Jeremiah 50:6, 7
My people has been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains…
These verses remind us of the well known fable of the wolf and the lamb. The wolf, acting according to its wolfish nature, devours the Lamb, but first of all it makes a pretence of having some show of reason to go upon. So here the cruel spoilers of Israel try to make out that all their cruelty and rapacity were perfectly right, because Israel had done so much wrong. We have here -
I. A TRUE ACCUSATION. Israel's wrong doing is not at all overstated. They have sinned against Jehovah. Nor is this accusation left in all its wide generality. Note the rendering of Naegelshach: "Jehovah the true Pasturage and their fathers' Hope." Thus the figure begun in the previous verse is continued. For the sheep a true, ample, rich pasturage is provided and protected. The shepherd makes that pasturage with all its needs his peculiar charge. If the sheep will not have faith in their shepherd, submission to his ordinances, satisfaction with his provisions, and general content in all their appointed lot; if they prefer an erratic, self-providing, self-protecting lot; - then they must take the consequences. There was nothing wonderful in Israel having becoming a lost and miserable flock. The wrong doing of a man does not excuse bad treatment of him by others, but it explains how bad treatment often becomes possible. If, overleaping the bounds and Laws of Divine wisdom, we go of our own choice into the way of the adversary, we must not complain of consequent spoliation and suffering.
II. A BAD REASON. The adversaries of Israel made Israel's wickedness a plea for their own wickedness. We must distinguish between the conquerors of Israel as made use of by Jehovah and the purposes and feelings of the conquerors themselves. It is evidently God's principle to make use of what already exists: these people were bent on attacking the land of Israel, and, when Israel had so utterly apostatized in heart from Jehovah, there was no reason why he should defend them. The wickedness of man often wonderfully serves a Divine purpose, but that does not make it wickedness any the less. Wicked men are not necessary to God, however useful they may be in the present conditions of things. Vain will it be for any man to plead that, in the event, his wickedness has brought some good thing to light. The purposes of his heart were evil and only evil, and by those purposes he must be judged.
III. INDICATION OF THE PROPER TREATMENT. The proper treatment of the sheep that have forgotten their resting place is fully revealed in the Gospels. There the true Shepherd is set before us, no self-indulgent one, no self-seeker, no hireling; but he who came to seek out the lost sheep, and who dies for his own. We must never forget, in all comparisons between straying men and straying sheep, that God means us thereby to be deeply impressed with the need of his provisions and protections. He who remembers that we are dust, remembers also that at the best we are as sheep, needing for the present to be watched very closely, and kept within a place of safety by all sorts of checks and constraints. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
WEB: My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.