Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for July 9

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By Jay T. Robertson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Mobile


Jeremiah 23:1–12

New shepherds (1–4)

Jeremiah understood that Judah’s leaders were responsible for her desperate situation. The prophet called them “shepherds,” a word frequently used in the Bible and the ancient Near East for rulers. By their acts, they were destroying and scattering the sheep of God’s pasture. They were derelict of duty, and they cared more for their own welfare than for the welfare of the sheep. “The sheep of my pasture” refers to the people of Judah for whom the Lord had tender concern and who had been mistreated by their rulers. 

Instead of protecting the people, the leaders were scattering and driving them away. Since the rulers had not attended properly to the sheep, the Lord would attend to them. In other words, the Lord would punish them for the evil acts they had done.

The Lord would assume the role of the shepherd and gather the remnant of his flock from all the foreign lands where He had scattered them. He would return them to their land and make them fruitful. The remnant is mentioned 19 times in Jeremiah. The remnant is that part of Israel that would survive after God’s purging through punishment. 

The Lord would also raise up leaders who would care for His people and protect them, and after 70 years of exile, God raised up some faithful civil and spiritual leaders..

Righteous Branch (5–8) 

The expression “the days are coming” is found 15 times in Jeremiah. It is an announcement of hope for the future. The Lord declared that He “will raise up a righteous Branch for David.” “Branch” is from a word meaning “to grow or sprout.” The term was used to refer to the rightful heir to the throne. He would be a king who would reign wisely and do what was just and right in the land. 

This righteous king will be called “The Lord is Our Righteousness,” perhaps a wordplay on the name Zedekiah, which means “the Lord is righteous.” The new ruler will be the exact opposite of rulers like Zedekiah and Jehoiakim. The coming “righteous Branch” is in contrast to the leaders who would not bring righteousness to the land.   

The passage is clearly messianic. The ultimate ending of exile will take place when the “righteous Branch for David,” the Lord Jesus Christ, comes and secures righteousness and salvation for His people once and for all. 

As surely as the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt, there would be a second exodus by which He would bring his people again to their own land. People would no longer talk about the first exodus because the second would be so much greater.

Impending disaster (9–12)

Jeremiah was heartbroken because of the people’s sins and their misplaced trust in the false prophets. His bones trembled, and he felt as helpless as a drunken man overcome by wine. The people would not listen to the Lord. Instead, they listened to the false prophets who were leading the nation to ruin.

The land was full of adulterers, both literally and spiritually. They were spiritual adulterers because they broke their covenant with the Lord by worshiping Baal with its immoral fertility rites. Rather than receiving rain from Baal, the land was experiencing a severe drought. God will not be mocked. He promised to punish the ungodly prophets and priests for their evil. God will hold leaders accountable.