Those entrusted with the care of God’s people are many and varied. Government leaders are among them and their job is to maintain justice in the land and protection for the people. In Jeremiah’s day priests and prophets were called to guide the spiritual development of the people. Today, Elders (or Pastors) are called to do that job. Bible teachers and preachers are called to deliver the word of the Lord. All of these people are “shepherds” of Israel.
But the bulk of chapter twenty-three has to do with prophets, what we today would call “preachers” (or perhaps Bible teachers). It was not the function of the prophet to foretell the future. It was his job to remind the people of their covenant relationship with God, what that required for their lives, and what would happen if they disobeyed.
I don’t find a lot of people really interested in Bible study these days. Oh sure, lots of people want to know the “will of the Lord” for their lives, but they prefer to seek that will everywhere but in the Bible. This was the problem in ancient Israel. There was this constant quest to “know the Lord,” but it’s a quest without a destination. It was (and is) easier to say you are interested and looking for God’s will than it is to actually do it.
There are always those people who have a variety of opinions on what the Bible says, but very few who actually know. The Christian world is full of opinions, but when it comes to “what does the text say?” few answers. It happens most of all on those thorny issues that seem to perpetually divide Christians. Folks will question the text, discount the text, and offer objections, but when you get down to “what does the Bible say?” they have no answer. All Christians are responsible for ascertaining answers, but especially preachers and Bible teachers. Those who have nothing to offer but the authority of their credentials should remember God’s warning: “I will cast you out of my presence and bring upon you everlasting disgrace.” It’s the same penalty for those who are always looking for answers with their eyes closed.