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Jeremiah 23:1-8

23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

“So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”
(Jeremiah 23:1-8 NIV)

Chapter 22 listed God’s expectations of a king (administering righteousness and justice), then measured each of the recent kings against His standard.  Josiah passed with flying colors, but all his descendants failed miserably.

The first eight verses of Chapter 23 are a follow-up to Chapter 22.  There are three sub-sections to these verses:

  • The summary of the kings’ performance (vv. 1-4)
  • The coming King announced (vv. 5-6)
  • The promise of hope and restoration (vv. 7-8)

Verses 1 – 4 list the woes (proclamations) against the recent kings after Josiah.  This most likely included Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s successor.  While the passage does not call out a specific date or time, the context of chapter 22 provides a general timeframe.

In the Old Testament, the word “shepherd” was often used to refer to a king.  The king’s role was to administer righteousness and justice in the land and among the people.  In verses 1 – 2, the Lord says He will shepherd the kings in the same way they have shepherded the people.  The flocks had scattered and been driven away to foreign lands due to the unrighteous kings; the same will happen the kings.

In verses 3 – 4, the Lord says He will provide shepherds that will protect and care for His people as He intended.  He will gather His sheep (His people) from far-flung regions to His Promised Land.  Once He gathers His flock again, they will be fruitful and multiply, and will be accounted for, protected, and at peace.

Verses 5 – 6 list the particulars of a coming King who will administer righteousness and justice according to God’s standard.  He will be a descendant of King David, reestablishing God’s promise to keep someone from David’s family legacy on the throne over both Israel and Judah.

God gives this Shepherd and King a name in verse 6:  “The Lord Our Righteous Savior”.  This name was a stinging satirical play on words to King Zedekiah, as “Zedekiah” meant “Righteousness is The Lord.”  Zedekiah was anything but what his name proclaimed.

Obviously, the Lord’s reference to the coming King is to The Messiah, Jesus.  We see all the prophecies of verses 5 – 6 fulfilled in this one man (and so much more).  Is this passage why Jesus refers to Himself as the “Good Shepherd” (John Chapter 10)?  Something to meditate on and ponder…

In verses 7 – 8, the Lord gives a word of encouragement to His people.  Even though they have not obeyed the Lord and the Lord has scattered them, He will restore them to their homeland one day.  And God will get even greater glory for restoring His people from many countries than He did by bringing them out of Egypt.

May we take heart in the Lord as our Shepherd (Psalm 23) who laid down His life for us (John 10:14-15).

May we abide in our Great Shepherd’s righteousness and justice.  And may we offer the same care and concern for our neighbor as the Lord gives us.


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