First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6

God's Help in Times of Compromise

1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says YHWH. 2 Therefore thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who feed my people: You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them; behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings, says YHWH. 3 I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, says YHWH. 5 Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name by which he shall be called: YHWH our righteousness.

World English Bible

Readers find these words of hope among a diatribe against the corrupt kings and false prophets of Judea. By the time Judea faced its greatest challenge with the rise of Babylon, it had been reduced to the status of a city-state. The king controlled very little land outside the area surrounding Jerusalem. But the area had international importance because it lay on the trade routes between Persia in the east and Egypt to the southwest.

Which great power should Judea appease? To gain favor meant military alliances and favorable trade arrangements. But, it also meant emulating the culture of the dominate power, including the worship of their gods. A "corrupt" king would place political expediency (and idolatry) above faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His advisors (the "false prophets") would encourage him to do the same. Only a few, brave souls who believed in God would speak out. Jeremiah was one those outspoken faithful.

[1-2] Using the "shepherd' analogy, Jeremiah summarized his condemnation of Judea's kings. Their practices had "scattered" the people. Jeremiah blamed royal corruption and idolatry for the weakness of the kingdom that resulted in the migration of Jews to Egypt and points north. (Even after the death of Jesus, there was a large population of Jews in Egypt).

[2-6] But God would not forget his people. He himself would gather the scattered and return them to kingdom ruled by a just king. Corruption would be replaced by justice. Idolatry would be replaced by true worship. Peace and security would return to the land. All this would be God's doing and in God's time.

When you are pressured to make moral or religious compromises, how does God help you?