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Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 2:31-4:18, Colossians 1:1-17, Psalm 76:1-12, Proverbs 24:21-22

In many ways the Bible is the story of God pursuing relationships with individuals and groups of people. While the prophets in the Hebrew Bible spoke harshly to Israel on a pretty regular basis, there are also tender words of invitation, as seen in this passage from Jeremiah 3.

14 “Return home, you wayward children,”
    says the Lord,
    “for I am your master.
I will bring you back to the land of Israel
    one from this town and two from that family—
    from wherever you are scattered.
15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
    who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.

As I read this last night, I was particularly struck by the promise of “shepherds after my own heart.” I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed that before in reading through Jeremiah. I checked several other translations and found the same phrase in the New International Version and the English Standard Version. Still not satisfied, I looked at the translation in the Holman Christian Standard Bible and found the phrase

shepherds who are loyal to me

with the footnote that the literal translation is

shepherds according to My heart.

As I was praying this morning, I asked myself why I pray in the mornings, why I seek God. Even recently, I told a group of friends at church that it was for fear of wandering away from God by my own will or of being deceived by the things of this world that are contrary to God’s plan. And then I read this passage again. The phrase that hooked me was “shepherds after my own heart” and then I noticed that actions of these shepherds – they will “guide you with knowledge and understanding.”

So the progression in this passage is (1) tender words of invitation from God, (2) a statement of the relationship (I am your master), (3) a promise to provide shepherds to those who return to God, and (4) the assignment for the shepherds as guides to bring us knowledge and understanding according to God’s own heart.

During my prayers and reading of this passage, I was reminded of a song of tender invitation that we sing in church from time to time. Enjoy.

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