International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 19, 2012
Purpose: To reflect on what it means to live now as citizens of the coming kingdom of God
Scripture Text: Jeremiah 23:1-6 & Jeremiah 33:14-18 (NRSV)
(1) Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. (2)Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. (3) Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. (4) 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. (5) The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (6) In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
(14)The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (15) In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (16) In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness." (17) For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, (18) and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Undoubtedly, Jeremiah is the greatest figure of this period, which is the period between the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, a period of about 200 years.
Jeremiah was a descendant of the priests of Anathoth, a village about three miles north of Jerusalem. He was called to prophesy when he was a child and began in the 13th year of Josiah's reign. (Jeremiah 1) Jeremiah was commanded not to marry. Josiah made a valiant effort to clean up the land and remove the idol worship that was going on. And during Josiah's reign the Law of the LORD was found in the temple.
Jeremiah's prophecies were not popular; they consistently pointed to a time when Babylon would come and destroy Jerusalem and the temple. As long as Josiah was alive, Jeremiah was able to council the king, but after Josiah died Jeremiah was not longer allowed to speak in public. So Jeremiah wrote his messages and had them delivered to the public by his trusted servant Baruch. Often Jeremiah was in stocks or in prison but he continued to minister to the people of Jerusalem until the end. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah opposed a movement by a portion of the remnant to go down to Egypt.
Our text is from a time when Jeremiah was trying to warn the people about leaders both of the government and the ones who were suppose to be leading the Jews spiritually. When we apply it to today's economy we see it speaking to us.
We are both the shepherds and the flock, we are called to be a part of God's plan to build and shepherd the world and also to be part of the world. Jeremiah could see a time in the future where a branch from the tree of David would come and rule and give a period of peace to Jerusalem.
As we look forward we now know with confidence that Christ will come and reign not only as king but also as priest, as promised in Jeremiah 33:17 & 18.
An interesting side note is that after the captivity and return and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, not much is written about the nation of Israel or Judah ever serving idols again. The serving and worship of idols was the destroying force behind both Israel and Judah.