Sunday, November 27, 2022

“Under the Yoke” [Matt's Messages]

“Under the Yoke”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 27, 2022 :: Jeremiah 27:1-28:17

Last week, we read about a time when Jeremiah almost died. He was almost executed for prophesying the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His colleague the Prophet Uriah did die for doing that. But Jeremiah was spared that day and walked out of court free to prophesy another day.

And chapter 27 is another day. This is actually about 16 years later than chapter 26. But Jeremiah is still going strong with the exact same message as he was preaching 16 years previously. Jeremiah was a broken record about the broken covenant and the judgment that was inevitably going to break upon Judah.

His message is basically the same in these two chapters, though there is a new twist and a new prophetic prop. Look at verses 1 and 2 to see what it is. 

“Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: This is what the LORD said to me: ‘Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck.” 

[VIDEO WILL BE EMBEDDED HERE.]

Uncomfortable!

Over the last few months, we’ve been wondering together what it must have been like to be a faithful prophet in the days of Jeremiah.

Last week, we said that it was clearly dangerous. Jeremiah almost lost his life. Uriah surely did.

In previous weeks, we said that it must have been miserable. Because the faithful prophet was often the odd-man-out. He stood alone. He had to go against the flow. 

He often had a painful message to deliver that seemingly nobody wanted to hear. And he often had to do weird things. Like this one. Make a yoke and wear it around town.

Sounds uncomfortable to me. How about you?

Everybody here knows what is a yoke is, right? Like for a team of oxen? A Hebrew yoke in this time period was two wooden crossbars to go over and under the necks of the two oxen and then leather straps to bind them together. And Jeremiah was supposed to make one of those and then put it on himself.

And, apparently, wear it around town like had that linen belt. And we don’t know for how long he was supposed to do it. Sounds uncomfortable to me. Especially because he wasn’t married so he didn’t have someone on the other end of the yoke.

Why did he have to do this? Well, this is around 593 or 594 BC. It’s early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah. We know (even though they didn’t) that that’s the last king of Judah to reign in Jerusalem before the exile.

So the judgment that Jeremiah has been predicting has already begun. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, is the most powerful man in the world at this point, and he has already taken King Jehoichin and a bunch of other leaders to Babylon into exile. And Nebuchadnezzar was the one who placed King Zedekiah on the throne.

But Zedekiah, I think, is considering a rebellion. He’s got it into his mind that maybe Nebuchadnezzar is stretched a little too thin and his kingodm is weakening. So maybe if Zedekiah puts his head together with some neighboring nations and gets some strategic alliances going, he might be able to break free.

So Zedekiah hosts a summit in Jerusalem. A little confab of kings or their ambassadors. But the LORD does not want Zedekiah to break free from Nebuchadnezzar. Instead, he wants Zedekiah and his neighbors to surrender and to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. He wants them to bow their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon. That’s why Jeremiah has to wear this yoke.

[I so badly wanted to name this sermon, “The Yoke’s On You!” But I didn’t. I refrained. I was good. And it’s really not funny.]
 
Everywhere that Jeremiah went, he would get stares and pointed fingers and tilted heads and question marks.

Uncomfortable. That’s what it must have been like to be a faithful prophet in that day.

Verse 3 might indicate that Jeremiah was actually supposed to make 6 of these yokes and send 5 of them away in gift bags. Look at verse 3.

After you make and wear this yoke...“Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. Give them a message for their masters and say, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Tell this to your masters: With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him. If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the LORD, until I destroy it by his hand.” (vv.3-9). 

The word in verse 3 translated “send word” could be translated “send them” meaning send each of those kings their own personal homemade yoke. Send a yoke to every king considering rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar.

Whether or not Jeremiah was supposed to do that, he was supposed to tell them all to bend their necks under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar at this time.

Why? Was that because Nebuchadnezzar was such a good and godly man? No.

Was it because Nebuchadnezzar was so wise and compassionate? Also no.

It was just because the LORD is sovereign, and this is His plan. And He was going to use Nebuchadnezzar for His good and wise purposes. Nebuchadnezzar was the LORD’s servant. He was God’s instrument for that moment.

That didn’t make him good. But the LORD can use any instrument to achieve His sovereign purposes in the world. Do you believe that? If we believe that, it will help us to live more peaceful lives. 

I love verse 5. “With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.”

We need to be reminded of that on a regular basis, don’t we? I know I do.

And the LORD was going to use Babylon for a time. For three generations. Nebuchadnezzar, and then two more kings to come after him.

The nations were supposed to accept that. And if they didn’t, they would be destroyed.

So, we get to verse 9 and begin to hear the main thrust of these two chapters. A phrase that’s going to be repeated over and over again. More than he talks about the yoke, he says this (v.9):

“So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon.'” 

I almost titled this sermon, “Do Not Listen!”

Remember how much he said, “Listen!” in the last chapter? Listen to the LORD. Tune Him in.

Well, this is the flipside of that. “Do not listen” to those who are lying to you.

Or let me put it this way: 

#1. DO NOT LISTEN TO THOSE WHO ONLY TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

That’s the big idea of these two chapters. And Jeremiah has been banging that drum for three decades. Do not listen to the people who only tell you what you want to hear.

In verse 9, it was all of the soothsayers of the foreign nations. The diviners, the mediums, the spiritists, the horoscope people, the sorcerers. We could add the bad counselors, the positivity experts, the politicians, the pundits, the smiling televangelists, the quack doctors, the bad friends–anyone who only tells us what we want to hear. 

“You will not serve the king of Babylon.”

Jeremiah was sent with a yoke around his neck to say, “That is a lie.” Look at verse 10. “They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke [there’s our sermon title! “Under the yoke”] of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.’”

You don’t have to be uprooted.  You don’t have to be removed. You could remain. If you submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Most of the time, submission is not fun. We saw that a year ago as we were reading in 1 Peter about how we should live as foreigners and exiles in this world today. We need to submit ourselves to others, often in uncomfortable ways. To the governing authorities, for example. Even the ones we didn’t vote for! Man, who wants to be told that? Submission is not popular. It doesn’t get “likes and shares.” Especially from Americans.

We like it when people tell us that we can do whatever we want to do. Freedom!

But do not listen to the people who only tell you what you want to hear.

Maybe this message was just for the other nations? Maybe this surrender and submission was just for Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon, but not Judah? Look at verse 12. 

“I gave the same message to Zedekiah king of Judah. I said, ‘Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and his people, and you will live. Why will you and your people die by the sword, famine and plague with which the LORD has threatened any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? [No, it’s for you, too.] Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon,' for they are prophesying lies to you. ‘I have not sent them,' declares the LORD. 'They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.'” 

I don’t know if Jeremiah got to deliver this message in person, but I imagine him standing there in the throne room, actually offering for Zedekiah to join him in the yoke. In the other side of the yoke.

“Here. Join me. We need to put ourselves under the control of Nebuchadnezzar.”

That must have felt treasonous to the people of Judah. It must have felt “pro-Babylon” instead of “pro-Judah.” It was what they needed to hear, but it was not what they wanted to hear. \

What they wanted to hear was that their ordeal would soon be over and everything was going to go back to the way it was. Look at verse 16.

“Then I said to the priests and all these people, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not listen to the prophets who say, 'Very soon now the articles from the LORD's house will be brought back from Babylon.' They are prophesying lies to you. Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and you will live. Why should this city become a ruin? If they are prophets and have the word of the LORD, let them plead with the LORD Almighty that the furnishings remaining in the house of the LORD and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not be taken to Babylon. For this is what the LORD Almighty says about the pillars, the Sea, the movable stands and the other furnishings that are left in this city, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take away when he carried Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, along with all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem–yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says about the things that are left in the house of the LORD and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 'They will be taken to Babylon and there they will remain until the day I come for them,' declares the LORD. 'Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.'” (vv.16-22).

Now, there is good news there at the end, isn’t there? There is hope in verse 22. There is restoration. There is re-planting what was uprooted. Even many of the articles from the temple will return to the land. It happened! The Book of Ezra recounts the return of more than 5,400 articles for the rebuilt temple (1:7-11)! 

There is hope there. But it comes in God’s way and in God’s timing. And, in God’s timing, it comes after they go under the yoke.

First, they get carted off, then they get restored.

Do not listen to anyone who tells you that you can just skip over the hard part.

Do not listen to the people who only tell you what you want to hear.

Like the prophet Hananiah.

Do you know this guy? Chapter 28. Like the Prophet Uriah from last week, this is the only place the prophet Hananiah shows up in the whole Bible.

Hananiah seems like a pretty nice guy. But he’s the just the kind of person that Jeremiah has been warning everybody about all along. And here the two of them have a confrontation. It’s the same year. 593 or 594 BC. Zedekiah is king. Verse 1.

“In the fifth month of that same year, the fourth year, early in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, said to me [Jeremiah] in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people: ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD's house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,' declares the LORD, 'for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.'” (vv.1-4).

Whoop! That sounds good, doesn’t it? A prophet speaking with such confidence?  And what an encouraging word! He sounds just like Jeremiah, except I like what he says! Hananiah says two years and this whole thing is over. Two years! Not 70 like Jeremiah said. According to Jeremiah, we’ve got like 55 more years to go until this thing is over. Maybe more. This generation! Not two more generations from now. And King Jehoiachin will come home? Jeremiah said that he would die in exile (22:27). This sounds so much better. We keep the temple. We keep Jerusalem. We don’t have more exile. The LORD is going to break the yoke of the king of Babylon. #BreakTheYoke! All over social media.

What do you say if you’re Jeremiah at this moment?

You just heard Hananiah contradict everything you’ve been saying for thirtysome years, in the name of the LORD. But what he says is what you would rather happen. What do you say? Here’s what Jeremiah says. Verse 5.

“Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD. He said, ‘Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the LORD's house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. [I wish that were true. I wish that was the plan. Amen. But it’s not the plan. And we all know it. Verse 7.] Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true.’ [And I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen here.]”

Jeremiah would love for Hananiah to be right.

He has cried rivers of tears over what he knows is going to happen in about 7 years time. He will cry more rivers of tears and probably write a whole book called “Lamentations” over what is going to happen.

But he would love for Hananiah to be right.

He knows that he isn’t right. But he would love it if his people could be spared.

Hananiah doesn’t take no for an answer. And he decides it’s time for a little prophetic symbolism of his own. Look at verse 10!

“Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and he said before all the people, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'In the same way will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.' At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way” (vv.10-12). What a dramatic moment!

I can hardly believe that Jeremiah was still wearing that yoke. How long did he have to wear that thing? And Hananiah comes up to him and dramatically grabs it off of his neck. What was that like?! And smashes it. Like the pottery? He “broke” it. Tore it apart? Cut it two? What did “breaking” it mean?

And he prophesied that the LORD would break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar defeated. What a day that will be!

Except it’s not a day that will be. Not in two years. Hananiah was all wrong.

It’s very possible that he believed it. That he got this idea into his head and thought it was from the LORD. He might have been well-meaning. But he was only telling them what they wanted to hear.

Do not listen to the people who only tell you what you want to hear.

Several times in the last few months, I’ve asked you the application question, “What lies do you want to believe?” Don’t just say what lies other people around you are tempted to believe, but what lies are you tempted to believe because they would make your life easier? Or more pleasurable? Or soothe your worries? Or confirm your prior assumptions?

One of the big problems with social media is that when you like or share something, the social media algorithms give you more of the same. Did you ever notice that? So pretty soon, if we aren’t careful, it just feeds you more of what you already think and feel and believe. Including about how evil and bad those other people are out there who think differently than you do. No need to listen to them or treat them with respect as fellow bearers of the image of God.

It’s easy to surround ourselves with “yes-men” who tell us what our “itching ears” want to hear.

What do you want to hear, that isn’t necessarily true? And who is feeding you those lies?
Do not listen to the people who only tell you what you want to hear.

#2. LISTEN TO WHAT THE LORD SAYS BECAUSE IT IS SURELY TRUE.

Did you see how Jeremiah just walked away in verse 11? I’ll bet that Hananiah thought that he had just won the “Great Israeli Prophet-Off” against Jeremiah. 

“I showed him!” 

And everybody was applauding. Everybody was so glad there was a new prophet on the scene. And finally one with a good message. Positive, encouraging Hananiah. Tune in! But Jeremiah walked off because he had said everything he needed to say, and the LORD had not given him anything else to say at that time. But later He did. Look at verse 12.

“Shortly after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘Go and tell Hananiah, 'This is what the LORD says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals'” (vv.12-14).

I hope that Jeremiah didn’t have to wear an iron yoke. But the point is clear.

What the LORD said would happen is what is going to happen. It doesn’t matter what Hananiah thought or said or did. The word of the LORD will come true. Including all of the hard parts that we’d all rather skip. It will happen, not because Jeremiah said it, but because Yahweh did.

And Hananiah will learn that lesson the hard way. Verse 15. “Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. [Ouch.] Therefore, this is what the LORD says: 'I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.' [By preaching rebellion against Babylon!] In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died” (vv.15-17).

In the Book of Deuteronomy, the LORD said that all false prophets in Israel should be put to death.  Some false prophets tried to lure them away to idols and foreign gods. But other false prophets might have been nice guys who prophesied in the name of the LORD and wanted good things for God’s people. But they only prophesied good things that the people wanted to hear and not the hard things that the people needed to hear. The hard things that the LORD Himself said which are surely true.

Do you know what the LORD has said? You can only listen to it and believe it and trust in it, if you know it.

This is a very somber ending. The LORD wins. Jeremiah wins. The truth wins. But it’s not a happy thing. Hananiah dies because he persuaded the nation to trust in lies. Instead of trying to persuade the nation to trust in the LORD’s truth.

I will admit that I am sorely tempted at times to only preach the things you all want to hear. Just yesterday as I was writing this message, I tried to come up with a list of things you might want not want to hear and then lay them all out. And then I chickened out. I heard the negative feedback in my mind and pulled back. I am tempted to become an Hananiah, and this is a cautionary tale for me. I want, instead, to become like Jeremiah and tell it like it like it is and like it will be, often with tears.

And even more than speaking it, I want to listen to what the LORD says because it will surely be true. His word is not wooden. It is iron. And so even if that makes us uncomfortable, we should listen in because that’s where the truth is and the life. The truth of the gospel starts with the bad news that we are sinners deserving of judgment. “The soul who sins will die.” We have to hear that, listen to that, and believe it to get to the good news.

The good news is that God so loved this exceedingly sinful world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (cf. John 3:16). And those who put themselves in His hands, under His authority will find life and rest. Jesus Christ invites us to repent and trust and follow Him which will mean hard times. Following Jesus is hard! It’s uncomfortable. Repenting is uncomfortable. Following Jesus is uncomfortable.

But that’s where the hope actually is. And that’s where the rest actually lies. On the other side of the painful is the peace. Because Jesus Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take i upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Listen to Him.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8
18. "I Did Not Send These Prophets" - Jeremiah 23:9-40
19. "“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” - Jeremiah 24:1-25:38
20. "This Man Should Be Sentenced to Death" - Jeremiah 26:1-24

Advent Candle #1: The Days Of Hope Are Coming

Photo by Ruyan Ayten
LEFC Family Advent Readings: The Days Are Coming
The Advent of Christ in the Prophecy of Jeremiah
 Jeremiah 23:3-6 :: November 27, 2022
Week #1: A Candle of Hope

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent Season, our readings will contemplate the coming of the Messiah predicted in the Prophecy of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah prophesied during some very dark days in the kingdom of Judah. All of the rulers of the nation were supposed to wisely shepherd God’s people. But, instead of caring for the flock, the kings had foolishly destroyed and scattered it.

However, the prophet Jeremiah also had a message of hope. The LORD Himself promised to come and shepherd His people. In Jeremiah chapter 23, the LORD says:

[READ JEREMIAH 23:3-6.]

Our first candle is a candle of hope.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE.]

The light shines brighter in the darkness. The sheep had been driven away, but the LORD will bring them safely back into pasture where they will flourish.

The Shepherd predicted in Jeremiah 23 is the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10-11).

The days of hope are coming.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

"This Man Should Be Sentenced To Death" [Matt's Messages]

"This Man Should Be Sentenced To Death"
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 20, 2022 :: Jeremiah 26:1-24 

Because Caleb Lucien from Vision of Hope in Haiti was here last Sunday, we skipped another week in our study of Jeremiah, but don’t worry, he will repeat himself again! Jeremiah was a broken record about a broken covenant. And chapter 26 is no different in its essential message from what he has said before.

However we will notice something different as we begin to make our way through this second half of the book of Jeremiah. There are going to be more stories. There will still be many prophecies written out in poetic form, the words of Jeremiah. But there are going to be increasingly stories about what Jeremiah did and what happened to him. We’re going to see that this morning as we get into Jeremiah chapter 26.


In this chapter, Jeremiah almost dies.

It’s a close call. It’s touch or go. Jeremiah gets into such a mess of trouble that he is in grave danger of being executed.

Several times in the last few months we have wondered aloud what it must have been like to be a faithful prophet of the LORD in these days. We’ve said that it must have been miserable. There was a lot of weeping. There was a lot of loneliness. There was a lot of being called to be weird, strange, and different.

And it was also, apparently, very risky. We’ve seen that already back in chapter 11 when there was a conspiracy against Jeremiah. The people of Judah did not like what they heard Jeremiah constantly saying, and at times it put him in grave danger. And this is one of those times.

Do you remember the sermon I preached back in June with the longest title I’ve ever slapped onto a message, “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!”?

Well, I said back then that eventually we’d get to chapter 26 which is probably the story of the time that Jeremiah preached that particular message himself. (Or at least another one a lot like it.)

The focus of chapter 26 is less about what he said as much as it is more about what happened because he said it. Let me show you what I mean. Look with me at verse 1.

“Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word” (vv.1-2).

From the dating of the king, this is probably the year 609 BC. It’s actually from before the events of both of the last two chapters that we looked at last time. In 609 BC, the LORD sends Jeremiah to stand at the doorway to the temple and preach at the people coming into the temple for worship. They are on the way “into church,” so to speak, and Jeremiah is at the door, and he’s calling them to repent.

I have four points of application for us to consider this morning from this chapter. And they focus on our being like Jeremiah. Not being like rebellious Judah, but being like faithful Jeremiah. We are not prophets, but we can learn from their examples. Here’s point number one:

#1. SPEAK THE UNCUT TRUTH.

The LORD gives Jeremiah a message, and he’s supposed to deliver all of it. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth according to God. You see that in verse 2? “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.” The word for “omit” there could be translated “cut.” It was sometimes used for a haircut. Do not trim the truth.

The Lord has put a message in our mouths, hasn’t He? He has given us the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. And He wants us to share it with our friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, and even strangers and enemies. But we are not authorized to cut out the parts of the story we don’t like that.

For example, the part about us being sinners. Or the part about the punishment for sin. Or the part about how there is no other way to be saved than Jesus.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching the gospel here at the memorial service for Jeff Hummel. A delightful guy who used to work for CTMA here in our area. He was known as “Needle.” And I got to preach from John 14:6 where Jesus says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” And that’s such good news, isn’t it? And it would be tempting to just say that, but not finish the sentence. But Jesus went on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through” Him. And that’s pretty exclusive. That’s not as popular a thing to say. It’s inclusive in that anyone who comes through Jesus will get to the Father. Not just certain kinds of people—the rich or the religious or a certain ethnic group or race. Anyone who comes to Jesus will get to the Father, but only those who come through Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through Him.” That’s the unedited, uncut truth.

And we are to be prophetic in our day, we must not cut out the difficult bits or we are not being faithful. I’m not saying that we need to rub the hard parts in people’s faces. We must speak the truth in love. But we must speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the uncut truth. 

That’s what Jeremiah was called to do in the hopes that Judah might listen and repent. Look at verse 3. 

“Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. [This is when they had not yet calcified into the brittle pottery that must be smashed. Jeremiah is sent with a warning which is also an invitation. Verse 4.] Say to them, 'This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'’” (vv.4-6).

Do you hear the warning? If you do not listen, then the temple will become like Shiloh. What does that mean? What was Shiloh all about? Do you remember chapter 7 when we got the fuller transcript of this message? 

Shiloh was the first location for the tabernacle. It was actually in the North. But now Shiloh had become a ghost-town. There was no tabernacle there. There was nothing there. It was like Peale. Over by Grassflat? There’s no town there anymore. And Jeremiah is saying that the should not trust in the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of LORD. Like it was some kind of a magic shield that protected them from any disaster, like a cosmic get-out-of-jail card. The LORD had wiped out the house of the LORD before. And He was prepared to do it again if they did not listen.

And they did not listen.

Here’s point number two. Directed more at us as recipients of the uncut truth than speakers of it.

#2. LISTEN TO THE UNPOPULAR TRUTH.

Last time, we called it, “Tune it in instead of tuning it out.

Do you see Jeremiah is emphasizing the idea of listening, once again? Look at verse 4 and 5.

“If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh…”

Listen!

Don’t put on your headphones. 
Don’t tune me out.
Don’t change the channel.

The Lord wants us to listen to Him even if (especially if) what He says is not popular.

Remember there were other prophets at this time who prophesied what everybody wanted to hear. They were the prophets of “peace.” “Peace, peace.” “It’s all good.” “Live how you want.” “You do you.” “You only live once.” “It’ll be okay.” “You don’t have to repent. You don’t have to turn. You don’t have to change.”

That’s popular. But it’s not the truth. The truth is that the LORD desires our repentance. He wants us to change. He wants us to live life HIS way which is the best way. But it’s not the most popular way.

Listen!

What’s He been saying to you?

How do you think the people coming into the temple that day felt about Jeremiah’s message? They hated it. 1 star reviews. No star reviews. Frowny faces. And cancel culture came to get Jeremiah, to the point where the crowd demanded his death. V.7

“The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, ‘You must die! Why do you prophesy in the LORD's name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?’ And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD” (vv.7-9).

Do you see it in your mind’s eye? The mob crowding around him? Demanding his death, “You must die!” Why are they like that? Because they feel threatened. Because he’s saying something they don’t want to hear. And because it sounded kind of treasonous. He’s speaking against their national symbol, and you know how patriotic people get about their national symbols.

“Why do you prophesy in the LORD’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted? How dare you?!”

So, right then and there, they set up a court house in the temple courts. And Jeremiah goes on trial for his life. Look at verse 10.

“When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD's house. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, ‘This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!’” (vv.10-11).

Here's where it gets dicey for Jeremiah. He is one step away from either mob violence or judicial execution for blasphemy and false prophecy. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Jeremiah is not a false prophet, but he’s on trial for being one! And he might die as one.

Here’s the title of this sermon in verse 11, “This Man Should Be Sentenced To Death.”

“…because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”

The Lord warned Jeremiah that there would be days like this.

If you remember chapter 1, the LORD told Jeremiah when he was just a young buck that he would face opposition from just about everyone. 

He said, “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land” (Jer. 1:17-18 NIVO).

There are going to be days like this. When nobody wants to hear the truth. And Jeremiah was called to be stand with the truth no matter what.

#3. STAND WITH THE UNCHANGING TRUTH.

Be a fortified city.
Be an iron pillar.
Be a bronze wall.

Even if you have stand against the whole wide world.

In the third century, many in the church had lost their way and fallen into heresy. A heresy we call the Arian heresy because the false teacher Arius. He taught that Jesus, the Son of God, was an exalted being, the greatest being ever created.

What’s wrong with that? The Son of God was not created. God the Son was not created. He was and is and is to come. He is eternally begotten of the Father. There was never a time when the Son was not.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….And the Word became flesh.”

He was not created. 

But so many had come to believe that. Most of the churches were full of pastors who taught that. But there were a handful who did not, including a church leader named Athanasius.  And Athanasius stood his ground. He said that even if every single person in the whole wide world believed heresy, he would still preach the truth. He called it, in Latin, “Athanasius Contra Mundum.” Athanasius Against the World.

And the LORD is calling you and me to stand with the truth of the gospel Contra Mundum. Even if the whole world thinks we’re crazy for believing in Jesus, we need to keep on believing in Jesus. 

Where are you tempted to just give in to what the world thinks and says? I’m not asking where other people are tempted to do that. That’s easier to see. We can all point fingers at other people’s compromises. Where are ours? Where are you tempted to just give in to what the world thinks and says? Do not change your message under pressure!

Jeremiah did not. He was a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall. Look at verse 12.

The prosecution has made their case. Now Jeremiah acts as his own defense attorney and makes his. V.12 

“Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: ‘The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. [Why did I prophesy that this house will be like Shiloh? Because the Yahweh sent me to say that to you! Because that’s the terms of the covenant! Because that’s the uncut unchanging truth. And you have to deal with that. V.13.] Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing’” (vv.12-16).

That little speech could very well be the last thing that Jeremiah ever said. That little speech could literally cost Jeremiah his life. And it wouldn’t have to. All he would have had to do is say, “I’m sorry. I got it wrong. Let me rephrase that. Let me hedge that a little bit. Let me spin it a different way. Let me change my tune.” And they probably would have let him live.

But Jeremiah stood for the unchanging truth. V. 16, “For IN TRUTH the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” Even if it means death.

Are you ready to risk death for speaking the truth of the gospel?

#4. RISK YOUR LIFE FOR THE UNDYING TRUTH.

Jeremiah says, “Do your worst if you have to. I am in your hands. But! Know that if you put me to death, you will be signing your death warrant, too. Because I’ve been telling you the truth all along.”

And that brought them all up short.

Look at how they back-pedal and change their tune in verse 16!

“Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, ‘This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.’ [That was fast! Exact opposite of what they said in verse 11. They’ve changed their minds all of a sudden. Now they need a justification for it. Look at verse 17.] Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, ‘Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah [a hundred years ago or so]. He told all the people of Judah, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘ 'Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.'

‘Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? [No!] Did not Hezekiah fear the LORD and seek his favor? And did not the LORD relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!’” (vv.16-20).

Do you see what they’re saying?

They are bringing up the Prophet Micah. And they are actually quoting Micah 3:12 there in verse 18. I learned this week that this is the only place in the Old Testament where one prophetic book quotes another prophetic book and names the source of the quote. That’s pretty cool. The entire Bible is hypertexted together. Their point is that a hundred years ago the prophet Micah said something very similar to the prophet Jeremiah (now that we think about it), and King Hezekiah didn’t put Micah to death. 

So maybe we shouldn’t put Jeremiah to death? Ya think?

Jeremiah walks away from this one.

Sadly, the people didn’t repent like they did in days of Micah and Hezekiah. Or the LORD would have relented and brought blessing! But at least they didn’t kill Jeremiah this time. They pulled up short of that. Jeremiah walked home that day from the temple courts, alive to preach the dangerous truth again the next day.

And you might be tempted to think that it was never a close call. They weren’t really going to do that. They weren’t really going to kill the prophet, right? But Jeremiah includes verses 20 through 24 to show us that it very well could have gone down a different way.

It did for the prophet Uriah.

Do you know this story? Do you know this guy? The Prophet Uriah? This is the only place where he shows up in the whole Bible. Look at verse 20.

“(Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. [Jeremiah was not alone! He wasn’t the only one who was an broken record about the broken covenant and the judgement to come. There was at least one other, the prophet Uriah. V.21] When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. [Probably a tactical mistake. Operating out of fear. He ran instead of standing like Jeremiah did. But he didn’t change his message! V.22] King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. [There was an extradition treaty in place between the two nations at the time.] They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.) Furthermore, Ahikam son of Shaphan supported Jeremiah, and so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death” (vv.20-24).

Jeremiah almost died.

Uriah did.

And you and I need to be ready to be like either one of them.

Be ready to risk your life for the undying truth of the gospel.

I don’t want to die as a martyr for the gospel. But even more I don’t want to live as a traitor to the gospel. 

It would be a great honor to be a Uriah. Barely known but faithful unto death. Our Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12 NIVO).

The letter to the Hebrews talks about prophets like Uriah when it says in chapter 11

They “were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them” (Heb. 11:35-38 NIVO).

I don’t want to die as a martyr for the gospel. But even more I don’t want to live as a traitor to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because He died for me.

I can’t read about this trial of Jeremiah without thinking about the trial of Jesus.

How about you? Did your mind go there as we read through chapter 26? When the crowd cried, “This man should be sentenced to death!” I heard, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Jesus spoke the uncut truth, and they didn’t want to listen to Him either.

Jesus stood for the unchanging truth even though it was unpopular. Jesus Contra Mundum!

And Jesus not only risked but gave His life for the undying truth of Who He was and to pay for our sins.

And as we go into this holiday week, there is nothing greater for us for which to give thanks.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”

(“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Thomas O. Chisholm)


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8
18. "I Did Not Send These Prophets" - Jeremiah 23:9-40
19. "“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” - Jeremiah 24:1-25:38

Sunday, November 06, 2022

“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” [Matt's Messages]

“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 6, 2022 :: Jeremiah 24:1-25:38

We’ve pretty much reached the halfway mark in this book, and the second half is going to be mostly similar but a little different than the first. If anything, it’s going to get both darker and brighter at the same time.

It’s been a few weeks, so you may not remember what Jeremiah has been saying, and so thankfully these two chapters are great ones for review. They are almost like one of those “recaps” at the midpoint of a television season, right before or after a break.

And, as usual, Jeremiah is a broken record so he will remind us what he’s been saying all along. In chapter 25, he says that he’s been saying the same thing already for 23 years.

And, also as usual, Jeremiah has some object lessons for us. Two very strong images. One in chapter 24 and one in chapter 25.

And the first image is that of a couple baskets of figs.


Have you ever noticed that the best of things often come from the worst of things?

The very best of things often come from the very worst things.

Life is full of surprises, and life with God is even more full of things you might never expect.

That’s the situation here in Jeremiah 24.

The year is 597 B.C. That’s the year that is dated in verse 1. 

“After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the craftsmen and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the LORD showed me [Jeremiah] two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD.”

That’s 597 BC. Jeremiah has been prophesying for about 30 years. He’s on his fourth king (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoichin. He went through some of them almost as fast as the UK went through their last prime minister.)! And Nebuchadnezzar has shown up on the scene and carted off 10,000 citizens of Judah including a young prophet named Ezekiel. 597 BC. The exile has begun.

It’s a slow start, not so violent, but many of the leaders have been taken away.

And in 597 BC, the LORD shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs in front of the temple. I'm not sure if that’s a prophetic vision in his mind or if they are real figs and the LORD just uses them as a prophetic object lesson. If they were real figs, there was a real problem if they were supposed to be a firstfruits offering at the temple. Look at verse 2.

“One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very poor figs, so bad they could not be eaten. Then the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘Figs,’ I answered. ‘The good ones are very good, but the poor ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.’”

Do you get the picture in your mind? Two baskets, both full of figs. Good ones that are really good. Juicy, delicious, a delicacy. Mmm. Yum! And then a basket of bad ones that look like they belong in the compost bucket.

So what does that mean? 

Don’t tell me you don’t give a fig...It will make me a basket case.

Okay. I’ll try not to make any more fig jokes! Because what the LORD has to say through these figs is no joke. V.4

“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Oh, man, that sounds good, doesn’t it?!

The strange thing is that it’s the exact opposite of what the citizens of Judah might have thought.

Okay, we might have guessed that the two kinds of figs stand for two kinds of people.

And, we might have even guessed that the two kinds of people are those carted off into exile and those who have remained in the land.

But I don’t think anybody would have guessed which was which!

I mean, Jeremiah is preaching to the people in Jerusalem. And they were not in exile. It seemed like they might be safe. They might escape the exile. The judgment that he’s been talking about has come, and the bad figs have been drug off into the judgment of exile, right? 

Right! This was punishment. This was discipline. This was judgment on the nation.

But God often uses the worst of things to bring out the best.

Notice that He doesn’t actually say that those in exile were good and that’s why they were going to exile. He actually says (v.5), “I regard as good the exiles from Judah.” “I count them that way.” It’s like He’s choosing to see them that way. He’s set His goodness upon them. It’s not so much that He sees them as good, but that He has planned goodness for them. 

That’s why I took the first words of verse 6 to be our title for today, “My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good.” Their “tov.” The Lord has set His goodness on these exiles so that they are like a basket of good figs in His sight. They have a future, and it’s a good one.

Verses 6 and 7 are a lot like the most famous verse in all of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11. It’s right around the corner. Just a few more weeks, and we’ll get to study it in depth. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11).

Do you know whom He is talking to there? The exiles! Read chapter 29 to see what I’m talking about. He’s not talking to people whose lives are going smoothly with no bumps in their roads. He’s actually talking to people whose lives have been uprooted! And He’s talking to people who certainly don’t deserve anything good! And yet, He has good planned for them.

I have three points of personal application to suggest from these two chapters this morning, and here’s number one:

#1. TRUST IN THE LORD’S GRACIOUS PLAN.

It’s all of grace. This is all of grace. They do not deserve this goodness, but it is certainly coming to them.

I love all of the “I wills” in verses 6 and 7. Did you feel them when I read it to you? “My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

How sweet and strong are those promises?! First off, He’s going to bring them back to the land. They can count on that. The exile, as awful as it will be (and it will be truly awful!) is not the end. There’s a future after the exile.

And do you see how he uses the language we first saw back in chapter 1 (v.10)? I just taught on this to the students at Miracle Mountain Ranch on Wednesday.

When He called Jeremiah to be a prophet, the LORD told Jeremiah that he was going to prophesy so that the nations were six things:

uprooted
torn down
destroyed
overthrown
rebuilt
and replanted.

And most of the book so far has been about the first four.

But now we get the promises of the last two: rebuilt and replanted! Back in the land. Back to the blessings.

But it gets even better than that!  God promises to give the people a new heart and a deep knowledge of Him. Look at verse 7 one more time.

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

And not on their own strength. This is something God will do! All by His grace.

There is no greater blessing than to know God. This is personal knowledge. This is the language of relationship. This is the language of spiritual intimacy. This is the language of covenant.

In fact, it will take a New Covenant for these promises to be fully realized. Just wait till we get to chapters 31 and 33! God is promising transformation and unimaginable blessing. “My eyes will watch over them for their good.” And not because they deserve it. And, in fact, during the darkest time they could ever imagine.

Often the best of things come out of the worst of things.

The people you might think are cursed are actually the ones to receive the most blessing. And the ones you might think were getting away with something most definitely will not. That’s the bad figs of verse 8.

“'But like the poor figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,' says the LORD, 'so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. [Had run away.] I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their fathers.'”

They are not getting away with anything. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and all those with him who thought they were lucking out, are actually headed for the compost pile.

Here’s the truth though, for you and me who belong to Jesus, the LORD is watching over us for our good.

Do you believe that?  

It might not seem like it. For one, we don’t deserve it, and for two, it sometimes feels like we’re in exile.  Some of you are experiencing very dark days. But the light shines brighter in the dark, right?

Tuesday is Election Day, and half of our nation thinks if one party wins, it will get darker and if the other party wins it will get brighter. And the other half of the nation thinks the exact same thing but just switches which party is which. Who are the good figs and who are the bad?

But the message I have this morning for us is that no matter how dark it gets--and it probably will get darker regardless of the party that wins--the Lord has His eye on us for our good.

Because He has given us new hearts to know Him. Trust in the Lord’s gracious plan. It might not be anything like you would expect, but it will be good.

Now, in chapter 25, Jeremiah jumps back about 7 years before the vision of chapter 24. Two kings earlier. And he reminds the people of Judah how they got to this terrible point.

It was by tuning him out. Look at verse 1.

“The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”

This is 605 BC, a pivotal year in ancient near eastern history.

This was the year of the Battle of Carchemish where the Egyptians and what was left of Assyria took on Babylon whose great general was a “Nebuchadnezzar” who then became king. And also that year, Jeremiah delivered this prophecy. V.2

“So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years–from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day–the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.”

Twenty-three years. I have been preaching here for 24 and half. But you have (for most the part, I hope) been listening to me. Jeremiah was a broken record about a broken covenant. But the people of Judah had tuned him out. “You have not listened.” Verse 4.

“And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, ‘Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.’

‘But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.’ Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: ‘Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

That’s what Jeremiah has been saying for 23 years in a row, and it began 7 years later but then took another 10 more than that until it really came to its awful fulfillment.

#2. TUNE INTO THE LORD’S CALLS TO REPENT.

It might have been too late for Judah, but this book is here now for us to learn from their mistakes.

What has the Lord been trying to tell you to change? Maybe for 23 years?

Part of this is saying that the LORD is amazing patient. He’s not just amazing gracious (watching over those figs for good), but He’s amazing patient (sending message after message to urge His people to repent). God often keeps sending us the same message over and over again in the hopes that we will tune it IN and take it to heart. 

What has the Lord been trying to tell you to change? When you slow down and take a good look at your life, your habits, your relationships, your choices, what are the things that the Holy Spirit puts His finger on and says, “This here needs work. This needs to change”?

I know some of mine. Do you know yours?

Judah did not want to hear about theirs. They put on their noise-canceling headphones and turned up the volume on their streaming service. Anything to keep from listening to the word of the LORD calling them to repent. And, though the LORD is amazing gracious and amazing patient, He is also unerringly just. He is righteous and holy and is full of righteous wrath against sin. So He promises through Jeremiah to bring judgment that will last for 70 years.

Keep that number in mind. It will become important. It stands for a whole lifetime and covers two full generations. None of those who are being carted off into exile will return unless they were too young to remember it.

Seventy years is a long time. But it is also a limited time. As awful as the exile will be (and it was truly awful), it will one day be over.  And those whom God used to inflict the punishment will then be punished themselves. 

Did you notice what the LORD called Nebuchadnezzar in verse 9? It would have shocked the socks off the Israelites. He called him, “my servant Nebuchadnezzar.” He doesn’t normally talk that way about pagans! He doesn’t normally talk that way about just any Israelite! And He doesn’t mean that Nebuchadnezzar was a believer or a follower of Yahweh. He was not, at this time. And what He was doing was wrong and bad–attacking God’s people like that. 

But at the very same time the LORD was using Nebuchadnezzar to effect His will! The LORD has a way of bringing out the best of things from the worst of things–including people’s very own sin! Nebuchadnezzar was the LORD’s servant. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be judged, as well. Look at verse 12.

“‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will make it desolate forever. I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands’” (vv.12-15).

Babylon is not getting away with anything either. Remember, Jeremiah is a prophet to the nations. Not just to Judah. We’re going to see that especially when we get to chapters 46 through 51. Some ancient translations actually move up chapters 46 to 51 to this point in the book of Jeremiah!

Yes, the LORD is going to use the nations to bring judgment on Judah. But, no, they are not going to get away with anything and will one day reap that judgment themselves.

And that brings us the second strong image of these two chapters. The image of a cup of God’s holy wrath. Look with me at verse 15.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’” (vv.15-16).

This cup or a cup like this shows up again and again in our Bibles. God prepares the cup and it is the wine of His wrath against sin. The one who drinks it, receives the wrath of God. In verse 16, it says that they stagger and go mad, and I think that means that they are then defenseless against the sword that comes to kill them.

In verse 15, the LORD tells Jeremiah to take the this cup and make all the nations to whom he sends him to drink it.

I don’t think it’s a literal cup. I think it’s metaphorical, and the call here is for Jeremiah to prophetically pronounce judgment on these nations. To “make them drink it.” So he does. Verse 17.

“So I took the cup from the LORD's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn and cursing, as they are today [at the time of the writing of Jeremiah]; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod); Edom, Moab and Ammon; all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other–all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshach will drink it too” (vv.17-26).

“Sheshach” is a codename for Babylon. The one who brought the judgment to begin with will not escape it in the end. “Drink from this cup!”  Verse 27.

“‘Then tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.' But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it!

See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword upon all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.' (vv.27-29).

Drink! And then he unleashes a torrent of words and images to describe this punishment. V.30

“‘Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them: ‘ 'The LORD will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgment on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,' ‘ declares the LORD. [This is getting much bigger than just the middle east. This is getting eschatological.] This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.’ 

At that time those slain by the LORD will be everywhere–from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground. Weep and wail, you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery. The shepherds will have nowhere to flee, the leaders of the flock no place to escape. Hear the cry of the shepherds, the wailing of the leaders of the flock, for the LORD is destroying their pasture. The peaceful meadows will be laid waste because of the fierce anger of the LORD. Like a lion he will leave his lair, and their land will become desolate because of the sword of the oppressor and because of the LORD's fierce anger” (vv.30-38).

Make no mistake–the LORD is holy. The guilty will not go unpunished. Justice will be done and will be seen to be done. In all the earth.

I’m sure there were true fulfillments of these promises in the Old Testament, but as I read it, it seems to go bigger and envelop all the judgment of all time.

One day the cup filled with the wine of God’s wrath will be drunk by all the nations. And it can’t be refused.

Except!

Except if someone else drinks the cup of God’s wrath for us. As much as this passage should chill our bones and move us to tune our hearts to repent before God’s unerring justice while there is still time, it also should warm our hearts as we think about what Jesus did for us at the Cross. When He drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place. 

Remember what Jesus prayed in the Garden? “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42). And He drank the cup for us.

#3. THANK THE LORD FOR DRINKING OUR CUP.

The Father said (v.28), to save them, “You must drink it!” And the Son said, “Not my will but yours be done.” And He went to the Cross absorbed the just wrath of God for our sins.

One of my kids said they had an encounter with a Muslim at work this week. And this man was trying to convince my kid that Christianity didn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense, he said, that Jesus would be punished for our sins. Why would you punish someone else and not the one who did the thing?

It’s a good question. And I’m not saying that I would do it like the Lord did, but I sure am glad He did! It may not make sense, but it sure is good news. Because God brings the best things out of the worst things!

And because Jesus drank from that terrible cup, we can drink from this wonderful one. Remember what happened in the Upper Room the night that Jesus was betrayed?

The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matt. 26:27-28).

This first Sunday of November, let us thank our Lord for drinking from our cup by drinking from His.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8

Sunday, October 16, 2022

“I Did Not Send These Prophets” [Matt's Messages]

“I Did Not Send These Prophets”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 16, 2022 :: Jeremiah 23:9-40 

Last time we were in Jeremiah, he was telling us what went wrong with the last 5 kings of Judah. He called them the “shepherds” of Judah, and he pronounced judgment upon them. “Woe to the Shepherds.”

Well, today, Jeremiah turns his attention from the bad kings who were dragging Judah down to the bad prophets that were dragging Judah down. This message could be entitled, “Woe to the Prophets.”

But I picked these words out of verse 21 to serve as our title for today, and they are just as scary: the LORD says, “I Did Not Send These Prophets.” 

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Who are you listening to right now?

I know that you’re listening to me right now. Unless you’ve tuned me out already, or have settled into your mid-morning nap, or found something more interesting to do on your phone. But I don’t mean, just like, right now this instant. I mean “these days.” Who are you listening to?

There are a lot of voices out there trying to influence you and me. You and I are being bombarded all day long with messages. On our phones, on TV, on the radio, on the internet, at work, in the neighborhood, in our families. There are a lot of voices out there telling us who we are, what’s wrong with us, what we need, and what we need to do.

For example, this is political ad season, right? Anybody ready for that to stop? And who to believe? None of those ads are actually looking out for you. They all just want something from you, and they are willing to use your fear and outrage to get it from you.

But it’s not just political ads. It’s all the ads out there. And all of the stuff that isn’t an “ad,” but it’s still a voice trying to tell you what to believe. Who are you listening to? What voices are you letting in?

The voices out there don’t all say the same thing, do they? They are in competition for your faith. And a number of them are labeled, “Christian.” But just because it wears the label, doesn’t mean that the message is actually from Christ.

In his day, Jeremiah was not the only person who wore the label of “prophet.”

There were a number of people running around Judah in the forty years of the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah who claimed to be prophets of the LORD.

But the LORD said that He sent Jeremiah (we saw that back in chapter 1), but He never sent these prophets. They were false. They were fake. And yet they still ran with their message.

And at first glance, it might have been hard to tell which ones were real and which ones were not. For example, most of Jeremiah’s prophecies took so long to be fulfilled. Were they the real ones? And I know which ones sounded better. I know which ones Judah probably wanted to be true. And don’t we always lean towards the option we want to be true?

But Jeremiah was true, and these other prophets were false. And that’s what this chapter is all about.

I have four bullet points of application this morning of what to do about all of these voices and messages out there that are coming at us (and even, sadly, sometimes from us) that are false. And here’s number one:

#1. WEEP.

Weep over the misuse of God’s holy words.

Look with me at verse 9.  “Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words.”

As usual, Jeremiah is feeling it. Far from being detached from or ambivalent about this situation, he feels it in his bones. When he thinks about the so-called “prophets” of Judah, his heart is broken, his bones tremble. He gets almost out of control like a guy who is drunk.

Jeremiah, again, teaches us to lament. To weep over sin and its consequences. It would be easier to jus stop caring. To harden your heart when the people around you start listening to false prophets.

I have a lot of friends over the years who have let the wrong voices into their ears and into their hearts, and they have followed false teachers. I see it all the time on my Facebook feed. And it would be easier to just say, “Well, that’s their problem.” But Jeremiah doesn’t do that. He lets his heart be broken over the misuse of God’s holy words.

Because this is what happens when you believe the false prophets. Verse 10.

“The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the desert are withered. The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. ‘Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,’ declares the LORD.”

When he says the land is “full of adulterers,” he probably means primarily idolatry which we know is spiritual adultery. The people of Judah have forsaken their first love and bowed down to false gods.

How come? Because the prophets have said it’s okay! And they are even doing it themselves. So this is what is coming–judgment. V.12.

“‘Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. I will bring disaster on them in the year they are punished,’ declares the LORD.”

They will not escape. Jeremiah is not happy about it. He weeps over it. He feels it in his bones. Verse 13.

“‘Among the prophets of Samaria [up in the North] I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. [That was terrible! Did you guys in the South see that? Did you see what happened to them?  They were carted off into exile in Assyria. Did you learn anything from that? Apparently not. Because I see the same thing happening here in Judah. Verse 14.] And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.’”

On second thought, it might not have been that hard to tell the difference between the true prophets and the false ones. The false ones were encouraging idolatry, the worship of other gods.

Moses wrote in Deuteronomy that any “prophet” that does that should be executed (see Deuteronomy 13 and 18). And these prophets not only allowed the people to get away with it, but they were doing it, too.

Perhaps the adultery here was literal, as well. Not just spiritual adultery but physical. These prophets were hypocrites. They said one thing but did another. They said they were from the LORD, but then they worshiped the Baals. And they slept around promiscuously.

They were as far gone as Sodom and Gomorrah. And we know what happened to those cities.

Notice how important it is that a prophet’s life and his message should match. Talk the talk and walk the walk, right? As you are discerning which voices to let into your ears, consider the character of the person to whom you are listening.

Is there a match or a mis-match between their talk and their walk?

Yes, you can speak the truth better than you live it. And true is true regardless. And some people can live it better than they can talk it. But there is supposed to be a congruence between life and doctrine. Look for that! That’s where the gold is. People who practice what they preach should be the ones to whom we listen the most. (That’s in every area of life, but especially those who are talking directly about spiritual things.)

Notice also the importance of repentance here. These prophets did not call for repentance, and that was their main error. They didn’t call for anyone to (v.14), turn “from his wickedness.” That’s the main way that they were like Sodom and Gomorrah. Not primarily because of sexual sin, but because of un-repentance.

Instead, these false prophets strengthened “the hands of evildoers.”  They encouraged their sin!

Do the voices you’re listening to encourage your sin or your sanctification? Your temptation or your holiness? Do the voices you’re listening to encourage you to repent? To live a life of repentance?

The prophets of Judah did not encourage repentance, and they were going to reap the consequences with the rest of the people. Verse 15.

“Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty says concerning the prophets: ‘I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.’”

Here’s point number two:

#2. REJECT.

Reject the lies you want to believe.

Look at verse 16. “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”

That last part is really important. Not only do the lead bad lives, but they speak bad lies. And those lies come from their own minds. They make them up. They are not from the mouth of the LORD. And so we are supposed to reject them. “Do not listen...”

But that’s not so easy because we want to believe them. The LORD says “they fill you with false hopes.” The word for “hopes” there could be translated “emptiness.” They fill you with emptiness.

It’s just figments of their imagination, but it sounds so good. They are so positive and encouraging! These guys are not all doom and gloom like Jeremiah. They are the prophets of peace. Verse 17.

“They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.'”

You see what they’re doing? They are telling the people what they want to hear.

“You will have peace.”
“No harm will come to you.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

I want somebody to say that over me!

That’s really positive. There are lots of smiles and soothing, reassuring words here. But notice what there isn’t. There is no call to change. “They keep saying to those who despise me [the LORD!]...and to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts.”  “Peace, peace!”

"You don’t need to change.
You don’t need to repent.
You don’t need to turn from your evil ways."

That’s the exactly kind of message that we need to reject. The LORD says, “Do not listen to what [these] prophets are prophesying to you...” (V.16). Reject the lies you want to believe.

Apply that to your life right now. What lies do you want to believe? What sins would you rather not repent of right now? Don’t think about somebody’s else’s sins. That’s too easy. Think about yours. I know some of mine. What about yours? Who is telling you to go ahead and just live however you want? Who are you listening to?

That was actually the problem with these prophets. They weren’t listening to the right voices either. Look at verse 18. “But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?”

The Book of Jeremiah is one of my wife Heather’s most favorite books in the whole Bible, and she especially loves this verse, 23:17. I wish she was here this morning to hear me preach it. I couldn’t count all of the times that she has prayed this one verse over me, praying that I would stand in the council of the LORD to listen to and hear His word so that I can deliver it to you on a Sunday morning. Very appropriate for a month focused on what pastors do.

Jeremiah implies that these so called “prophets” have not stood in the council of the LORD. They have not been “in the room where it happens.” They haven’t actually heard what God’s plans are. They are just making stuff up.

Jeremiah, however, was hearing from the LORD Himself. He was, so to speak, in the cabinet room hearing the LORD’s plans himself and then faithfully delivering the LORD’s message to the LORD’s people.

And, of course, I am not a prophet. And Joel is not a prophet. But we have the council of the LORD right here in this book. “We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises” (EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 2).

And if Joel and I and anyone else that stands here and preaches to you explain and expound what is in this Word, then we are standing in the council of the LORD.

And that means that we will, at times, say things that make us all uncomfortable. That means that we will call for change, for repentance, for turning from sin and to holiness. And it means that we will warn everyone of the wrath to come. Look at verse 19.

“See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly.”

He’s talking about the exile. The great “uprooting.” He’s always talking about the exile! Because it was sure to come. Jeremiah was a broken record about the broken covenant, which meant that God’s judgment was going to fall on the unrepentant.

And that’s a picture of what Hell is going to be. God’s wrath poured out on those who will not repent. “The storm of the LORD.” “In days to come you will understand it clearly.”

But these prophets did not understand it clearly and rejected it wholeheartedly. They had their own ideas. Verse 21.

“I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.”

Reject the lies you want to believe including the lie that you don’t have to repent and trust in Jesus Christ. You do. And so do I. It’s the only way. He is the only way. 

And if we do, THEN we’ll have peace. Ironically, those who say, “Peace, peace,” will not have peace in the end. But those who say, “Turn, turn,” will have peace if they do. 

So be careful whom you believe. Whom you listen to. And also be careful what you yourself proclaim.

#3. BEWARE.

Beware of faking God’s message yourself.

Look at verse 23. “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.”

What awesome questions!

The answers are obvious from the way He asks them, but they are awesome any way about.

"Am I only a God nearby, and not a God far away?” What’s the answer to that one? No. He’s both, right?!

“Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” What’s the answer?  No!

“Do not I fill heaven and earth?' declares the LORD.” What’s the answer? Yes! That’s why He declares it!

God is not just a local deity that can’t see around corners and never leaves the area.

You can’t get away from Him. You can run, but you cannot hide.

How far did anyone travel this week? Did anybody here go out of Clearfield County? How about out of state? Anybody go out of Pennsylvania? How about out of the country? If Heather was here, she could say she had been to Canada this week. Anybody West of the Mississippi this week? Anybody see an ocean?

Wherever you were this week, the LORD was there. Any place. Any room. Anywhere. And that’s really encouraging so that we can “sing wherever we go,” but it’s also supposed to awaken in us the fear of the LORD. Because the LORD is saying that every single word that the fake prophets had uttered was like caught on a hot mic, and He heard it. V.25

“‘I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship.”

eware of speaking like you’re talking for God when you are just talking for yourself.  Because you and I can find ourselves acting like these fake prophets ourselves. And people are listening to what we say. You are listening to me right now. How dangerous it would be for me to just start preaching my own ideas.

On Tuesday, the Elders met for our monthly meeting, and we started by studying James chapter 3, verse 1. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” And that doesn’t just go for those of us who stand in the pulpit, but whenever we give advice or counsel and say that it is biblical. That this is what God says. Let’s not throw in our own inventions.

#4. SPEAK.

Speak the word of God faithfully. 

Look at verse 28. “Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the LORD. ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”

Three more delicious rhetorical questions!

And they all point to how awesome is God’s holy Word.

“For what has straw to do with grain?” What’s He mean? He’s comparing the message of the fake prophets from the Word of God.  They’re message sounds great but has no nutritional value. The cereal box looks pretty, but it says, “0% of your recommended daily allowance” of nutrients. It’s straw.

But God’s words is GRAIN. And more than grain. It’s fire. And it’s a hammer.

It’s got power. It’s effective. It changes things. It breaks down hard hearts. It reveals what’s really real. It’s relentlessly effective. It’s the reason I am a preacher. Because this thing is fire. This thing is a hammer. That might mean that sometimes it hurts.

But my job is to give this fire to you. And your job is to give this fire to the people in your life. “Let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.”

Because the alternative is having God against you. Look at verse 30.

“‘Therefore,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.' Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ declares the LORD. ‘They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the LORD.”

That’s a lot of “declares the LORD!” Five times in three verses.

And three times, “I am against.” “I am against.” “I am against” these prophets.

Notice that in verse 30, he says that they plagiarize each other! They are not only lying, but they’re stealing the lies. Just repeating what they’ve heard that sounded good. That is so bad for people. 

So here’s the upshot. Look at verse 33. “‘When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, 'What is the oracle of the LORD?' say to them, 'What oracle? I will forsake you, declares the LORD.'”

Now, there’s a play on words going on here. The Hebrew word for “oracle” could also be translated, “burden.” Which we kind of use both ways, too.

So it’s like “What the burden” from the LORD? What message has He laid on you your heart? And the answer back is, “What burden?! You’re the burden! And I’m going to unburden myself of you.” Verse 34.

“If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' I will punish that man and his household. This is what each of you keeps on saying to his friend or relative: 'What is the LORD's answer?' or 'What has the LORD spoken?' But you must not mention 'the oracle of the LORD' again, because every man's own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God. This is what you keep saying to a prophet: 'What is the LORD's answer to you?' or 'What has the LORD spoken?' Although you claim, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' this is what the LORD says: You used the words, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' even though I told you that you must not claim, 'This is the oracle of the LORD.' Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your fathers. I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace–everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.’” (vv.34-40).

The point is not just that they aren’t allowed to say the words, “the oracle of the LORD.” The point is that that phrase has been used as cover for stuff they just made up. That’s not being faithful with God’s Word. If you going to say, “This is the Word of LORD,” then it better be the Word of Lord. Because the LORD has already given His answer. They might not have liked it, but He’s already said what is coming. They are going to be uprooted–cast out of His presence along with Jerusalem.

Jeremiah didn’t have to like it. In fact, he hated it. And wept over it. But he faithfully delivered the message. Jeremiah stood in the council of the LORD and then faithfully spoke the Word of God to the people of God.

And you know Whom that reminds me of? The greatest Prophet there ever was. The Lord Jesus Christ.

Talk about standing in the council of the LORD?! Jesus is God the One and Only Who has come from the Father’s side (John 1:18)! If anyone can faithfully speak the Word of God, it’s Him. He is the Righteous Branch that we read about at the first part of this chapter. He is “the LORD our Righteousness!” (vv.5-6).

In fact, His Father said this on the Mount of Transfiguration. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Who are you listening to right now?

The LORD did send Jesus. Listen to Him.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18