by 鍾卓權牧師 (Rev. Bernie Chung)
耶利米如同以賽亞一樣，被稱為是神的「先見」，就是上帝使他們能看見一般人無法洞察事物的先知和代言人，耶利米書第23 章記錄了他所見到有關南國猶大不久將要發生的事情。他預見猶大在不久的將來，那些殘害趕散上帝的子民的牧人將要受到懲罰(23:1) ，因為他們失職。根據本章的其餘部分的記載，這些牧人對自己不道德的行為，濫權，拜偶像以及歪曲上帝的訓誨，帶領以色列子民走錯誤的道路和惡行並没有悔意。因此，上帝藉著強悍的巴比倫將子民以色列擄掠為奴，將他們趕離自己的土地，上帝子民「草場之羊」就這樣被驅散了，因為沒有真正的好牧羊人引領照顧和餵養他們。
讓我們繼續在上帝面前謙卑、求神憐憫和赦免，願上帝成就他的應許，仰賴我們的大牧人保守我們渡過這疫情，不再懼怕、不再驚惶、也不缺少一個。這是上帝的應許。我們還要勤於洗手，繼續保持安全距離，在主裏合一，彼此關懷。雖然不能聚集在一起禱告，但藉著Zoom Meeting 的軟件在線上可同心禱告。雖然不能一同參加在大堂敬拜，但藉著YouTube Live 線上同感一靈地敬拜。藉著執事關懷小組的互相聯繫，我們彼此更加緊密，雖然無法面對面的接觸，但我們仍然可以感受到教會肢體間相交的溫暖，皆因我們有主的平安和喜樂。阿們！
Jeremiah, like Isaiah, is called the “foreseer” of God. He is the prophet and spokesperson that God allows to see things ordinary people cannot see. Chapter 23 of Jeremiah records what he foresees will happen to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He sees that in the near future, Judah will be punished for the shepherds who have scattered and destroyed God’s flock, His people, due to their negligence (Jeremiah 23:1 NIV). Later in the same chapter, it says that these shepherds have no regrets about their unethical behavior, abuse of power, idolatry, and distortion of God's teachings, and they have led the people of Israel down the wrong path to commit evil deeds. Therefore, at the hands of the powerful Babylonians, God let the people of Israel be captured into slavery and driven away from their own land. God’s people, the “sheep of the pasture”, were thus dispersed because there was no real good shepherd to care for and feed them.
In times of difficulty, God comforts and encourages His people. In Chapter 23:4 it says: “‘I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the Lord.” These words of encouragement also bring God’s promise and comfort to us who are now fighting against the pandemic at home. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land’” (Jeremiah 23:5). God clearly points out that the Southern Kingdom of Judah will be saved and Israel will live in peace and stability. Of course, this also means that the Lord Jesus will fulfill the Messianic prophecy. Good news indeed!
We should be fully aware of our struggles in making choices between right and wrong, and the difficulties we have trying to extricate ourselves from misdeeds. We are often consumed by selfishness, greed, pride, jealousy, and fear. Especially fear, for we do not know how long the current pandemic will last, and how much suffering the virus disaster would bring. To combat the spread of the virus, we must isolate ourselves in accordance with regulations. Needless to say, we are anxiously waiting for this pandemic to end. Before this happens though, we must keep our faith. 2 Chronicle 7:14 says: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.
Let's continue to humble ourselves and pray to God for His mercy and forgiveness. May God fulfill His promise to let us rely on our great Shepherd to see us through this pandemic without fear and panic, and without losing anyone. This is the promise of God that surely will come true. Meanwhile, we must wash our hands diligently, maintain safe distance, unite in the Lord, and care for each other. Although we cannot be together physically, we can pray together online with Zoom Meeting apps. Likewise, we can worship through YouTube Live online in spite of not gathering in the sanctuary. Through the internet, the deacon care group members are closely connected, and we can feel the warmth and closeness of one body in Christ. We may miss physical contacts for now but remember that we all have our Lord's peace and joy in us. Amen!