In 627 B.C., a young priest in the southern kingdom of Israel heard God’s call to be a prophet. Born in Anatoth, three miles northeast of Jerusalem, Jeremiah’s ministry spanned 40 turbulent years. He witnessed firsthand the death of his nation.
His king, Josiah, had come to the throne 15 years earlier at the tender age of 8. Josiah’s wicked father, Amon, ruled only 2 years before being assassinated at the age of 24.
When Josiah was only 16 years old, he began to seek the Lord. Following the rediscovery of the Word of God, he instituted a series of spiritual reforms that temporarily turned some of the nation from idolatry back to the Lord.
But the revival under Josiah was short lived. He died in 609 B.C.; killed by the Egyptian army at the valley of Meggido. From that day till now Jews view the valley of Meggido as a decisive turning point of a lost battle and lost righteousness. Four short years later (605 B.C.), it was bag packing time for those in Jerusalem as the first deportation to Babylon occurred under the cruel Nebuchadnezzar. The Southern kingdom was coming to an end.
Throughout this time of national upheaval, Jeremiah preached the Word of God. For the most part, the leaders and people rejected his preaching. Jeremiah suffered because the leaders of his nation and his temple were ungodly and incompetent. They had led the nation into idolatry.
Listen to Jeremiah’s indictment in Jeremiah 10:21:
For the shepherds have become senseless [stupid], and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper and all their flocks shall be scattered.
The “shepherds” are the spiritual leaders, including the king, the priests, and the prophets.
The shepherd analogy is the pivotal analogy of the Old Testament for God’s relationship to his people. This term is the personal analogy used by Jesus in the Gospels. He said: “I am the good shepherd.” It is the proper analogy used in the epistles to describe the role of the pastor.
Jeremiah uses a stunning word in Hebrew to describe these shepherds: ba’ar – “stupid, senseless.” The word is used of an animal that is deficient in moral and spiritual things. It refers to those who do not fear the Lord or desire his wisdom. They are senseless and stupid. Jeremiah would agree with Forrest Gump: “stupid is as stupid does.”
How did this deplorable condition occur? They became stupid because they did not darash, “seek” the Lord. This word is the focal point of the verse.
It occurs 165 times in the OT, mostly in the sense of seeking after the Lord. It means “to seek with diligence.” Three primary aspects are observed in the various contextual uses of this word.
- There is the volitional aspect. Ezra 7:10 – “Ezra determined in his heart to seek the law of the Lord….”
- There is the emotional aspect. Psalm 119:10: “with all my heart I have sought you.”
- There is the intellectual aspect. Isaiah 34:16 – “Seek from the book of the Lord.”
Darash denotes the element of “research, investigation, study.”
Two consequences follow from not “seeking” the Lord.
First, the shepherds shall not sachal – “prosper.” This word denotes the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thoughts resulting in wise action and use of practical common sense. The end result: success.
But in Jeremiah 10:21, the shepherds have no success. In fact, all their flocks will be putz (poots) – “scattered,” a favorite word of Jeremiah.
Good king Josiah came to the throne after 57 years of his father’s and grandfather’s evil reigns. They had led the nation into idolatry. Idolatry is the quintessence of virtual reality – an image based worship. The first case of idolatry in Israel occurred when Moses returned with the 10 commandments and found the golden calf. Think of the difference: a golden calf – image, the 10 commandments – Word.
The false prophets in Jeremiah’s day offered people visual imagery over the Word of the Lord. An idol is visual but it is not real.
Josiah began a spiritual reformation that was a return to the Word of God. He began to tear down the idols. The revival that occurred in Josiah’s day was Word-based! It was a rediscovery of the Word that brought revival and the destruction of idols. He destroyed the virtual reality, the idols, in order to give people back true reality — God and His Word!
Jeremiah is preeminently the prophet of the “Word.” Almost one half of the occurrences of the phrase “thus says the Lord” appear in Jeremiah.
One problem with preaching today is that too many preachers are not “seeking” the Lord in the study and exposition of the Word. Some of today’s preaching offers people virtual reality, not reality. In one sense it is idolatrous preaching.
In preaching, we come face to face with the living Word, Jesus, when we are confronted with His written word, the Scriptures. Experiencing God does not work apart from textual content, but through it. Fellowship with Jesus is “textually mediated.”
We seek God and meet God in and through His Word.
So . . . seek the Lord by preaching the Word . . . or experience a three-fold loss:
- Personal Loss – Stupid preachers
- Professional Loss – Success loss
- Pastoral Loss – Scattered sheep