Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jeremiah's Turning #6: Pastors for the Remnant

Following the word “turn” (שוב) through Jeremiah’s prophecy.

“‘Return [שוב], O faithless [שבב, from שוב] sons,’ declares the LORD; ‘For I am a master to you, and I will take you one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding’” (Jeremiah 3:14,15).

Baal, the false Canaanite god with which the idolatrous Israelites were so enamored, has its name from the word for “husband” (בעל for both “Baal” and “husband”), or “master” as it is translated above. The Lord will later, when promising the new covenant, identify Himself as the sole husband of His people: “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband [בעל] to them," declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:31,32). The new covenant, in which God is still husband to His people, cannot be broken, for its faithfulness was gained through the imputed righteousness and active obedience of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom (Matthew 22:2; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9).

This is a passage about the remnant. Jesus will draw on this language in the “Little Apocalypse” (Matthew 24:40,41; Luke 17:34-36), which I believe describes the gathering of the Church by the effectual calling of the Gospel in that generation between the old and new covenant (up to the final destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70). Our Jeremiah passage and the Matthew/Luke references are consistent with how the Prophets used the idea of “remnant.” God called His elect-who-would-be-faithful from among those who were His in name only.

God calls His people by the “shepherds” (pastors) He gives His people as gifts (Ephesians 4:7-11). These are the “messengers” of Matthew 24:31//Mark 13:27 (αγγελος, translated “angels” in our English translations) who are used of God to gather and feed the Church by the proclamation of the Word. They give the Church the needful food for its survival, “knowledge and understanding.”

And so we preached, praying even as we speak forth the call to gather from the four winds: "...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9,10).

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