“I Will,” says the Lord

July 22 – Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

by Pastor Pete Scheele

Read Jeremiah 23:1- 6

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Grace and peace to you as you learn from God’s past about your future, from God our Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

If you want a job done right, do it yourself.

Now that may be the right saying and action in some situations, but in other situations I find that I’m not the best one equipped to do the job.  Oh, I might attempt to do the job, the best I can, but that doesn’t always mean that the job is done right.  I’m not the person you want to be quarterbacking or coaching the Denver Broncos, but when the job is not getting done with the winning of a Super Bowl, I know that I’m one of those who have an option on how the job should have been done right.  Often thinking that you have to do every job yourself indicates you’re a poor manager; you haven’t surrounded yourself with good people and trusted them to do their job. The best person to have on your team is God.

If you want a job done right, do it yourself; Sometimes this is an absolutely true statement, because the job is important to you and you have the expertise and the skills to accomplish this task that nobody else does.  Some jobs just mean more to you and you have the drive to do that job with the tender loving care that it needs to get the job done just right.  In most cases this not true but in some, with God’s help, it is.

Getting every job done right is the problem that God has been dealing with ever since the first temptation of sin in the garden of Eden. The devil told Eve, ‘“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.’ (Gen. 3:5-7) Doing a job on your own without God in your life, that’s the temptation that the devil is still offering each of us and when we fall into that temptation we find that the job may get done but not done right.

Through the years, God has entrusted many tasks to His people.  Take for example the nation of Judah in the time of Jeremiah. God had set kings over His people to protect and provide for them.  God had called priest to care for the spiritual needs of their precious souls.  But these leaders of God’s people, who were given a task and the skills to accomplish them had thrown God’s Word out of their lives and thus didn’t get the job done right.  In fact, God tells Jeremiah and us, “Woe to the shepherd who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away and you have not attended to them. Behold, I Will attend to you for your evil deeds,” declares the Lord.  Then I Will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and I Will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  I Will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 23:1- 4)

Did you hear the four “I Wills” that God gives to us in our lives? How God’s main concern when talking to Jeremiah and us is about the shepherd of His people, people who have been given the responsibility of leading and care for His people.  That’s pointing God’s finger right at me, your pastor – your shepherd. But God’s finger is also being pointed right at each of us as parents and grandparent, relatives, friends and the neighbors whom we have a relationship with. Are we the shepherd who has destroyed and scattered the sheep, the people that God has but in our lives to care for?  God says this to us, “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away and you have not attended to them. Behold, I Will attend to you for your evil deeds,” (Jer. 23:2)

In the time of Jeremiah the people had forgotten God’s Word and He allowed His people to be scattered to the ends of the Assyrian empire with the capture of the kingdom of Israel and now the Babylonian empire was doing the same thing with the people of Judah as they were being taken into exile.  Is it just the fault of the king and priests of that time for not keeping the people in God’s Word that God’s wrath let them be conquered by other nations to take them away from their freedom? That’s a question with a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer.  It is the fault of the leaders of that time for not leading the people in God’s Word, but it is also the fault of each person who has God’s Word and promises in their life to share it with their family and friends as God has given them the ability and skills to do so.  That’s our job and God Will attend to each of us for our evil deeds of scattering and driving them away if we done accomplish it.

Now this is quite a threat that God puts on each of us with but there is more, listen, “Then I Will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them,” (Jer. 23:3a) The second ‘I Will’ is a little more encouraging because the finger isn’t pointed at us anymore, but at God. God is going to do what is needed to correct the mistake that we have committed. Though He has driven the people away for a time He has not forgotten them and will bring His Word along with His love, grace and mercy back to them where ever they may be. We may have scattered the sheep by not sharing God’s love, grace and mercy with them, but God is going to be working in their lives through His Word and Sacraments to bring them back to faith in Him. God is working in the lives of those He has given to us, especially those that we have shared God’s Word and sacraments with, but the sad news is that not all of them will let God work through His Word and Sacrament in their lives.  Yes, the sinful nature of each person is the reason that everyone doesn’t come to know the love, grace and mercy that God want to give to us and share in the heavenly home prepared for us for all eternity.

In the third “I Will” God reminds us even more what He is going to do in our lives as we let Him go to work in us, as He says, “And I Will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jer. 23:3) What a joy it is to see someone who had once abandoned their faith in God, come back to the faith with an even greater joy and love for God.  These people know what it is like to live without God’s love, grace and mercy in their lives and through their experience God has given them an even greater desire to share the love, grace and mercy of God with others.  Hopefully it doesn’t take the loss of God’s love, grace and mercy to give each of us the desire share the faith that we have in God with others so that they too can come to know the love, grace and mercy given to us now and forever.

That brings us to the forth “I Will” as God says to us, “I Will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing.” (Jer. 23:4) God is doing this in our lives through the faithful shepherds He has put into each of our lives.  Let me explain what God is talking about through the picture that you have on the front of your bulletin.

This picture hanging in my room to remind me what I have been called to do as a shepherd of one of God’s flocks.  I want you to notice that the shepherd is not walking in the front of the flock or behind the flock, but in the midst of the flock.  I am called to walk with you in this world.  Though God has given me the skills to lead you to the still waters and the rich pastures that enable us to be cared for and flourish in the peace and joy of life with God when we are all listening to God’s Word and following the path that God has given to us. God has brought us to be a flock so that we can protect and help each other.

I want you to also notice that not all the sheep are white. We all turn a little brown at times in our life when we don’t let God’s Word come to live in our life, but that doesn’t mean that we are not a part of the flock but that we need to rely on God hand taking care of the fear and dismay of living in this world, so that we don’t go wandering off onto the wrong path that leads to our destruction.  With God’s Word we work and help each other no matter what happens along the way because our good shepherd has brought us together through His love, grace and mercy and we want to share it.

God has given us the ultimate Good Shepherd as He gave this promise to Jeremiah and the people of that time. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares 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. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jer. 23:5-6)

The Righteous Branch has come in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who lived that perfect life for us, never disobeying God’s Word or scattering those who were given to Him, but sharing God’s Word with them and giving them God’s love, grace and mercy.  Jesus did this even to the point of executing justice and righteousness in the land by dying on the cross of Calvary for all our sins and then rising again on the third day to reign as our king and shepherd now and for all eternity.

Today as we come to hear God’s Word and grow in our faith and love of God, in this worship service and Bible Study, we are guided by the ‘The Lord, who is our righteousness.’  Jesus Christ is the Shepherd that saves us from all our sins and death.  Jesus Christ is the righteous one who enables us to dwell in this world with the security that our heaven home is waiting for us where we will have the perfect love, peace and joy of God with us forever.  This is the hope that we have as shepherds and as sheep in this world and it is worth sharing this hope with all the world for The Lord is our righteousnessand He is waiting for us and looking forward to greeting each of us with open arms wrapped around us in our heavenly home.  Amen.