Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jeremiah 23: False Prophets and the Word of God

* A recent devotional I wrote for our church's bulletin.

The prophet Jeremiah was given the difficult task of speaking God’s word of judgment in a challenging time.  God had revealed to Judah through Jeremiah that judgment was coming from Babylon.  There were other voices from those seen to be “prophets” that continually contradicted Jeremiah’s message.  These false prophets spoke a message of peace and comfort—“everything will be alright; no need to worry about judgment.”  The living God gives his perspective on these false prophets in Jeremiah 23.  Here a few selections:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.  They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.  (v. 16)

25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”  26How long?  Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, 27who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal?

“Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the Lord, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the Lord.  (v. 32)

These false prophets are characterized by speaking of that which is self-generated—their dreams and their own imagination.  They are not listening to the Word of the living God but merely parroting what the culture around them wants to hear.  This is no small thing they have done.  By refusing to listen to God and declare his Word they lead the people of God into error and sin.  The people of Judah during this time needed a strong message of repentance; they needed to turn from false gods and turn to the living God in obedience.  The false prophets actually harmed God’s people.  God’s indictment is upon them:

21I did not send these prophets, but they ran.  I did not speak to them, but they prophesied.  22But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.

The lessons for God’s people and God’s ministers are plain.  We need to long for and listen to the Word of God.  There will always be other voices—other “Christian” voices—that are simply echoing the rebellion of a fallen culture.  These voices are not listening to or speaking the Word of God.  And such false voices do not challenge the idols of our time and culture.  We need to be a people committed to the Word of God.  We need the word that comes from outside of ourselves—outside of our imaginations and dreams.  We need a word spoken from God. 

For us in the New Covenant we find this sure word in the Scriptures.  The Bible is our authoritative guide to the word of God.  If we would know the mind of God and the will of God we must pay attention to the Word of God—the Scriptures.  Jeremiah speaks to the power of God’s Word with this language:

“Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?  (23.29)

Let us ever love, study, and obey this strong Word of God.  Let its message challenge you, rebuke you, comfort you, and guide you.  If we are going to stand strong for God in this challenging time we will need to live by this strong Word of God.