July 12

Jeremiah 23:1-3

“‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the Lord.” vs. 1

The Hebrew scriptures abound with references to shepherds and their flocks. Whenever a writer was looking for an analogy to describe the relationship between a sovereign and the nation, this was the go-to metaphor. Jeremiah uses it here to blame the kings of Judah and Israel for the sorry condition of God’s chosen people. They were the ones in charge and they were the ones who had messed things up–and Jeremiah believes they deserve to be punished. We aren’t as familiar with shepherds and flocks but it isn’t hard to get the prophet’s point–and his charge is still right on! While we enjoy a good deal of independence in our world, leaders are enormously important. And there are plenty of candidates clamoring for our attention and allegiance. And when they get control, their policies will always have an effect on lives, both for better and for worse. Some have a heart for justice and peace, others have more self-serving motivations. A few demand almost slavish allegiance and are ruthless in destroying their opposition. The consequences of their leadership will endure for decades. To paraphrase Jeremiah, “Woe to those who lead us astray!” How good it is when our shepherds guide us on paths of righteousness and peace while caring for the weak and the hurting! It’s a delicate balance, and few are those who would merit a prophet’s praise!

Thought for the Day: How can a politician be a good shepherd?

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