And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
I. THE NEED SO EMPHATICALLY IMPLIED THAT SUCH PASTORS SHOULD BE GIVEN. The shepherd's occupation, it need hardly be said, is one that comes up again and again in the Scriptures, both in the literal sense of the word and the figurative one. And even in the literal occupation there was, doubtless, often need of men who could be described as shepherds after God's own heart. Every shepherd who was faithful, observant, courageous, and altogether superior to the hireling spirit, was to that extent a shepherd after God's own heart. Such a one might possibly not be after God's own heart in other respects. Many are very watchful over the brutes committed to their charge, and utterly thoughtless about the shepherding of their own souls and of the various human beings dependent on them and influenced by them. Then passing to the figurative flocks and shepherds, there are very pathetic representations in the Scriptures of the mischief consequent on the unfaithfulness of those rulers and providers who had been set over God's people. Take such a man as King Ahab. He was not a man after God's own heart, and what is the result? Going out against the King of Syria, Ahab, not very hopeful of a favoring word, consults Micaiah, the faithful prophet of God: "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd;" which was not only a warning of utter defeat, but a bitter charge against Ahab that he had been utterly faithless to his trust (1 Kings 22:17). There is so much of the sheep-nature in the human breast. How many have been troubled because there is no shepherd (Zechariah 10:2)! Every time the confession is uttered, "All we like sheep have gone astray," there is a hint of pastoral unfaithfulness somewhere or other. The sheep-nature in the human breast has never been better set forth than in the anxiety of the departing Moses with respect to a competent successor (Numbers 27:17). Food needs to be provided. There must be a guarding against self-willed wandering away from the supplies and comforts belonging to a constant member of the flock. There are the perils from wild beasts (1 Samuel 17:34). There is the work needed to bring back that which is lost. Look at Zechariah 11:16, where there is a hint of what the shepherd has to do - visiting those that are cut off, seeking the young ones, healing the broken, bearing that which standeth still (see also Jeremiah 1:6; Ezekiel 34.; John 10.).
II. THE FACT THAT SUCH PASTORS WILL ASSUREDLY BE PROVIDED. Great is the requirement, and there has often been a grievous disappointment in getting it met, but assuredly it can be met. The rulers in Israel had not all been as Ahab. That same Moses, who was so anxious concerning his successor, had been himself taken from faithful oversight of another man's sheep in order to deliver Israel from Pharaoh's clutch, and lead him towards the green pastures and still waters of the promised land (Exodus 3.). David, who had followed the ewes great with young, no doubt gently leading them when needful, gathering the lambs in his arm and carrying them in his bosom, who also had smitten the lion and the bear, was now taken to feed Jacob the people of God, and Israel his inheritance (Psalm 78:71; Isaiah 40:11). Not only had he been faithful as a shepherd, but he had also grown ever more conscious of the sheep-nature in himself, and the sheep like requirements of his own life, and so, looking away from his flock upwards, he beautifully says, "Jehovah is my Shepherd." He had lions following his own soul (Psalm 7:2; Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12; Psalm 22:13). Those are fitted to be shepherds after God's own heart who, feeling their own needs, make Jehovah their Shepherd. It is important to remember how David is declared as the man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 7:46; Acts 13:22). So God is here speaking through Jeremiah, with that confidence which comes from actual experience of the true and the brave among his own chosen. Then there is the great work of Jesus to be considered. It is very significant that in Jeremiah 23., after a reference to the unfaithful shepherds, there is a promise of faithful ones, their work being set forth more explicitly even than here; and then God goes on to speak of the righteous Branch which shall be raised to David, the King who shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and justice in the earth: he is the Governor who shall feed the Lord's people Israel (Matthew 2:6); he is the Great Shepherd of the sheep brought again from the dead (Hebrews 13:20); he who is also the Lamb in the midst of the throne, shall meet those who are gathered out of the great tribulation, and feed them, and lead them "unto living fountains of waters" (Revelation 7:17); and thus being himself the Great Shepherd, he is competent to convey to all under-shepherds the resources whereby in all wisdom they may feed the hungry with knowledge and understanding. If Jesus makes us truly righteous, then with the lips of the righteous we shall be able to feed many. The duties of a pastor after God's own heart will appear in all their magnitude to one who is considering the pastoral work of Jesus himself. Such a one will take heed to himself, and to all the flock ever which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer, feeding the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood, He will have his eye on the grievous wolves that enter in, not sparing the flock. He will carry out the spirit of the commandment which God gave to Moses at Sinai: "Neither let the flocks nor herds feed before the mount" (Exodus 34:3); by doing his best to keep all within his charge from thoughtless trifling with holy things. It is a great matter to be put in a position of spiritual pastoral responsibility; and all in such positions may joyfully remember that God will give them all needed strength. It is a sad thought for the careless pastor that it should so often be needful for the strangers to stand and feed the flocks he should feed - men that to a certain extent may be reckoned unauthorized. And yet what can be done? Flocks must not die of hunger; and as the real physician is he who cures the disease, whatever his professional standing may be, so the real shepherd is he who feeds the flock, and the brand of interloper is affixed to him in vain. And so God would invite all his people to do what they can to be true shepherds. In one sense the shepherds are as many as the sheep. It is better to be ministering to the deep, undying wants of men, than just to their passing pleasures. He who strives to make himself acceptable to men by an incessant watching of their whims and prejudices is very much like the prodigal who found nothing better to do than feed the swine. It is God's will that we should feed sheep. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.