“Woe be Unto the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23-25)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

As a pastor, I find the opening verses of Jeremiah 23 disturbing. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1).  In addition to priests, numbered among the “pastors” were most likely the king and civil servants of his realm. Rather than benevolent men who shepherded the people in love and obedience to God’s Word, the pastors had abused and scattered the people. They had failed to “visit,” meaning to shepherd, oversee, or care for the people (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

The LORD did not leave Judah without hope, and declared a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which shall feed [His people]: and they shall fear no more…neither shall they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who is this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage of David? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill this prophecy and He would be the Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Though Israel exists as a nation today, it is not righteous and its government is secular. There is no king who is of David’s lineage or reigns in righteousness. However, when Christ comes as Judge and conquering King, He will gather His people to their land from “out of the north country, and from all countries” where they have been scattered (23:8).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – The False Prophets and Their Error

Knowing the judgment that His people would suffer, Jeremiah writes, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of the nation, and in a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people: “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and the prophet and priest were hypocrites, “profane,” polluted and corrupt (23:11, 23:13).

The sins of the nation were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Engrossed in their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for God’s Message and Messenger

Embracing the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed God’s prophet. The LORD instructed Jeremiah, when the people, their prophets and priests ask, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concludes with a stern warning to any who pretended to bear “the burden of the LORD” as His messenger:

Jeremiah 23:39b-40 – “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.”

James states a similar warning to preachers and teachers of God’s Word (James 3:1).

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

The work of the preacher is a great calling, as is the opportunity of teaching God’s Word. Whether a pastor or a lay Bible teacher, it is a privilege to teach God’s Word; however, we dare not treat it lightly for we will face the greater judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith