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