Friday, August 17, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 19, 2012

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(The LORD is our righteousness)
(Jeremiah 23:1-8 & 33:14-18)

In the Greek, the word used for “thief”, in John chapter 10, is “kleptes” (klep-tace), and it describes “one who takes by stealth, or by covert means”. By contrast, the Greek word used there for “robber” is “lestes” (lace-tace), and it describes “one who takes by force”. The thief, that JESUS is alluding to in that passage of Scripture, could be any of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day, who took by subtle and unsuspecting methods. The robber, that JESUS makes mention of, can be likened to any of the Romans, who took by force, or stole from the Israelites by imposing their will, authority, and power upon them.
It was those kinds of leaderships that JESUS sought to expose and put an end to forever. And it was certainly not the kind of leadership that HE intended for HIS new upcoming Christian Church. Perhaps there is no more endearing image of JESUS in all of Scripture, than the one HE presents of HIMSELF as the “Good Shepherd” in John chapter 10. The imagery of the Good Shepherd is forever woven in the minds and hearts of all who believe in CHRIST JESUS. The Bible is rife with passages that use the analogy of the loving Shepherd as a provider and protector of that which he oversees. He is one who risks his life to seek and save, even that one straying sheep, who may have separated itself from his beloved flock.
The leaders of the Christian church must also be likened to the good Shepherd, and the members of their congregation, can be likened to the flock. It is the duty of the pastor to spiritually lead, and feed his flock with the nourishing food of the word of GOD. He must, do so, willingly and eagerly, without constraints, not for the love of money, nor, for the power that he has obtained, through his position. He must lead by example, and his behavior must paint a picture of the patience and love of GOD, our LORD and SAVIOR, through JESUS CHRIST.
In Jeremiah 23, verses 1-8, the prophet, through a message from GOD, summarizes the actions of a succession of unGODly Davidic Kings, as being like that of “unrighteous shepherds” who were destroying and scattering GOD’s sheep. Here GOD says that HE will bring disaster upon such leaders because they had harmed and scattered the very people that GOD had placed them there to protect and care for.
Jeremiah’s writings are, perhaps the most intensely emotional writings in Scripture. They are rather difficult for the casual reader to comprehend, probably, because they are, in fact, a collection of sermons that were preached by him over a twenty-year span. This book is laced with powerful oracles that express his deep personal feelings and reactions to the events of his day.
Here in chapter 23 Jeremiah looks forward to the first advent of the MESSIAH, WHO, will do what is right and just in the eyes of GOD. GOD gives Jeremiah several prophecies about the false prophets of his day, who were using their self-proclaimed powers from GOD to rule over people unjustly.
In every era of society there have been men and women, false prophets, who claim to have gotten their messages from the LORD. It is quite difficult to discern who those false prophets and teachers are, unless you yourself, know and understand what the Word of GOD says. One can’t possibly know and recognize a “counterfeit”, if one is not thoroughly familiar with the “real thing”. However, a close examination of the unmistakable signs presented here in chapter 23 will go a long ways toward helping to identify such leaders. Also see 2 Peter 2:11-19 in the New Testament;
· “Doctrine” (Jeremiah 23:13-14) – Their doctrine always introduces those things that are compatible with the “worldly lifestyle”, and, that will subtly lead people away from GOD by mixing the “Holy” with the “Profane” making it difficult for followers to discern the difference between the two. They encourage people in their wrongdoing, for the love of money (their tithes and offering), instead of turning them away from their sin.
· “Character and lifestyle” (Jeremiah 23:10-14) – If you can’t tell the difference between your pastor’s appearance and lifestyle, and that of a successful drug dealer, or pimp, well…I’m just saying.
· “Ministry characteristics” (Jeremiah 23:16-17) – They strengthen the hands of the anti-CHRIST by letting them promote their agenda in the church for the love of money, power, and popularity in the world. By doing so, they also advert, or inadvertently, fill followers with false hope of achieving good things, even while operating outside of the Will of GOD.
In Jeremiah 33:14-18 we find some good news. There GOD says that there will come a day when HE will do for HIS chosen people, all the good things that HE has promised. HE says that, at that time, HE will bring to the throne of David, “a righteous descendant”, WHO will do what is just and right throughout all the land. Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And their motto will be “The LORD is our righteousness!”
In CHRIST JESUS, David will forever have a descendant on the throne of Israel. And there will always be Levitical Priests to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, and sacrifices to GOD. JESUS says that HIS sheep know HIS voice and obey HIM (John 10:4). And just as every good shepherd knows his sheep, every good sheep should come to know his shepherd’s voice. Such knowledge can mean the difference between life and death, in many cases. It can also be the difference between danger and safety, starvation and nourishment, or, shelter and homelessness.
To be alone in this world, and have no hope of anything beyond this world, is a frightening thought. We as Christians, no longer have to entertain, or envision that thought. And so, we should be forever thankful to our “GOOD SHEPHERD”, our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, for making the wonderful gift of Eternal Life in GOD’s own glorious presence a reality, by way of HIS vicarious sacrifice on the cross at Golgotha.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Larry Dell Alexander (1953–) - Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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