In the reading for today, the Lord is speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, comparing the apostasy of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The Jewish people are in a time of great unfaithfulness chasing after idols and worship of other gods introduced by pagan nations. The Lord’s conclusion is, “Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah.” Not a particularly glowing report for Israel or Judah!
But the Lord God attributes much of the blame to the leaders of the two kingdoms— religious and secular. In the desire for power and security, they have all but abandoned worship of the one true God, “fooling around” with other nations and religious practices. In response, the Lord God calls His faithless children to repent and return—offering mercy and forgiveness if they will acknowledge their guilt and disobedience and return to faith in Him.
And then, God makes a promise. He will give them new shepherds and leaders—new pastors after His own heart, who will feed them with knowledge and understanding, to put them on and keep them on the right path. This is the proper role of shepherds in the Church— not to experiment with every new doctrine that comes along, not to create and innovate, not to lead the Body of Christ to other teachings and gods—but to seek God’s own heart, and to feed the flock with knowledge and understanding. And where do pastors and shepherds, themselves, learn proper knowledge and right understanding? As Jeremiah learned what to speak from God’s own words, shepherds today must speak nothing but that which is contained in God’s own Word—Holy Scripture. All trustworthy knowledge and understanding for faith comes only from Scripture, which God has provided as a means for all ages and generations to hear His voice. Shepherds and pastors may chafe at God’s Word, and pull against it, but when push comes to shove, church leaders who are after God’s own heart can not, dare not depart from Scripture, or offer anything different from what Scripture plainly says.
Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word; curb those who by deceit and sword, would wrest the kingdom from your Son, and bring to naught all He hath done. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.