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. – Jeremiah 23:1-2

You will get lots of debate over what makes a good leader these days. There are all kinds of lists that mark a strong leader and what they should or should not be doing. A mired of books have been written on this subject, many from the business world of course, and the principles are endless. Leaders need to be motivators, entrepreneurial, managers, implementers, prototypes and teammates. On the other hand they need to be compassionate towards people and at the same time ruthlessly committed to the vision of the business; they need to be kind and yet have the objectivity to make the hard decisions about people and their performance; they are to be loving dictators who have the magnetism where people come begging to follow them no matter what the cost.

The list for many leadership models looks like a “who’s who” of qualifications and to find someone that embodies all these various qualifications and characteristics is virtually impossible. Obviously, anyone who finds themselves in any kind of leadership responsibility usually is there because some of these qualities are present even if some obvious ones are absent.

Leadership sometimes feels like a no-win scenario for most. No matter what you do you can’t make everyone happy and at the same time get to where you want to go. Some of course will say that a “real” leader does not get hung up on those things; neither do dictators. It can be a huge battle for many in understanding what leadership is and what does a real leader do.

Jeremiah 23 is not a fun text but it does give God’s perspective of poor leadership. Here is a partial list of things that God brings up with the leadership of Israel; it includes shepherds, prophets and priests. Some statements imply what is wrong when God states that He will raise up a shepherd that will do what God wants:

  • You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them (2)
  • I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD (2)
  • 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 (4)
  • Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD (11).
  • Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD (16).
  • How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? (26-27)

Obviously this is not all that was wrong. There are a number of things implied about their lack of leadership but there is a huge spiritual and moral component to their leadership. Who they are is far more critical than what they can do. We need to be leaders that are firmly anchored to Christ, intimately related to the Spirit of God and have a deep concern for Christ’s Body.

Pastor Brad Little