Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter
the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord.
I will raise up shepherds over them
who will shepherd them,
and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed,
nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
—Jeremiah 23.1, 4
Ancient Israel was satisfied to trust that God appointed kings.
We aren’t so naïve.
It’s our choice.
Then what might this scripture mean for us,
who have chosen a shepherd,
and see a lot of destroying and scattering going on,
a lot of fear and dismay,
and some missing, or threatened with it?
Jesus shows us: the shepherds won’t be kings.
They will be the humble but courageous
who speak and act for justice and mercy,
who receive power not by coronation
but by the anointing of the Spirit.
We won’t look to the powers to save us.
We will look to one another to tend us.
And God will give might to their compassion,
and fill their shepherding with power.
God will dwell within their struggle for justice,
and speak in their voices.
God will raise up shepherds who set free the oppressed
and bind up the brokenhearted—
in their wounds and to each other—
who resist those who destroy and scatter,
who tend to those who are fearful or dismayed or missing.
God will anoint them and raise them up
and they will be the shepherds who heal the people,
and justice and mercy will rule.
The prophet’s cry is not a promise of comfort.
This is a call to action.