Jeremiah 23:1-6 - "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for My people: "You have scattered My flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as King and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the Name by which He will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'"
"Whose fault is it?" Have you ever asked this question? I have, when something bad is happening in my life—an illness, a lost job, family problems. Sometimes there's a clear villain I can blame—a bad boss, a racist neighbor, a friend or relative I love who has serious problems like addiction or angry outbursts.
In today's reading, God identifies a set of villains—the leaders of Israel, who are acting like bad shepherds and not taking care of God's people. He says, "You have scattered My flock and have driven them away." But then He says something strange. He says, "I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them." Wait a minute! Who did the driving, the bad shepherds or God? Who is in charge here?
Clearly, God is not an evildoer. But there is a sense in which both answers are true. The bad leaders did evil, and people suffered as a result. But God took that evil and transformed it. He used it for His own purposes—He sent the people of Israel into exile, but then brought them back repentant and at least partly healed of their tendency to follow other gods. He brought them back better prepared for the coming of Jesus.
God does this to us, too. When trouble comes into our lives, we suffer, and God grieves for us, because He loves us. As Jeremiah said elsewhere, "The Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men" (Lamentations 3:31-33). But as we continue to live and trust in God, He works His miracles in our hearts. He strengthens our faith, draws us closer to Him, and deals with areas of weakness in our lives.
Maybe we should not be surprised that God transforms our suffering and brings good out of it. After all, this is exactly what He did for us in His own suffering and death on the cross. As Jesus' redeemed people, we know we will face suffering in this world, just as He did; but we also trust that He will use it and transform it for good, just as God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and made Him the Source of eternal life for everyone who trusts in Him.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, when I suffer, help me to trust in You. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr Kari Vo.
1. When you suffer, what kinds of questions do you ask God?
2. When have you suffered and seen God bring good out of it?
3. Christians believe in a God who has experienced suffering. How does this change your attitude toward life? Toward God?
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