Read Jeremiah 23:1-8
As Jeremiah penned these words, the once unified nation of Israel was divided. There were the ten northern tribes who retained the name “Israel” and the two southern tribes called “Judah.” But they had not only experienced something of a civil war that separated them from one another. Under the leadership of shepherds in the form of kings and spiritual leaders, they had wandered from God. As a result, the “flock of God” was “scattered.” And God Himself brought His own judgment on the people. Those from Israel, the northern tribes, were taken into exile by the Assyrians while Judah, the southern tribes, were being carted off into Babylonian exile.
Quick sidebar here: There always is a price for sin. We can be sure that our sin will find us out (Num. 32:23). God cannot be mocked. Everyone will reap the results of what they have sown (Gal. 6:7).
In reality, however, Jeremiah was communicating words of hope rather than discouragement. In spite of the scattering caused by the shepherds and the judgment wrought by God, he pointed them to a future day they could anticipate with joy. In that day:
God Himself would gather His people. We have seen this promise fulfilled in part as the Babylonian Exile ended and God’s people returned. We have seen partial fulfillment in the establishment of Israel as a nation in the 1940’s. But a day is coming when even greater fulfillment will come. In that day, they will be fruitful and fearless.
God will place shepherds over them, who will properly care for them. Certainly, people like Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, and others played key roles in the days following the exile. Still coming, however, is the leadership of key people who will be used of God with His people.
God will raise up “David’s righteous Branch.” This, of course, speaks to the return of Jesus Christ and to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7) when our Savior will reign on earth with wisdom, righteousness, and judgment.
Jeremiah, you see, spoke hope into a hopeless situation by pointing Old Testament people to the coming of Jesus. Shouldn’t you find hope today in the expectation of His return?