The Kind of Shepherds God Raises Up (Part 1) – Jeremiah 23:4
- The Kind of Shepherds God Raises Up (Part 2) – Jeremiah 23:4
- The Kind of Shepherds God Raises Up (Part 1) – Jeremiah 23:4
- Woe to the Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:1 (Part 1)
- Woe to the Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:1 (Part 2)
- God’s Response to False Shepherds – Jeremiah 23:2
- Hope for Hurting Sheep – Jeremiah 23:3
I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
This verse refers to a future day, a glorious day, when all will be set right for the Jews who were oppressed by false religious leaders. Thankfully, our beloved believers will also find rest at this time, for they will be in the bosom of their Beloved and find security in the true Shepherd. Still, just as we are to live in the light before the full day dawns (Romans 13:12), so we are to pray for shepherding that meets the quality of a future day. The men of vanity are all around, and they are leading God’s precious people astray—wounding their spirits, quenching their vigor, deceiving their minds, and corrupting their hearts. In this generation—perhaps the last one before Christ comes—let us strive to finish well in the area so corrupted over two millennia, that is, the area of tender, truthful, and godly leadership: shepherding. What, then, are the characteristics of a godly ministry ordained by God?
The shepherds will be raised up by God. God is intervening in this whole chapter. He takes things into His own hands, out of the hands of men. Thus, He says, “I will also raise up shepherds.” No more will man appoint himself. No more will men elevate other men for political reasons. All will be subject to the standard of godliness. All will rule for the right reasons. All will love with the love of the Saviour.
If the leadership across Christianity will finish well, it must be governed by God alone. Therefore, only God’s pattern will do. Denominational conventions must cease. The single-pastor system must go. Deacon-boards must dissolve. Bishops, priests, hierarchy, politics—all must go in order that the simplicity of the first-century pattern might prevail. A plurality of elders who are equal in authority, active in teaching, accountable to God alone, operating by the Word of God alone, and leading an autonomous assembly is the only way to see Biblical eldership prevail and Christlike shepherding revive.
But it will be more than a form that revives among us. The personal burden of God’s Word will be felt by individual men who know their duty is to do or die. Men will have such strong dealings in the divine presence that they will mark every step with fear, knowing that someday they will stand before fiery eyes and a sharp sword. They will not be qualified by the seminary but the sanctuary. They will not be prominent in popular Christianity, but they will have the approval of God—the thing that mattered most to them.
To men who are not yet leaders but feel the need and burden of godly shepherding, there are two things to expect, and they are seen in the two phrases “raise up” and “over them.”
In the first place, God must prepare men for the ministry. He must raise them up. If a man does not feel the approval of God in activities besides leadership, he will not have the approval of God in leadership. God is just as much with the man of God in his preparation as He is in his service. Leadership comes upon no one in a moment of time. It is trained by personal discipline, life experience, and sought-out mentorship. To be a leader is to have been a follower. To be a teacher is to have been a learner. That is why the text says God raises men “up” not “over.” It is a progressive thing, a growing thing. Would you be useful in God’s assembly? Be useful in your workplace. Be competent as a father. Be ready as a husband. No one can erect a building unless bricks are laid on top of one another; the highest brick cannot be laid first. So, our lives are full of bricks, and they must go in sequence according to God’s providence and design. Do well what comes first so that you may succeed when you must do what comes last and demands the expertise of all your past experience. If you feel a call to the ministry—oh, that more would feel it!—don’t aim for the ministry. Aim for a perfected life, and God will perfect your calling in due time. He must raise you up. One may ask, “How do I know if God is raising me up?” Try to run from the ministry or at least yield to a “normal” life; if you can’t do it, that probably means you are meant for the ministry. God’s servants are often reluctant, yet God will ensure clarity when He purposes to raise up a man for Himself.
Secondly, when a man is installed into leadership, he is “over” the flock of God. Some take this “over” to imply lordship over the assembly, but 1 Peter 5 completely annuls that idea. There is no Lord nor Head over any assembly except the Christ Who bought it. No, to be “over” God’s sheep means one is in front of the flock, leading by example; and it means one is above the flock in accountability directly to God. The power-hungry ought not to drool over the idea of being “over” God’s people, for it demands a higher spirituality and unfiltered accountability. “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall incur the stricter judgment.” To be over an assembly is for God to see us first before He sees the assembly. Therefore, when God wants to deal with an assembly, He must deal with us beforehand. That is not a position to be coveted for any reason except the unswerving call of God. Not only that, but when we fail personally, it is seen in a more serious light since it will factor into our example for the whole body. God purposefully outweighs the privileges of leadership with the duties of leadership so that a man will remain humble, not thinking of his position over the flock so much as he trembles at the thought of being directly under God. You can always tell an ungodly man if he thinks of his authority before he thinks of his accountability.