"Only acknowledge your guilt... return, o faithless children... And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed (lead, guide) you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land..." - Jeremiah 3:13-16. It's awfully frustrating when in spite of all of our efforts we are just milling around and not experiencing progress. We all seek the experience that our efforts bring progress, fruits and multiplication in our life, in our work and in our nation. Although there are no recipes or guarantees for growth, but God says through Jeremiah that REPENTANCE and godly LEADERS are essentials to experience progress in any community of people. The first is a precondition in order to have the second.
REPENTANCE is the 1st precondition of progress.
Repentance is defined in two words in this passage: acknowledging our guilt and returning.
Acknowledging means to own it. We need to own our sins. True repentance never blames others, never shifts responsibilities, never points fingers, never tries to find excuses. True repentance owns the responsibility. True repentance faces the truth about sin, doesn't deny it, and doesn't try to manipulate it.
Returning means to change the direction of our life. It means doing the opposite what we did before. Changing values, customs, behaviors, relationships, mindset, words. We are turning our face to God.
Our nation (or community, or church) will not experience progress, growth, fruitfulness until we start owning our sins without blaming others for it and until we turn to the personal Christ. If we suppress the truth about our sins we remain under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18 makes it clear that not owning the truth puts us under the wrath of God). Although we don't like to talk about the wrath of God, but it's a reality, and in many ways it's OUR reality! (In my next post I'll write about that.)
GODLY LEADERS are the 2nd precondition of progress.
People need leaders. God never intended to leave his people without shepherds. It's His plan for His people to have shepherds and leaders. It's a blessing to have the right leadership and it's a sign of repentant people. Godly leadership is a tremendous gift to people! The two characteristics we can observe in this passage about the God-given leadership are:
- The HEART of the leader: he/she is after God's heart. That leader is someone God delights in. Ps 78:72 says that King David was a leader according to God's heart who led the nation with upright heart. The upright heart means pure motivation, integrity, purity, lack of selfishness, blamelessness and fullness.
- The SKILLS of the leader: this passage above and the Ps 78:72 indicates the following trades: leading, feeding and guiding the people with wisdom, applied knowledge, insights, by giving attention, discernment, skill in judgment, godly instructions and with intelligence.
The heart of the leader always precedes the skills of the leader.
How different everything in this world would be if our leaders would have pure hearts, pure motivation, integrity and would lead us with wisdom, discernment and godly instructions. If our leaders are not godly, but selfish, corrupt, arrogant and incompetent, than we need to start with repentance, because the repentance of a community (or a nation) is the precondition (not the guarantee) of having godly leaders. If we as individuals and as a nation are not repentant, if we are not willing to face our sins, if we suppress the truth and blame others for our sins, than we have not given a chance to change our fate.
Progress and fruitfulness starts with our repentance. Without this we are just milling around which is sliding backwards.