Jeremiah 10:21 For the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.
Verses like the one above, reach up and slap me in the mornings when I am reading the lessons. Before 1992, I might have thought a bit about them. But after ordination as a pastor, a “shepherd”, the words are like a double shot of expresso, They perk you up.
All through Jeremiah he talks about the sins of the people. They’ve made false Gods. The people who know that every grain of sand, and every star in the heavens were made by the true God, have surrendered to worshipping trashy trinkets. And God is not pleased.
But it is the shepherds who have missed the boat. God says “They’ve become dull of heart, and stopped seeking the LORD.” That is the reason why things are going wrong and now the people are being scattered.
It is as though God is saying, “If the clergy had been really doing what they were supposed to do, the flock would not be doing the things they aren’t supposed to do.”
Of course the shepherds of Jeremiah’s day include the king, and the other officials of government as well.
Yet the visceral impact remains. Do I really want to inquire of the LORD? He may ask me to say some things that aren’t going to be popular. He may ask me to challenge certain cultural certainties. I may even have to use the “S” word. Sin!
This coming week I’m headed to the annual Lenten Clergy Retreat. It’s always in the third or fourth week of Lent. Unlike some of our other clergy gatherings, it is optional. It is a very inconvenient time. But my hope is that I will spend time and “inquire of the LORD.”
Perhaps the prayer at the end of today’s passage is because Jeremiah himself is one of the shepherds and knows all too well his own weakness.
Jeremiah 10:24 “Correct me, O LORD, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.” Amen. Amen.