From Jeremiah 49-50
The LORD explains what went wrong with Israel. Their shepherds led them astray. These are their leaders, their priests and their teachers. How can you tell a false shepherd from a faithful one?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comment
In todays chapter readings Jeremiah pronounces and predicts judgment on a series of nations surrounding Israel. The nations he judges are Ammon (Je 49.1-6), Edom (descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother) (Je 49.7-22), Damascus (Je 49.23-27), Kedar and Hazor (Je 49.28-33) and Elam (Je 49.34-39).
Then he moves onto Babylon, the nation the LORD uses to punish Israel for her wrong doing. This is where our passage picks up.
50 The word that the LORD spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet:
2 “Declare among the nations and proclaim,
set up a banner and proclaim,
conceal it not, and say:
‘Babylon is taken,
Bel is put to shame,
Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
her idols are dismayed.’
3 “For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away. (Jer 50.1-3)
Jeremiah proclaims judgment on Babylon. All nations are intended to hear the judgment on them. They are about to be axed by a nation from the north. I suspect this is Persia, and I wonder if this is a description of a current state of affairs or an advance prediction of what will happen. The nation that conquered Israel will itself be conquered.
4 “In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. 5 They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’ (Jer 50.4-5)
Jeremiah promises restoration for Israel. They will return to their land, ashamed of their former behavior and seek the LORD again. Jeremiah foresees them vowing to keep covenant with the LORD for all time. This is a positive prediction. In the midst of their own judgment it would have been good to know this.
6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. (Jer 50.6)
The LORD then explains what went wrong with Israel. Their shepherds led them astray. These are their leaders, their priests and their teachers.
How could you tell a false shepherd from a faithful one?
They turned them away. People came to them and they did not serve as they should. They forgot the people they should be serving. They forgot their ministry. Consequently the people fell into sin for lack of guidance.
7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the LORD, their habitation of righteousness, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’ (Jer 50.7)
Because they sinned, the LORD handed them over to the nations around them. Particularly on view in this context is Babylon. The justification for their actions is because Israel had sinned. The people of Babylon justify their going to war against Israel because Israel sinned against the LORD.
But it is never a good idea to go against the LORD’s chosen. Despite the fact Israel sinned and abandoned the LORD. The LORD still faithful to his covenant and his people will judge those who come against them.
8 “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. 9 For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. (Jer 50:8–9)
Babylon herself will be conquered by the north country.
Jeremiah will proclaim further judgment on Babylon (Je 50.10-16). He will promise restoration for Israel (Je 50.17-20). Jeremiah will then gives another and this time lengthy judgment on Babylon with explanations why the LORD is doing it and promises of restoration for Israel (Je 50.21-46).
Story of Israel
Jeremiah places much of the blame for Israel’s in their shepherds hands (Je 50.6). They did not lead as they should. Moses was quite clear on the responsibilities of leadership to pass on the truth and teach the people faithfully.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Dt 6.6-9)
The continued reminders of the law were intended to keep them faithful to the LORD. Unfortunately they neglected Moses command to teach faithfully and his law. Jeremiah says their lack of shepherding led to their sin which in turn led to their punishment and exile.
Story of Jesus
Come Jesus’ time shepherding and teaching are still vitally important. Obviously shepherding involves leading the flock, caring for its needs, and protecting it from danger. I believe a component of shepherding involves teaching. So for the moment I am equating the two.
Jesus of course is our good shepherd (Jn 10.11). He laid down his life for us his sheep and has been raised to new life. Jesus from on high still cares for us. Still, the church needs faithful shepherds and God does provided (Eph 4.11).
Remember were all learning. These are the requirements and warnings for all shepherds.
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4.13-16)
Paul instructs Timothy and thus all people performing a similar role to keep close watch on their teaching. Peoples salvation depends on it.
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (Jas 3.3-5)
Teachers will be judged with greater strictness. James suggests the same standard is not applied to all. Teachers lives and their teaching will come under greater scrutiny. Pray for them.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.