Morning Light – Jeremiah 23
Today: [Jeremiah 23] Corrupt Pastors and Errant Prophets. In Jeremiah 23 the prophet excoriates the pastors and prophets who have failed God and failed the people. When is the last time your pastor visited you? Does he even know your name? What of the prophet? Did the last prophecy you received tell you how wonderful you are without any call to change, or greater service in the kingdom? Jeremiah speaks to both of these outrages, and the judgment of God against them.
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[Jer 23:1-40 KJV] 1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this [is] his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8 But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. 9 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force [is] not right. 11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD. 12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery [ways] in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, [even] the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. 13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
In this chapter, Jeremiah reproaches the pastors and the prophets that are harming the flock of God. He begins by reproving pastors under whose leadership the people have scattered. In our day, the dominate trend of church attendance and even adoption of the born-again experience is in sharp decline. Leaders and church people alike cluck their tongues and bemoan the godlessness of our day – but God holds the pastors and the prophets responsible! We can point the finger at politicians, popular culture, and many things but when God turns His eye to the deplorable condition of mankind, He holds the pastors responsible.
Where is the pastor who will, as Jeremiah says “visit the people”? In Christian culture there is a deep divide between “clergy” and “laity” designed to institutionally isolate the people from their leaders. They are aloof, inaccessible and to make matters, worse – this conduct is taught as the proper and appropriate for a pastor to relate to his flock. Pastor, when is the last time you visited your people? When is the last time you were in their homes, or they were in your home? “Ah! Not possible, you say – because your flock is just too big!!!” If your ministry is so big that you cannot be the pastor that Jeremiah is calling for, then you are not pastoring a church you are pastoring a sheep shed!
God’s promise is to take His people out from under the shepherds who are aloof from their flocks and give them true shepherds that will feed them and love them and see to it that there is not one of them lacking any good thing. Are you in a sheep shed? When was the last time your pastor visited you? Does he even know your name? You may be comfortable in a crowd and secure in a sea of faces, but have you considered that God may be calling you to a true shepherd who will actually pastor you, rather than just in name only?
14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. 15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. 16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, [and] not out of the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. 18 For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard [it]? 19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. 21 I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. 23 [Am] I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? 24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. 25 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
Having excoriated the pastors among His people, God now turns His searchlight on the prophets in the midst of the people. He repudiates the prophets who for generations excused the idolatries of the northern tribes who have now gone into captivity and obscurity because they listened to prophets who spoke lies and deceit to them. Now those same prophets, having lost their following in the north have come to the southern kingdom to tell the same lies.
God’s promise to the prophets who promise blessing without penitence is that He will feed them with wormwood and bitterness of heart. Because the prophets will not call upon the people to change their hearts, profaness has become the rule of the land. When God looks at the sin and failure of a nation, it is the prophets and the pastors that He holds accountable. It is common in church culture that pastors and prophets do not get along, and generally have a deep divide between them. Could this be because the prophets and the pastors know they are under the rebuke of heaven because they will not deal truthfully with the people of God?
In verse 16 the Father tells the people to hearken not to the prophets who speak out of the vanity of their hearts. When you go to a prophet and all he tells you is how wonderful you are and what great things God is doing in your life – beware. In every word from heaven there is an expectation upon your behavior and your heart toward the things of God. What does that prophetic word, directly or by implication demand of you? Prophetic words are assignments from heaven. They contain – a true prophecy that is – a mandate to seek first the kingdom! Then all things will be added. Are you willing to hear the word that imposes assignment and dictates a change of heart in your life? Or will you only listen to words that tell you how wonderful you are and what God is going to do for you because you are such a good Christian?
26 How long shall [this] be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, [they are] prophets of the deceit of their own heart; 27 Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. 28 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What [is] the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. 29 [Is] not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer [that] breaketh the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I [am] against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. 31 Behold, I [am] against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 32 Behold, I [am] against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. 33 And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What [is] the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD. 34 And [as for] the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house. 35 Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken? 36 And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God. 37 Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken? 38 But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD; 39 Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, [and cast you] out of my presence: 40 And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
Verse 26 speaks of those prophets who only prophesy out of the deceits of their own heart. When a prophet’s message does not bring you closer to Jesus, then that prophet and their prophecies are to be held suspect. Nonetheless v. 28 tells us not to hold back when we hear from God. When you see how deeply accountable God holds the prophets, nonetheless God says if you have a dream tell it. Do not rob the people of God from their blessing. Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us time and again to covet to prophesy, and to desire spiritual gifts. Sometimes the issue of spiritual gifts are like passing out rattlesnakes in the congregation! No one wants to take one or handle one. Remember this! When the people of God refuse to move in the true and valid gifts of God it makes room for the false and the counterfeit. We can complain that there are errant words and ministries coming forth in our midst – but they are an indication as well that we are not obeying God when He calls upon us to stand up and obey!
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