, a smile, and a “How are you?” Trust happens when one could not conceive of an ill-motive in his companion. That takes repeated, frequent, tested, consistent evidence that a man will lay down his life for his friends. It takes an understanding that the man is before men what he is before God. Would people trust us if they saw our prayer life? Would they trust us if they saw our workplace behaviour? Would they trust us if they saw our care for our families? And what should we say about the sites we visit, the videos we watch, the thoughts we entertain? Most congregations should be terrified because of their leadership. Oh, that God would reverse the trend in our ministries!
The sheep will be entirely included. What lovely words: “Nor will any be missing.” Every sheep included. The weak, the strong, the young, the old, the men, the women—all together in the safety and confidence of a strong foundation. Only our Lord can perfect this in a coming day when all will be gathered unto Him. We long for this. While we may not suffer from disunity and factions, surely we can think of missing sheep. Perhaps these sheep are wandering, perhaps neglected, and perhaps deceived. Seats once filled are now empty. Relationships once enjoyed are now void. We are unified, yes, but only with the sheep that are left. There were some we could have kept from leaving; others, we could never make them stay. Some were pushed away by despots; some were pulled away by deceivers.
Doubtless, you can look on at many you wish were “included.” Older saints whose health forbids them from coming. Discouraged saints who can no longer face the day. Drifting saints who have decreasing grasp on truth. Crippled saints who are shattered by waves and billows of abuse and carelessness. Perhaps the only appropriate emotion is sadness.
Think, dear one, of the saints missing from your company. Where were you before their seat was empty? While we cannot change the past, we can modify the future. Perhaps there are some you cannot personally help; let your sadness be turned to prayer. Perhaps there are some within reach; come alongside them and build them up again. Perhaps there are some you have wronged; make it right with them before God. Perhaps there are some you see drifting for whom there is still hope; go after them with overflowing love. After all, it is difficult for a person not to respond positively to a meaningful display of care. Let there be no fringe assembly members as long as we can help it. Let none be missing.
This is the result of shepherds that GOD raises up.