July 29, 2018
Pastor John Hering
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
The baby cries at 3:00 am and the tired mom and dad pry themselves out of bed impress upon us the need to care for others. A man juggles his priorities in order to be a caring husband, father and manager. A big brother or sister is called upon to be a caring babysitter….again. Aging parents need more supervision. You all understand the times when we are called upon to care for someone else. You might also feel like a Styrofoam cup all filled up with love and concern for others, but every time there is a demand on your love and concern it feels like a pencil being poked into your side and whatever you have to offer comes pouring out. Pretty soon your giving so much in every direction you look like a spiraling lawn sprinkler showering a thirsty Texas lawn in July! Have you ever gotten to the point of running on empty? You know, wondering if you can give any more? Today’s Word of God is the faucet that will open up to floodgates and fill you up to
Be The Caregiver God Wants You To Be
Like a Shepherd
There’s no hiding the fact that the first words spoken by God through the prophet Jeremiah are tough words to preach on.
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.”
The Shepherd being a picture of our gracious Lord is used throughout Scripture (stained glass). God loves his flock and gives this stern warning to anyone who would scatter them. Notice it says, “Declares the Lord!” Our God wants us to know that these are not the prophet Jeremiah’s thoughts. Neither are these the thoughts of a questionable Lutheran preacher. These are the Lord God’s very own expectations, judgments and promises. Unarguable. Undeniable.
“ 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.”
You realize that since the days of Moses God had established his theocracy – that he would rule his people through his prophets, priests and kings. But, you can all tell the stories of their failures to lead and feed God’s flock. Aaron build the Golden Calf for Israel, King Saul sought the advice of a witch. The prophet Samson sold his strength to a lying woman. Worse than neglecting their duties and falling asleep on the job, they acted like wolves instead of shepherds and actively lead God’s flock away from their Shepherd by their wicked behavior (Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaz and Jehoiakim). Jeremiah listed up their sins later on in this chapter:
“They…use their power unjustly. They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. They commit adultery and live a lie… ungodliness has spread through the land. They do not benefit this people in the least.”
The caregivers of Israel cared alright…they cared for themselves and their own sinful pleasures. They didn’t pay attention to God, so now God was paying attention to them.
“I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.”
You see God in this action. First, God’s holy anger flared up against selfish, sinful ambition. Second, you recognize the Lord’s concern to keep his faithful ones from harm!
God’s calls you and me to be caregivers today. It includes roles like spouse, parent, brothers, sisters, grown children to aging parents. It also includes being good managers of our blessings outside the home at our profession, education, personal health, and also to being a member of our church. To say it simply, God has called us all to be a faithful caregiver to those in our life. We can’t hardly speak these words without thinking of Jesus’ example in the Good Samaritan. If we pass by someone who is truly in need of help, we are turning our noses up to God’s command to be a good caregiver to others. Rather than praying with a child you only punish them. You mock and poke fun at the less popular kid as school. You brush off the poor and needy as good for nothing lazy people. You huddle together at church in the safety of your friends and family while ignoring the lonely visitor sitting by themselves. Therefore, as the Lord warned of his punishment on the condemned caregivers of Jeremiah’s day, so we also deserve nothing but God’s punishment. God has every right to drive us away and replace us, like He replaced them.
And replace us he did! The Lord God sent Jesus to be our replacement and substitute, our Perfect Caregiver. Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, gladly cared for us like he cared for his scared disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee. He prayed for those who hurt him and helped those who threatened him. He welcomed the little children, even though his disciples thought Jesus was too busy for children. Our Good Shepherd Jesus showed special love and concern for those of different social class, culture and color. Who can forget perhaps one of the greatest examples at the cross. There Jesus turns to the repentant thief who likely did horrible crimes and lacked any love or concern for others. Jesus’ love for others filled up his heart—and he never got a chance to go out and love others—and just died to awaken in Paradise as God’s forgiven child. The same is true for you. Except we have the opportunity to share the forgiveness and love of Jesus with others. You are strengthened by Jesus, the perfect Shepherd, to be like a shepherd and Be The Caregiver God Wants You To Be!
You now recognize the reason we used Psalm 23 today. King David was one of the greatest shepherds in the Bible. He was also one of the greatest kings. While he had his sins, he is also known for his compassion and commitment to God’s people. So, while we seek to care for others, let’s do so
Like a King
Undoubtedly David’s early training as a shepherd helped him develop into the kind of king that people love—wise, caring, yet powerful and firm. Of course he was only foreshadowing Jesus Christ who sits on the throne of heaven over all powers. Jeremiah spoke like this:
“5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”
Jesus is the king who reigns wisely as he cares for our needs more than our personal wants. He understands our weaknesses and fear because he’s been tempted to turn away and even tempted with frustration at the lack of faith and understanding by God’s people. Jesus is our King who we will see on Judgment Day with a smile on his face saying,
“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Now, just stop and think about this. Because Jesus is our King who has defeated the power of Satan, the curse of sin and death over us, because he died and rose again, through the channel of faith we have the gracious gift from God who declares us not guilty. While we know our sins, our failures and faults, the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness take away all our sin, guilt, shame and curse of hell, we also know Jesus, the Perfect Caregiver who has completely cared for us. Listen to God’s declaration of his love for us in action!
“3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.”
Praise the Lord!
“Praise the Lord!” To praise him means to share his glory, majesty, love and forgiveness with someone else. Think of it while I read you this account “First, her mother fell and broke her hip. Then she had surgery. Finally, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Juggling her mother’s needs with the demands of a newborn baby. Lisa joined her sister in caring for their mother before she died. But while her sister accepted her own limitations, Lisa could not. ‘My sister says we did enough, and in reality we probably did. But I think, well, I could have let Mother stay at my house more often,’ says Lisa. ‘Maybe that would have made me feel I was doing everything possible. But at the time – after 14 years of infertility and eight miscarriages – I just wanted to be with my newborn son. It all seemed overwhelming.’ Sound familiar trying to balance husband, family, job, children, love, caregiving and guilt? The article goes on, “Over 52 million Americans care for a disabled, sick, or elderly family member, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And although most bear their burden with love, social workers say caregiving is so demanding that people often feel guilty and inadequate.” Maybe you feel like Lisa. Whatever you did or didn’t do for someone, you always felt guilty.
So, how can we ever be the caregiving spouse, parent, manager or student God wants us to be? If you’re like me, you might be feeling rather beaten down right now. Caring for others is so demanding. We are not denying that. But, as people who are shepherds and kings, yes, who live under the Good Shepherd and King of Kings as his sons and daughters, our guilt and failures to care properly for others isn’t just determined by our actions or attitude, but by Jesus who serves in our place.
Jesus is our perfect Substitute and his perfect Caregiving Life he gives to us in God’s sight. And our failures, sinful neglect and heart pounding guilt Jesus took to the cross on our behalf. Listen carefully.
“they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.”
This is God’s promise to you in Christ. In Christ you are declared guilty of nothing in God’s sight. In Christ you are the perfect spouse, parent, manager and student. Now, live what God has made you. Whether you’re a mom at 3 am, dad, husband, manager, babysitting brother or sisters, or taking care of your aging parents… leave God’s house today eager and ready to serve as Christ gives you strength, forgives what you fail, and rejoices in your loving caretaking of others. Grace upon grace, leave here today as God’s Perfect Caregiver and give the best care you can as God’s shepherd and king for Jesus’ sake. Amen!