COURAGEOUS SHEPHERDS FOR GOD
It seems like we have little grace today for pastors in America who aren’t physically fit or chiseled like a body builder, but we practically stand up and applaud pastors who borderline brag about how emotionally unfit their lives, marriages, and relationships are. When did this change? Where are we headed? Jeremiah lived in a day when the holiness of God no longer mattered. They had turned the lights out on caring about whether or not God got the glory from the private sector of their lives. They paraded their sin publicly as if God couldn’t do anything about it.
The shepherds of Jeremiah’s day panicked because they were afraid their Temple congregations so to speak would stop growing. The demise of Israel was not far in the distance now. Jeremiah stood up as a courageous shepherd and confronted them. We need more courageous shepherds today like Jeremiah.
In Jeremiah 21:2 God’s people speak to Jeremiah, “Inquire of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”
God’s responds to Israel’s request in Jeremiah 21:5 “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.”
I don’t think that’s the response they were expecting. To be a courageous shepherd, sometimes, you have tell people what they don’t want to hear from God.
We all love to quote Jeremiah 29:11 but few of us even know what Jeremiah 21:10 says. God says, “For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good.”
If God’s people don’t repent, eventually you have to tell them the truth of their consequences. In Jeremiah 22:8 God says, “And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” 9 And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”
You can’t live sinful and expect holy results.
God doesn’t work that way.
In Jeremiah day, sadly, like in our day, it wasn’t just the people of God who were ignoring the holiness of God in their lives. The shepherds sadly had become worse than the pagan ungodly nations around them. So much so that God says to Israel in Jeremiah 23:1, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” 2 Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds.”
God expects His shepherds to intentionally try to turn His people back from evil.
Do you realize that part of the pastor’s job is to call God’s people to repentance. It is not just up to the Holy Spirit to convict His people of sin. It is also up to the pastor, who preaches God’s Word. People may choose not to turn back, but that is their choice. God expects pastors to call sin, sin.
God makes it very personal to each of us in Jeremiah 23:23, “Am I a God at hand, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth?”
There are no secrets with God, only things He hasn’t exposed, yet.
I am convinced a lot of preachers in the United States are like the shepherds of Jeremiah’s day. They don’t want to preach against sin in other’s lives, not because they don’t want to be judgmental, but because they don’t want to be hypocritical. They are not willing to give up the secret sins of their own lives.
We all declare God’s glory, some through judgement, some through repentance. The glory either way is His. He always gets the last word, regardless of how you and I choose to live.
In one of the lowest moments of Israel’s history, where the leaders of Israel were consumed with selfish sin, God gives the nation of Israel some hope. Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 24:1, “The Lord showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord. 2 One basket had very good figs, but the other very bad figs. 6 I will set my eyes on them for good.”
It is always important to remind people of the hope that comes from returning to Jesus.
If you want God’s blessing, do it God’s way. If you want God’s curses and judgment, do it your way.
Jeremiah gives us a courageous example to follow. He says in Jeremiah 25:3,“For twenty-three years, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 7 You have not listened, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.”
Jeremiah persistently spoke God’s truth regardless of the results. He remained steadfast. We must as well.
Jeremiah says to the pastors of God’s flock in Jeremiah 25:34, “Wail, you shepherds, and cry out, and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock, for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come, and you shall fall like a choice vessel.”
As a pastor and shepherd of God’s people, we have to keep reminding ourselves of what we teach others otherwise we become castaways ourselves.
God is done playing church. Judgment has come to the American Church because many pastors refuse to call God’s people to repentance. We have quoted, “He without sin, cast the first stone” until we mean, “He who wants to keep his sin secret, just stay quiet about everyone else’s sin.” If pastors won’t sound the clarion call for repentance, God will on His pastors. May we turn to God as spiritual leaders and declare God’s holiness to His people.
It’s not too late!