[Optional reading: Jer. 21:1–23:40]
Within the last six months, some companies have experienced problems with leadership. From the Yahoo! CEO’s résumé scandal to J.P. Morgan’s lack of foresight in investing, poor leadership has consequences. The same is true with the leadership of God’s people.
Close to God’s heart were the poor, the fatherless, and the oppressed. Indeed, Israel’s leaders were responsible to care for such people. Whether the king himself or the unspecified “shepherds,” God reminded them of their duty to “administer justice” (21:12), rescue the oppressed, “do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow,” nor to “shed innocent blood” (22:3). Yet this is exactly where Israel’s leaders failed. Rather than protecting the flock of God’s people, Israel’s leaders were “destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture” (23:1). In turn, God chastised them for their failure and promised that they would be held accountable.
God would not “punish you as your deeds deserve” (21:14), however, allowing His wrath to break out upon Jerusalem, leaving it in ruins. He specified His tender care for His people by promising one day to gather a remnant together and to bring them back to the land. He would give them new, better shepherds who would care for them dutifully. Most importantly, there would be a leader to come, “a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (23:5). When this “righteous Branch” of David arrived, God’s people would be saved and live in safety.
God promised that in the face of failed leadership, He would send a perfect leader, Jesus Christ, the only true King and Shepherd of His people. Only then would they know full salvation.
Apply the Word
The hymn, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” offers a powerful picture of Christ the Shepherd and King as declared in today’s reading. Try searching for the words and tune to this hymn online or in a hymnal, and spend some time reading or singing the stanzas as an act of praise and thanksgiving in response to God’s gracious gift in His Son.