"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" says the Lord.
I know very little about sheep. I grew up on a farm, but we didn’t have sheep. In the lesson on "The Good Shepherd" from John 10, I learned that a good shepherd knows each sheep by name. Just as all our domestic animals have names, so do the sheep in a sheepfold. The Good Shepherd knows when one is missing, and leaves the others to go and search for the one lost sheep. Jesus, The Good Shepherd, lays down his life for his flock.
In contrast to the Good Shepherd, the "shepherds," or leaders, from Jeremiah’s day were evil.
The political leaders were corrupt and led the entire nation in worshiping idols. Even some church leaders were corrupt and self-serving, not caring for the people. Jeremiah warns, "Woe to those who scatter the sheep of God’s pasture" — those who mislead God’s own sheep.
I can think of many words I would want to hear coming from the mouth of the Lord Almighty, but "woe" is not on that list. It’s one thing to experience the Grace of a loving God, but another entirely to experience God’s "woe" of judgment.
In our lives, we desire God’s grace. We talk about God’s mercy and pass along "grace and peace" to others. We tend to forget that, without judgment, grace would be cheap and worthless. It’s because of God’s grace that we can have life through Jesus Christ, but only because Jesus came to offer his life for sin, and along with it, the judgment on that sin. Jesus came to face the "woe" of judgment on sin for each of us so we could experience God’s love and grace. He lay down his life for his sheep. Have you experienced God’s grace through trusting in Jesus, The Good Shepherd?
The Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.covingtonfirst.org.