Jeremiah 3:15

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.







I will give you pastors according to Mine heart.
I. THEIR CHARACTER. To be a "pastor after God's heart," a man must not only theoretically understand, but practically feel the truths he sets forth in his teaching. How describe the burden of a guilty conscience, if he has never felt it himself? How expatiate on the love and unfold the preciousness of a Saviour, whilst himself still out of Christ? How exhort hearers to set affections on things above, when his own thoughts are entirely absorbed by things below?

II. THEIR TEACHING. What they have found to be, by God's blessing, useful to themselves, they will bring before their people. They will not daub the wall with untempered mortar, crying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace; but, will "cry aloud and lift up their voice like a trumpet," to warn the unconverted of their danger, and convince them of their guilt. Nor will they show the disease without, at the same time, declaring the remedy. They will prove to their hearers their numberless shortcomings, in order that they may be led the more highly to prize the Saviour's merits. Conclusion —

1. Seek the increase of such pastors.

2. Help to provide for such pastors.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

I. TO FEED THE CHURCH WITH KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING. This is by preaching the Gospel.

1. There is spiritual wisdom in understanding the mysteries of the Gospel, that we may be able to declare the whole counsel of God, and the riches and treasures of the grace of Christ unto the souls of men (Acts 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:1-4; Ephesians 3:7-9).

2. Authority is required. What is authority in a preaching ministry? It is a consequent of unction, and not of office.

3. Experience of the things preached.

4. Skill to divide the Word aright.

5. The knowledge and consideration of the state of the flock.

6. To be actuated by zeal for the glory of God, and compassion to the souls of men.

II. CONTINUAL PRAYER FOR THE CHURCHES OVER WHICH CHRIST HAS MADE THEM OVERSEERS.

1. No man can have any evidence in his own soul, that he doth conscientiously perform any ministerial duty towards his flock, who doth not continually pray for them.

2. This is the way whereby we may bless our congregations.

3. What shall we pray for?

(1)For the success of the Word that we preach unto them.

(2)For the presence of Christ in all our assemblies.

III. TO PRESERVE THE TRUTH AND DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL THAT IS COMMITTED TO THE CHURCH. What is required hereunto?

1. A clear apprehension in ourselves of those doctrines and truths which we are so to defend.

2. Love of the truth.

3. Let us take heed in ourselves of any inclination to novel opinions, especially in, or about, or against such points of faith, as those wherein they who are fallen asleep, found life, comfort, and power.

4. There is skill and ability required hereunto, to discover and be able to oppose and confound the cunning sophistry of adversaries. Great prayer, watchfulness, and diligence are required, that we may be able to attend unto these things. And those who are less skilled may do well to advise with those who are more exercised in them to give them assistance.

5. That we labour diligently for the conversion of souls.

( John Owen, D. D.)

1. There are some teachers of religion who are teachers "according to God's heart."

2. All such teachers are the gift of God.

(1)He prepares them for their office.

(2)He designates the sphere of their ministry

3. They are distinguished by the care and fidelity with which they minister to the spiritual wants of their people.

(E. Cooper, M. A.)

I. WHAT THOSE QUALIFICATIONS ARE WHICH RENDER MEN PASTORS AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART.

1. Their being sent and commissioned by God.

2. Their being thoroughly instructed in the knowledge of God's mind and will.

3. Their being exemplary in their conversation of the goodness and purity of their own doctrine (1 Timothy 3:12).

(1)In word, that is, in observing a decent gravity in discourse.

(2)In conversation; a sweet and obliging deportment.

(3)In charity; a hearty goodwill to all men as we have opportunity.

(4)In spirit; that is, in an active zeal for the glory of God, and the good of souls.

(5)In faith, that is, in an immoveable constancy and fidelity to our religion, in holding fast the form of sound words, and contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

(6)In purity, that is, in abstaining from all fleshy lusts, from worldly mindedness, intemperance, and wantonness.

II. HOW MUCH SUCH PASTORS DO CONDUCE TO THE GLORY, AND BEAUTY, AND PERFECTION OF THE CHURCH.

1. In soundness of faith, to which there is nothing can more conduce than pious and learned pastors; who being not only purged from vicious affections, and inspired with an hearty zeal for truth; but also accomplished with parts and learning to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and to separate the innovations of false teachers from the ancient truths of Christianity, cannot but be highly instrumental to the restoring the faith of their Churches, wherever they find it corrupted and sophisticated, to its primitive lustre and simplicity.

2. In purity of worship; for the end of all Church assemblies being to worship God, and the worship of God consisting in a devout acknowledgment of the infinite perfections of His nature, by such internal and external acts, as right, reason, and revelation directs: all such as are truly devout, and sincerely affected with the Divine perfections, must look upon themselves, as greatly concerned to worship God, in such manner as is most suitable to His will and nature. And this the pastors of the Church are more peculiarly concerned in, being the guides of the public worship.

3. A Church's glory and perfection consists also in the vigour of its discipline, in the just and vigilant administration of the power of the keys, in admonishing such as go astray, in excluding them the communion of the Church if they continue obstinate, and readmitting them upon their repentance.

4. A Church's glory and perfection consists in unity of communion and affections, so that there be no schisms in the body, but that all its members, being incorporate in the same communion, be knit and fastened to one another by the ligaments of mutual love and charity; to which excellent effect there is nothing in the world can more conduce than learned, prudent, and pious pastors.

5. The glory and perfection of a Church consists also in sanctity of manners; to promote which, also, nothing can be more conducive than pastors according to God's own heart.(1) Their being commissioned from God to teach and govern His flock must give their doctrine a very great authority in the minds of all that have any reverence for God, and thereby render it more prevalent and effectual(2) Their doctrine, supposing they are pious and learned, will be throughout holy, and in all points tending to promote the interest of piety and virtue.(3) Their holy doctrine will be enforced by their holy examples, which will preach more effectually than their tongues.

(John Scott, D. D.)

I. GOD IS ENGAGED BY COVENANT TO PROVIDE A PERPETUAL PUBLIC MINISTRY FOR HIS CHURCH.

1. A public stated ministry in the Christian Church is a Divine institution.

2. It is the ordinance of God that a public ministry should be continued in His Church unto the end of the world.

3. God hath covenanted with His Church to supply her congregations with a public ministry — "And I will give you pastors."(1) Promises, made upon the footing of a permanent relation between God and His Church, which have respect to a benefit of a permanent nature, are to be understood as securing to the Church that benefit indefinitely throughout every period of time.(2) Many promises delivered by the prophets were designed to refer immediately to the New Testament Church; and were so applied by the apostles of our Lord. Some of these refer to the Christian ministry (Isaiah Iii. 6, 7, 10; Romans 10:14, 15).(3) The Redeemer, in whom the promises are made, and in whom they are accomplished, has solemnly engaged never to leave His Church entirely destitute of a public ministry. He walks amidst the golden candlesticks. He holds the stars in His right hand. He gives power to His witnesses.

II. GOD HATH SET DISTINGUISHING MARKS UPON THE MINISTRY, OF WHICH HE APPROVES — "Pastors according to Mine heart."

1. The pastor according to God's heart has received a regular call to the ministry.(1) The call of God to ecclesiastical office is inward, when there is a Divine influence experienced upon the mind, inclining and commanding the person to devote himself to the service of the Church.(2) It is outward, when accompanied with external evidence for the satisfaction of the Church. The inward call may satisfy a man's own mind; but others must, in order to receive Him, have some external evidence.(a) Ordination constitutes the call of God to the ministry of reconciliation in the Gospel Church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Romans 10:15).(b) Ordination to the holy ministry is to be performed by imposition of hands (1 Timothy 5:22; 1 Timothy 4:14; Hebrews 6:2; Acts 13:2, 3).

2. The pastor according to God's heart has a life corresponding to the functions of his holy office.(1) A ministry evidently impious will meet with few advocates. This evil can be tolerated only in a Church which has far departed from truth and holiness.(2) The pious minister is constrained by the love of a crucified Saviour to diligence in his sacred office. He perceives the danger of sinners; and, anxious for their salvation, he warns them of it frequently and fervently. From house to house he visits, examines, exhorts. In afflictions, he soothes; in temptation, admonishes; in sickness, comforts; and in death, resigns their departing spirits into the hands of that God who created both him and them.(3) The pastor, who is near the heart of God, is faithful to God and His Church. He deals plainly with sinners, uninfluenced by their frowns or their smiles.

III. THE SUM OF PASTORAL DUTY IS THE EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCH.

1. The pastor according to God's heart preaches to his congregation the Gospel of Christ. This is the food which he diligently provides for immortal souls.

2. The pastor of whom God approves is in duty bound, from time to time, to examine the religious state of his congregation.

3. It is the duty of the Christian pastor to administer the sacraments of the New Testament to the members of his Church.

4. It is the duty of a Christian minister to exercise authority over his flock. This is necessary to their edification, and is implied in feeding with knowledge. The power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven is in the hands of every Christian minister.

(A. M'Leod, D. D.)

To a person who regretted, to the celebrated Dr. Johnson, that he had become a clergyman, because he considered the life of a clergyman an easy and comfortable one, the Doctor made this memorable reply: "The life of a conscientious clergyman is not easy. I have always considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he is able to maintain. No, sir, I do not envy a clergyman's life as an easy life, nor do I envy the clergyman who makes it an easy life."

The Rev. Robert Hall of Bristol was asked what he thought of a sermon which had been delivered by a proverbially fine preacher, and which had seemed to excite a great sensation among the congregation: "Very fine, sir," he replied, "but a man cannot feed upon flowers."

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