In this passage, God really comes down hard on the people who had been the political and spiritual leaders of Judah. What was their problem?
God told them,
Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? (2)
The main problem of these “shepherds” was that they were looking to be served, rather than to serve. They used their positions to gain power, money, and prestige, but cared nothing for the people they were placed over. Rather, they took advantage of them.
You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. (3-4)
In other words, they took everything they could from the sheep, but gave nothing back. They did not take care of the weak or heal the sick or search for those that went astray. Rather, they ruled over them like tyrants.
What was the result? With no protector, the sheep were left to the wolves.
So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. (5)
So God told the shepherds, “I hold you accountable for what’s happened to my flock, the people of Israel. I hold you responsible for the fall of Jerusalem, and all the people who have now been scattered among the nations. I will remove you from your position, and I myself will become their shepherd.”
And that’s what God did. He brought all of the Israelites back to their own land by his own power and might. And then Jesus came. When Jesus came down to this earth, he was God in human form. But when he came, He said,
[I] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus came as a servant. A good shepherd. And he loved us so much that he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. And now, by his blood, we who were scattered and separated from God have now been brought near to him. He heals our scars and our wounds, and makes us whole again.
But the question you need to ask yourself is, “What kind of leader are you?”
You might say to me, “Me? A leader? I’m no leader.” But if you have children, you’re a leader to them. If you have a wife, God calls you to be a leader to her. If you’re a boss, you’re a leader to the people under you. And if there are people following you in whatever ministry you do at church, you are definitely a leader.
But whether you’re a leader at church, at home, or at work, Jesus calls us to follow his example. To care for the people under you. To put their needs above your own. To help bring healing where they need healing and give guidance where they need guidance.
That’s what Jesus did for us. Let us do it for each other.