Good and Bad Shepherds (Jeremiah 23:22)

Jeremiah 23:22 – But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

In Jeremiah 23, God is pronouncing woe on the evil shepherds of his pasture who are destroying his sheep. In Jeremiah’s time, there were men who were supposed to be spiritual leaders of the people. These men refused to tell the people the truth. Instead, for the sake of gain and popularity, these men told the people whatever they wanted to hear. When men did evil, these leaders would tell the people that God would not be upset. When the people did what was contrary to the word of God, the leaders would tell them that their actions were fine.

God points out in verse 22 that the men who are telling everyone that they can live in whatever way that they choose are not speaking from him. God tells us that anyone who has God’s counsel will declare God’s word to God’s people. Any leader who has God’s counsel will be honest enough with the people of God to tell them when they are failing to obey the word of the Lord. Anyone who has God’s counsel will work, using the word of God, to turn the people of God back from evil and toward God’s ways.

This passage was encouraging to me as a pastor this morning. It reminds me well of what my job is. My job is to present the word and the ways of God to the people of God in order to turn the people of God away from sin and toward righteousness. I may not be good at much else. But, if I am to be a faithful shepherd over this little flock (working under Christ, the chief shepherd), I am going to have to present the word of God to the people of God in order that they might walk in the ways of God.

Perhaps you are reading this but are not in a pastoral position. That’s fine. You can encourage your shepherd to be a good one too. Encourage him when he preaches the word of God faithfully. Encourage him, and let him know that you want nothing more than to hear the word of God as God intended it to be heard. Do not assume that he knows that you appreciate his teaching; tell him. And pray for him that God will empower him and encourage him to keep going. And, if for some reason you are listening to a man who refuses to bring the word of God to the people of God, you need to make it a goal to encourage him toward being the kind of shepherd that God says has his counsel, a shepherd who preaches his holy word.

One more thing: make no mistake, this passage is about the inspired word of God. Later in the passage God makes a comparison between those who actually speak his word and those who are merely proclaiming dreams or feelings that they supposedly have had. Do not look for your pastor to communicate to you things that are not written in the Bible. While I do believe that God will, by his Holy Spirit, direct his servants to certain points of truth in his word, I do not assume that this means that your pastor should regularly be receiving new revelations from God. God has given us his word. The Bible is complete and perfect. We dare not add to it. So, encourage your pastor to preach that word of God and not his own gut feelings about things.