The Bible identifies God’s people Israel as a community.
And, as a community, they have needed the guidance of human leaders.
There were the prophets, who spoke for God in presenting messages of warning and encouragement.
There were the priests, who must have had a teaching function alongside the sacrificial function which dominates the record.
And there were the kings, who administered justice and helped to preserve the people from their external enemies.
At the end of the kingdom period, the collective leadership was failing in a catastrophic way.
There were two genuine prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, presenting the warnings of judgement which were God’s message at the time. But there were at
least twice as many self-serving false prophets (Jeremiah chs28-29) promoting the untimely complacency which was what their clients wanted to hear.
The priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple, having manoeuvred themselves into a monopoly position, were using it in support of the false prophets and
opposing the word of the Lord.
While the kings, as a dynasty, had ceased to be loyal to their God, and were disobedient in other areas.
Therefore God allowed the kingdom to be demolished by its enemies, and the people to be taken into exile, in order to be able to clear the ground and
make a fresh start.
Some of the prophets of the Old Testament promise a final battle in which the enemies of God’s people will be overcome conclusively. I looked at
this theme in The Last Battle in Old Testament prophecy
Following this final victory, God’s people are able to return to the land, and the restoration of the people is to be accompanied by the renovation
of their leadership
Restoration of leadership; Old Testament version
Jeremiah is promising that God will ensure a better kind of leadership;
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture… I will gather the remnant of my flock and I shall bring them back to the
fold… I will set shepherds over them who will care for them and they shall fear no more”(ch23 vv1-4).
“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (ch3 v15).
Putting this another way, they will have their own kings again;
“Their prince shall be one of themselves, their ruler shall come forth from their midst” (ch30 v21).
This is a promise made very specifically about the house of David; “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David, and he shall execute
justice and righteousness in the land (ch33 v15).
Similarly the Temple vision of Ezekiel assumes that there will be a prince (ch46), and this prince has already been identified as “my servant
David”, who shall be their prince ”for ever” (ch37 vv24-5).
The theme of the “ideal ruler” is even more prominent in Isaiah.
There is the passage beginning “For unto us a child is born”, which offers the promise;
“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (ch9 v7).
There is the promise of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse”. We are told that the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him. “With righteousness he
shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (ch11 vv1-4).
At the same time, though, there is a parallel theme in the prophets to the effect that the Lord will do this work for himself.
He will be his own shepherd.
That is what Micah asks him to do; “Shepherd thy people with thy staff, the flock of thy inheritance” (ch7 v14).
When Ezekiel prophecies against the shepherds of Israel who have allowed the sheep to scatter, the Lord warns them that “I will require my sheep at
their hand”, and promises that “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep and I will make them lie down… I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strays and I will bind up
the crippled… I will feed them in justice” (ch34 vv10-16).
Similarly in Zechariah; “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house
of Judah (ch10 v3).
Again, he will be his own king of Israel.
Zephaniah says “The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more” (ch3 v15)
Isaiah says “A king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice” (ch32 v1), but he adds a little later “For the Lord is our
judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (ch33 v22).
And he too describes the Lord as “king of Israel” (ch44 V6),