Jeremiah 23:1-2 pronounces the woe of our Lord’s judgment against ungodly pastors, saying, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.”
However, in a present society that is focused upon and driven by emotionalism, many will interpret this passage within that societal context. Many will view the condemned scattering of the sheep by these pastors as their manner in hurting the feelings of the sheep. Many will view the condemned driving away of the sheep by these pastors as their manner of rudeness toward the sheep. Many will view the condemned lack of visiting the sheep by these pastors as their manner in neglecting to visit the sheep in order to comfort and appease their hurt feelings and emotional burdens.
However, such a perspective of Jeremiah 23:1-2 would not be accurate within the context of Jeremiah 23 itself. Even so, Jeremiah 23:3-8 reveals our Lord’s promise and prophesy unto Israel to provide them with godly shepherds and to raise up the Messiah who will rule for their sake over the earth as “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Then in Jeremiah 22:9-40 the chapter returns to the subject of condemnation against the ungodly pastors (for Israel – ungodly prophets and priests). Herein we find our Lord’s definition concerning their ungodly practice of scattering, driving away, and not visiting the sheep. Furthermore, herein we find our Lord’s fierce wrath against them for this ungodly shepherding.
The Condemned Scattering – Scattering from Obedience to the Lord
First, the ungodly pastors are condemned for scattering the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. Yet in what way were they scattering the sheep? They were doing so by teaching the sheep to disobey the Lord’s Word, and thus by scattering the sheep from obedience to the Lord. In Jeremiah 23:11 the Lord condemns them, saying, “For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.” Then in Jeremiah 23:13 the Lord continued has condemnation, saying, “And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.” These ungodly pastors were not feeding the sheep with the truth of God’s Holy Word. Rather, they were causing the sheep, through their false teaching, to err from the truth of God’s Holy Word. This is the manner in which these ungodly pastors were scattering the sheep. They were scattering the sheep from an obedient and faithful walk with the Lord into spiritual error and disobedience against the Lord. Indeed, our Lord’s estimation of such scattering is that it is spiritual folly, ungodly wickedness, and profane leadership.
The Condemned Driving Away – Driving Away unto Settled Rebellion
Second, the ungodly pastors are condemned for driving away the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. Yet in what way were they driving away the sheep? They were doing so by strengthening the sheep in the ways of disobedience and rebellion against the Lord. In Jeremiah 23:14 the Lord condemned them, saying, “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.” These ungodly pastors did not minister in order to call the disobedient to repent of their wickedness and to return unto the Lord. Rather, they strengthened the hand of the disobedient evildoers within their wicked character and conduct. Indeed, they not only taught the sheep to sinfully disobey; they also taught the sheep to stubbornly remain in rebellion without repentance. This was the manner in which these ungodly pastors were driving away the sheep. There were driving them away from repentance of sinful character and conduct unto settled and stubborn rebellion against the Lord.
Indeed, Jeremiah 23:16-18 reveals the false message that these ungodly pastors were delivering unto those who walked in disobedience and rebellion. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” These ungodly pastors were teaching those who despised the Lord through sinful disobedience and stubborn rebellion that they would experience peace, peace. They were teaching those walked after the ways of their own heart in rejection and rebellion of the Lord and His ways that the evil of the Lord’s chastening and judgment would not fall upon them. Yet the Lord’s true message to the sinfully disobedient and stubbornly rebellious was just the opposite, as revealed in Jeremiah 23:19-20 – “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.” Even so, our Lord’s estimation of such driving away is that it is spiritual profaneness and falsehood that only makes the sheep spiritually vain.
The Condemned Lack of Visiting – Not Visiting with the Call to Repentance
Third, the ungodly pastors are condemned for not visiting the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. Yet in what way were they not visiting the sheep? They were not doing so by not calling the sheep unto repentance of their sinful disobedience and stubborn rebellion. In Jeremiah 23:22 confronted them with that which they should have been doing, but were not doing, saying, “But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.” They should have visited the sheep with the call of repentance to turn them from their evil character and conduct. Instead, as was revealed in Jeremiah 23:16-18, they were visiting the disobedient, rebellious sheep with a false promise of peace and with a false denial of judgment.
Thus in Jeremiah 23:25-27 the Lord condemned these ungodly shepherds, saying, “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.” Yet again in Jeremiah 23:30-32 the Lord condemned them, saying, “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” Indeed, these ungodly pastors caused the sheep to continue in spiritual error with their lies and with their lightness. They delivered a message of lightness, rather than a message of hardness. They delivered a false message to promise peace within wickedness, rather than a true message to call unto repentance of wickedness. Thus our Lord’s estimation of this lack of Biblical visiting is that it is spiritual lying and deceit that only steal the true Word of the Lord from the sheep and cause the sheep to forget the name of Lord.
Oh, how I earnestly pray that I will never become such a pastor as this. Oh, how I am greatly burdened that my beloved country is filled with many pastors as this. “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.” (Jeremiah 23:9)
Posted in Meditations in Jeremiah, Rebellion against God, Judgment of Our Lord, Godly Leadership, Word of God