Jeremiah 23:1-6 – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing, ” declares the Lord.
This is the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday for many of us. It’s kind of a warning for us preachers and pastors, isn’t it? “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” Kind of makes me want to pull in my head and glance around: “You talkin’ to me?” Because here God is upset on behalf of His sheep. He’s left them under the care of some shepherds, but He’s come to find out His sheep are uncared-for, they are scattered, far away, afraid, terrified, and missing. He’s steaming, now, and will replace those shepherds with new ones who will care for His flock properly.
So what if you and I, my brothers and sisters in the ministry, are these new shepherds? Often we wonder about whether we’ll “do the job well” so we also won’t be replaced. But we’re not only shepherds but sheep, too. So as we assume the task and role of shepherding God’s sheep, who tends the shepherds? Who cares for them? What if the shepherds themselves are uncared-for, scattered, disconnected, afraid, terrified, or even missing / AWOL?
Does your administrative structure care for you like a shepherd cares for the flock? Does it try to provide connection and collection, a place of peace and grace and consolation for the shepherds?
Do the shepherds around you mostly tend each other without outside help? Do you have a group of fellow-shepherds that care for one another, lift one another up, create and atmosphere of forgiveness and consolation among yourselves, and speak the precious Gospel to each other frequently?
Or do you mostly go it alone? Is God’s tending enough for you? It may well be, and certainly we want to learn to depend on Him to fill all our core longings. I’m not saying that shepherds should look to other shepherds to fill the longings that only God can fill. I am suggesting, though, that He provides fellow-shepherds, small groups of pastors, regional conferences, even judicatory officials as vessels of His mercy and grace for your strengthening, refreshment, and care as you go about your work as His shepherds.
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