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.” 


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:


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.


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

Monday, October 03, 2022

You Are Invited to Celebration Weekend 2022

Dear Church Family,

Our church was founded in 1892, so that means that this year, in 2022, our congregation has turned 130 years old. That’s a lot of candles on the birthday cake!

And this year, we have set aside an entire weekend to celebrate our 130th anniversary with some super special events, Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th. I want to tell you more about those events and how you and your family can participate.

My friend, Greg Strand, is coming all the way from the EFCA National Office in Minneapolis to be our special guest speaker for this celebration! Greg is the director of theology and credentialing for the EFCA, and many of our folks have sat under his teaching at Stay Sharp, our district theology conference, for the last 15 years. 

We’ve asked Greg to bring a “taste of Stay Sharp” to us at Lanse Free Church with two special anniversary seminars. On Saturday evening October 8th from 6:30-8:30, Greg is going to teach on theology. His Saturday seminar is entitled, “We Believe in One God: An Introduction to Trinitarian Theology.” So if you are wondering what we believe about Who God is as Father, Son, and Spirit and what God is up to in the world that He has made, then we’d love to see you at that seminar. It’s free, and there is no registration. Just come!

Then on Sunday morning, Greg will be back to teach us about church history. His seminar on Sunday October 9th will start at 8:30 and go to 9:30, and the topic is, “From Where Did the EFCA Come: A Brief History of the Evangelical Free Church of America.” I think it will be neat to see the connections between our church’s history and our association of churches’ history. Because we go back almost to the beginning with our Swedish roots! Again, it’s totally free, and there is no registration–unless you need childcare. We will arrange childcare for the history seminar on Sunday morning, if you let me know you need help with that by Monday October 3rd. But aside from that, there is no registration. Just come!

But wait, there’s more! On Celebration Sunday, we are going to praise God together for 130 years of His faithfulness to us. And the Celebration Choir is going to sing a special song. The choir is rehearsing on Thursday night October 6th at 7pm, and Amy Jo would love for you to participate. Anyone in the church! See Amy Jo if you have any questions, or just show up for the rehearsal. The song is easy and beautiful and was an old Swedish hymn that fits with our church history.

Also during church, Greg Strand is going to preach for us from God’s Word. And then afterward we’re going to take our annual church family photo. And this year, we get to have it inside once again! 

And then we’re going to cap everything off with a Fellowship Dinner that is being planned by the Hospitality Team. And this is the one thing we really need people to help with right now, we need to get a good idea of how many people are coming and what they are planning to bring. So if you haven’t already turned in a green RSVP sheet for the Hospitality Team, we need you to do that or go to that link in your email and sign up online so that we know how many to prepare for.

And if you are part of our new youth group (grades 7 through 12), you are invited on Sunday evening for a special pizza party at 6:30 where Greg is going to talk about “Why Theology Is Important” for youth! And parents of our youth are invited to listen in and eat pizza, as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to have this anniversary celebration of all of the things the Lord has done in our midst for the last 130 years. May He get all the glory.

See you at church!

-Pastor Matt

Sunday, October 02, 2022

“Woe to the Shepherds” [Matt's Messages]

“Woe to the Shepherds”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 2, 2022 :: Jeremiah 21:1-23:8

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD.”

Those are some scary words.  You don’t want the LORD to say to you, “Woe.” It means that you are in big trouble with Him. These shepherds were in dire straights. They were on dangerous ground.

Jeremiah delivers to them this word of “woe.” “‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the LORD.” I do not want to be in their shoes.

Who are these bad shepherds? He’s not talking about literal shepherds, sheep-herders, like the ones that came to see baby Jesus. “Shepherd” here is a metaphor for the kings of the nation of Judah.

While Jeremiah has prophesied against the whole nation of Judah as they have forsaken their covenant with Yahweh, he has also focused on the bad leaders that have taken Judah down these wrong paths. Bad shepherds.

Prophets, priests, and kings.

Last time, we learned about the bad priest Passhur son of Immer. Next time, we’ll find out more about the bad prophets in chapter 23. But today in chapters 21 and 22, the LORD speaks directly to the evil failures of the last several kings of Judah.

We learned back in April that Jeremiah prophesied, before the exile, during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. Extra credit if you can name them! Chapter 1 actually only names 3 of them, probably because 2 of them only reigned for 3 months each.

But their names were:


They all actually had more than one name, but these were their royal names.

Now, do you remember thumbs up and thumbs down for the kings? There were no thumbs up kings for the northern kingdom of Israel. But there were some thumbs-up kings for the southern kingdom of Judah. How about these five guys? Does anybody remember their score card?

Well, let me give you a little hint. This sermon is entitled, “Woe to the Shepherds” meaning the kings of Judah.

Josiah is actually a thumbs up. He was actually two thumbs up. Josiah discovered the Book of the Law and tried to reform Judah according to it.

But how about these other guys? 


All thumbs down. And that’s what these few chapters are about. They are like an autopsy, a post-mortem examination of what went wrong with these kings. So that we can learn from their failures. 

I’ve only got two points to make this morning, of application, and here’s the first one. It’s pretty simple:


Don’t fall into the traps that got them the word “Woe” spoken over them by the LORD. Don’t be like the bad shepherds. So, let’s see what they did wrong. In chapter 21, we actually flash forward to the ending. We start with the last king to sit on the throne in Judah, King Zedekiah. His personal name was Mattaniah. And he ruled from 597 to 586 BC.

And this chapter appears to take place around 588 BC. Just about 2 years before the end of his reign and the end of the nation of Judah itself. And guess what Zedekiah is doing in 588BC?

He’s asking the Prophet Jeremiah for help. Look with me at chapter 21, verse 1.

“The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: ‘Inquire now of the LORD for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us’” (vv.1-2).

Stop there for a second. Do you get the picture? Do you get the time frame? This is some time later than the events we’ve been studying the last few weeks in chapters 18, 19, and 20. (Remember this book jumps around chronologically.)

It’s probably been several years, maybe more than a decade since then. This Passhur is not the same Passhur as last week’s. Different dads. And this Zephaniah is not the prophet but a priest. And this Passhur and Zephaniah are sent by King Zedekiah to ask the prophet Jeremiah if he would ask the LORD to do a miracle and save Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 

By the way, this is the first time that he has been actually named so far in the this book. And it’s because he’s at the city gates. And they are under siege. Zedekiah had sworn loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar but made an secret alliance with Egypt and then betrayed Nebuchadnezzar and then rebelled against him, and it has not gone well for him.  Nebuchadnezzar is knocking on his door.

And Zedekiah is looking for a way out, and he thought of Jeremiah. It turns out that he loves to ask Jeremiah for advice. He just never takes it. But this time, he asks for Jeremiah for prayers. He asks him to inquire to see if the LORD might have another miracle up his sleeve. Like He used to.

There was a time not, too far back, when his ancestor King Hezekiah prayed, and the LORD performed a wonder–killing an entire attacking army in one night. Zedekiah asks if maybe the LORD would do that again?

And Jeremiah sends back this answer, “No.” No. It is too late. The clay was too hard, and it is now time to smash. V.3

“But Jeremiah answered them, ‘Tell Zedekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city–both men and animals–and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the LORD, I will hand over Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who seek their lives. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion'” (vv.3-7). Stop there.

“It’s worse than you think, Zedekiah. Not only am I not going to fight for you, I’m going to fight against you. And you yourself are going to die.”  

Woe to the Shepherd, Zedekiah.

Jeremiah does have some advice, however, for the people of Judah. Verse 8. “‘Furthermore, tell the people, 'This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. [Sound familiar?] Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life. I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the LORD. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.'”

Your only chance is to survive is surrender. Boy, did Pashhur and Zephaniah hate that advice! We’ll see how they reacted when we get up to chapters 37 and 38! They thought that this was treason. But it was actually just good sense and faithfulness! Because the LORD had decided that Jerusalem was going up in flames. 

And that’s exactly what happened. And we can’t really comprehend what that was like. Read the Book of Lamentations.

But the question is why. Why did Yahweh respond to Zedekiah in this way? Look at verse 11.

“‘Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah [say to Zedekiah], 'Hear the word of the LORD;
O house of David, this is what the LORD says: 'Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the LORD–you who say, ‘Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?’ I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the LORD. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.'”

Zedekiah failed to administer justice every morning. He had one job! "Keep the covenant! Lead the people to worship the LORD alone and follow His commandments. You’re the king! If you see someone is robbed, then rescue them from the hand of their oppressor. Administer justice every morning. That’s what you were supposed to do. And, Zedekiah, you were not doing it. 

Instead, you were trusting in how Jerusalem was situated so well for natural defense. And you were trusting in all of the wrong things. Like having the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of LORD." V.13

“Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?’”  We’re sitting pretty! Not if the LORD is against you, you aren’t. “I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.” So, woe to you, Shepherd Zedekiah. 

Now, in chapter 22, it jumps back again, in time. It jumps from Zedekiah the last king of Judah to just after the last good king of Judah. Josiah and then goes down from there through the others.

Look at chapter 22. Verse 1.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne–you, your officials and your people who come through these gates.”

Now, just think about that for a second. How dangerous is this?!

The LORD tells Jeremiah not just to go to the Potter’s House or the Linen Belt Store or even to the Temple complex, but he sends Jeremiah down to the palace of the king of Judah and puts a fiery message in his mouth! This is a dangerous mission, but Jeremiah obeys. 

What message does he deliver to the Shepherds of Judah? What does God want to say to them? Verse 3.

“This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. [That’s so important. It’s so basic, but it’s so important. ‘Do what is just and right.’] Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David's throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin'” (vv.3-5).

Do you see what the LORD cares about? Do you see how much He cares about justice? “Do what is just and right.”

Because that’s Who the LORD is, right? Remember chapter 9? “[L]et him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," (Jer. 9:24 NIVO).

This is the LORD’s vision of leadership. It’s someone who does what just and right and watches out for the little guy. 

“Do no wrong or violence to the alien” meaning the immigrant. “The fatherless or the widow.” That’s the vulnerable. Those who don’t have many rights or money or power. “And do not shed innocent blood.”

The LORD loves justice and righteousness. And it was the king’s job to administer it. And if they did, then wonder of wonders, there would be blessing! But if they didn’t (and they didn’t), their palace would become a ruin. V.6

“For this is what the LORD says about the palace of the king of Judah: ‘Though you are like Gilead to me, like the summit of Lebanon [beautiful forest places like central Pennsylvania], I will surely make you like a desert, like towns not inhabited. I will send destroyers against you, each man with his weapons, and they will cut up your fine cedar beams and throw them into the fire” (vv.6-7).  Did you ever think about that?

Remember that palace that Solomon built for himself out of the cedars of Lebanon? I read about it in my morning Bible reading this week (1 Kings 7). It was this beautiful house built of cedar. Imagine what it looked like! Imagine what it smelled like. Not just a cedar-lined closet, but a cedar-built palace.

And the LORD said, that he was going to turn that fine house into firewood. V.8

“‘People from many nations will pass by this [burning] city and will ask one another, 'Why has the LORD done such a thing to this great city?' And the answer will be: 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and have worshiped and served other gods.'”

They only had one job, but they refused to do it. They only had to be faithful to one Lord, but they were unfaithful. They only had to administer justice, but they loved crookedness.

And now he gets personal. He proclaims woe on King Jehoahaz, also known as King Shallum, son of Josiah. Look at verse 10.

“Do not weep for the dead king or mourn his loss [meaning Josiah, who was killed in battle in 609 BC. Don’t weep for him]; rather, weep bitterly for him who is exiled, because he will never return nor see his native land again. For this is what the LORD says about Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah but has gone from this place: ‘He will never return. He will die in the place where they have led him captive; he will not see this land again.’”

Josiah’s son, Shallum, also known as Jehoahaz, was only king for 3 months before Nebuchadnezzar carted him off into exile (2 Kings 23:29-35).

And Jeremiah says that he is to be pitied more than his dead father. How come? Because his father died a two-thumbs-up-king. And Shallum was a two-thumbs down king, and exile was his judgment.

And then his brother took over. Elliakim, or more commonly known as King Jehoiakim. And who verse 13 is all about.

“‘Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor [basically slavery]. He says, 'I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.' So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. [Improving on what Solomon had made with even more cedar and vermillion. This is the palace that Zedekiah was living in in chapter 21.] Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD. But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.’

Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: ‘They will not mourn for him: 'Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!' [Same Hebrew word for “Woe.”] They will not mourn for him: 'Alas, my master! Alas, his splendor!' He will have the burial of a donkey–dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem.’” (vv.13-19).

Jehoiakim ruled for 11 years. And he was basically Jeremiah’s enemy. We will read a lot more about him over the next several months.  Jehoikakim wasn’t anything like his father Josiah. He was two thumbs down. And nobody[!] mourned when he died. Think about the whole former British Empire mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth last month. Nobody mourned the death of King Jehoiakim.

Partially because of how different he was from his father. Look more closely at what his father did right. It really shows us what a king was supposed to be like.

What God really cares about. And how He wants you and me to live today. 

Look back up at verse 15. All Jehoiakim cared about was luxury. 

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? [Is that’s what’s important? Doesn’t the LORD take care of our needs?] Did not your father [Josiah] have food and drink? He did what was right and just [sounds like verse 3], so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD.”

These are important words. This is what it looks like to know God. If you truly know God, then you will love people. You will be committed to what right and just. And you will look out for the poor and the needy.

How are we doing at that? Are we committed to justice? Are we committed to the poor?

We can all have different ways of working towards justice and showing compassion. But we all need to be committed to it, at heart and with our hands and feet and wallets, if we call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. “Is that not what it means to know me?”

It’s not just that we pray or read our Bibles, but we live out our faith.

I love that our EFCA Statement Faith directly addresses this in Article #8. It says, “God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed.” 

Because that’s the heart of God. That’s what it means to know Him.

Or here’s how the Prophet Micah said it, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8 NIVO) We walk humbly with our God by acting justly and loving mercy. By doing what is just and right and defending the cause of the poor and needy.

God says, “Is that not what it means to know me?”

Do you know God? We show it by how we treat the poor and needy.

How we treat the asylum-seeking migrants at our borders.
How we treat the innocent unborn in our wombs.

Don’t be like Jehoiakim!

He wasn’t interested in knowing the LORD. He was only interested in how nice his house was. And so the LORD was against him. Woe to you, Shepherd Jehoiakim!

And woe to your son. Jeconiah or “Coniah” for short. Or his royal name, “King Jehoiachin.” 

That’s the next king to be mentioned by name. He was also thumbs down. The last four king were all thumbs down. And everybody suffered. V.20

“Go up to Lebanon and cry out, let your voice be heard in Bashan, cry out from Abarim, for all your allies are crushed. I warned you when you felt secure, but you said, 'I will not listen!' This has been your way from your youth; you have not obeyed me. The wind will drive all your shepherds away, and your allies will go into exile. Then you will be ashamed and disgraced because of all your wickedness. You who live in [quote-unquote] 'Lebanon,' who are nestled in cedar buildings, how you will groan when pangs come upon you, pain like that of a woman in labor!

‘As surely as I live,’ declares the LORD, ‘even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. I will hand you over to those who seek your life, those you fear–to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to the Babylonians. I will hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country, where neither of you was born, and there you both will die. You will never come back to the land you long to return to’” (vv.20-27).

Just like his uncle Shallum (or Jehoahaz), King Jehoiachin will only reign for three months and then be sent off into exile to die there (2 Kings 24:15). Probably in 597 BC at the same time that the Prophet Ezekiel was exiled, too. Uprooted, never to return. V.28

“Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, an object no one wants? [Rejected from the potter’s house.] Why will he and his children be hurled out, cast into a land they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the LORD says: ‘Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.’”

What a sad sad thing.

Jehoiachin actually had seven sons! But not one of them would sit on the throne in Judah. Instead, Nebuchadnezzar would make his uncle Mattaniah a puppet king which brings us back to Zedekiah. And we already saw what happened to him.

Woe to you, Shepherd Jehoiachin. A despised and broken pot, an object no one wants. How come? Why? Again, why? Chapter 23.

“‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: ‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the LORD.”

Do not be like the bad shepherds.

However, Jeremiah has also good news for us today. This next part is actually the best and brightest paragraph in the whole book of Jeremiah so far! Jeremiah has for us today a word of hope.

And that is that there is another Shepherd coming. And this Shepherd is a Good Shepherd!


After all of that doom and gloom and darkness, verse 3 just beams with light! The LORD says, “‘I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the LORD.”

Yahweh says, “I’ve had some bad shepherds who did a terrible job with the flock.

So I’m now going to come and shepherd the flock myself! I’m going to grab the flock from all the places where it’s been scattered and bring them back to the green grass and the still waters of my pasture. And they will be fruitful and increase in number. That’s Genesis language! Things are going to return to the way they were meant to be!

My flock will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing.”

Doesn’t that sound good? When I was studying verses 3 through 8 of chapter 23, I just kept writing in the margin of my notes, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” That’s what we need! 

A day when we are not afraid or terrified.
A day when nobody is lost.
A day when everything is the way is was meant to be in the beginning and even better.

And what we need for that day to come is a Good Shepherd. And that’s exactly what Yahweh is promising here. Verse 5.

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land [there it is again–justice!]. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness” (vv.5-6).

In Hebrew that is, “Yahweh Tsidkenu.” It’s very close to Zedekiah’s name in Hebrew which is “Tsidqiyah.” Both are based on the word for righteousness or justice.

But unlike Zedekiah, this king will live up to his name!

He’s also going to come from the line of David. He’ll be a righteous branch. A new growth that shoots up out of the seemingly dead stump of Jesse (to use Isaiah’s language (chapter 11)).

And He will save His people. Do you know His name? I sure hope you do.

He’s talking about King Jesus. King Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

He’s everything these bad shepherds were supposed to be but were not. And His salvation rescue will be even better than the salvation rescue of the Exodus. Verse 7.

“‘So then, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when people will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.'  Then they will live in their own land” (vv.7-8).

This is the Shepherd that we need (see Ezekiel 34 for more on this theme)! Put your hope in Him.

Interestingly, King Jesus is a descendent of these woeful kings. He is actually related to King Jehoiachin from the end of chapter 22. The one that had seven kids but none of them would be king.

Jehoiachin had a grandson named Zerubbabel. And he never was the king, but he got to come back from exile and help rebuild. He was the governor of Judah for a while. And the Gospel of Matthew (1:12) tells us that he was the great-great-great-great-great (and so forth) grandfather King Jesus. So that, though he died in exile, the Righteous Branch would shoot out of his stump. And be given to God’s people forever.

I love to think about what His kingdom will be like, don’t you?

Verse 5 says that He will “reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” That’s the language of chapter 21, verse 12 and chapter 22 verse 3 and verse 15. He will have the heart of God! Ge will love justice and righteousness. And He will love and serve the vulnerable, the oppressed.

There will be no ending to the blessing of His kingdom!

King Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd, and He has come that we may “have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10 NIVO).

Put your hope in 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