Reading in Jeremiah 3 this morning, I came across this wonderful verse:
“Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
This passage is packed with spiritual truth. We see the need for repentance, the relationship of those who do so with the LORD, election of those who are called by Him, and even their destination to Zion. But what jumped out at me was the fact that He will call shepherds according to His heart and for the purpose of feeding His people with knowledge and understanding.
Who are those who are shepherds according to His heart? Quite simply, those who love to teach and preach His word. Notice I didn’t say those who love to “teach and preach.” The focus has to be on what is taught and what is preached. The focus has to be on His word.
This is why so many fail in the pulpits today. They don’t realize that they are charged with preaching His word and think their job is to meet the congregant’s felt needs. This is why so many pastors are more like family counselors and life coaches. They focus on helping us make it through this life in a way that will lead to achieving the American Dream (which is really a nightmare once you start chasing it).
But this is never God’s goal in our lives. We are not saved and redeemed so we can pursue the American Dream. We are saved and redeemed so we can worship the living and true God of the Bible and be conformed to the image of His Son. We are to gather together in order to worship Him and to be reminded of all His great works in history that were done so that we might be saved. This is why we are given memorials in our worship. This is why we are to celebrate communion every Sunday. Jesus wants us to remember His act upon the cross and be reminded of what He has done on our behalf. We need this reminder. We need the gospel. We need Christ, and communion is one of those ways that we are caught up into His presence and fed spiritually.
Many churches fail in this regard because they ignore what God has given shepherds the charge of doing. They think the time on Sunday morning is to be focused on bringing in the lost. I wish I could convey how wrong this is. We are not to gather in order to bring the lost in. Once you start doing that, then you get away from the means of grace and the regulative principle in worship because the focus is on what the lost want instead of what the saved need.
The True Shepherd told us when reinstating Peter that the shepherd’s role is to “feed His Sheep.” In fact, when the Great I Am prays in the upper room, He specifically says he is not praying for those who are not His sheep. His sheep are the ones the shepherd is to preach to, and seek to feed, not the lost.
I’m not saying that the lost will not be found in the midst of this. But the lost are not the focus of worship, God is, and the lost don’t worship God. Only the true sheep know the Shepherds voice and hear it when the word is preached.
Shepherds according to His heart know this truth. They know that the most beneficial thing they can do every Sunday is to proclaim God’s word faithfully. Coupled with the Spirit of God and His power, we hear from Christ on a spiritual level. This is not the fluttering in our tummy that we so often attribute to spiritual things. But a truly spiritual feeding of God’s word for our spiritual lives. It’s a means of God’s grace toward us to nurture and feed us. We need to be fed spiritually every week by the preaching of God’s word. This is why He calls some to be pastors/teachers, so that we can feed the people of God.
To think that so many pulpits (well, that is not accurate since so few use pulpits any longer) are filled with temporal ditties to tickle the ears is heartbreaking. The people of God need to be fed with knowledge and understanding of God’s word, not more cultural clutter from Dr. Phil.
By being obedient to God’s call to preach and teach God’s word, true spiritual blessings will flow forth. Jeremiah goes on to say, “No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.” And later, “And you shall swear, ‘The LORD lives,” in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him and in Him they shall glory.”
To the true believer, these words are pure gold. We know that He truly does live. We know that the resurrection is real. We know He is on the throne ruling all things. We know Him and He knows us. We know His love, correction, rebuke, discipline and gentleness. We know a glimpse of the glory to come in forsaking this world and the enticements it offers. We know the greater joy of our future hope, in Him.
The unbeliever wants none of these things. He may want some of the benefits we enjoy, but he doesn’t want God’s glory. This is why it is so important for God’s shepherds to preach the word faithfully. After all, if we tailor our message to the lost, the lost will remain lost. So why trouble ourselves by going there?
Sadly, however, far too many in the pulpits are far too concerned for their temporal comfort to truly proclaim the word faithfully. If that is the case, then the man in the pulpit is not a true shepherd according to the Heart of God, just another savage wolf dressed up in fine apparel in order to fool the lost and lead them in the broad road to destruction.