DANGER: FALSE PROPHETS
Lord, give me discernment to recognize false shepherds when I see them.
Read JEREMIAH 23:9–32
9 Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me;
all my bones tremble.
I am like a drunken man,
like a strong man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
and his holy words.
10 The land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land lies parched
and the pastures in the wilderness are withered.
The prophets follow an evil course
and use their power unjustly.
11 “Both prophet and priest are godless;
even in my temple I find their wickedness,”
declares the Lord.
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.
13 “Among the prophets of Samaria
I saw this repulsive thing:
They prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
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 not one of them turns from their wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”
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.”
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.
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.’
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?
19 See, the storm of the Lord
will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
on the heads of the wicked.
20 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.
21 I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.
22 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.
23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.
25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
30 “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 32 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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
It’s one thing for God to find wickedness in the state capitol or the nation’s capitol. But when he finds it in his places of worship (11)…
The epistle of James warns that those who (presume to) teach will be judged more strictly (3:1). The same clearly applies to those presuming to prophesy. It is paramount that the name of God be not misused. This could happen when the actions of those claiming to be God-followers belie the purposes of the Lord they serve, but, worse than that, it could lead onlookers to think that God approves. In this chapter Jeremiah looks particularly at those who claim to speak for God, when their message does not reflect the words or the purposes of the God they claim sent them.
Before we judge these false prophets, let’s look at what they are actually saying. Basically it is: God loves you, Israel, because he has chosen you; therefore, of course he won’t destroy or even exile you. They are absolutely right that God loves Israel and has chosen them. Their leap into the “therefore” is the problem. These prophets are filling people with false hopes (16), convincing themselves and the people that “The Lord says: you will have peace” and “No harm will come to you” (17), when actually God’s judgment is about to fall on these very people for despising his covenant. As believers today it is very tempting to tell ourselves “God loves us and wants the best for us,” which is clearly true. But we tend to follow it with a “therefore,” which assumes “of course everything will turn out all right”—i.e., in the way we have convinced ourselves is best. It may be that we are right, but we need to be sure that we are not multiplying a bunch of false hopes when we look at life this way. God’s love is no bulwark against God’s chastisement.
This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Thank You, God, for sending to us Your best!
Lord, like Jeremiah, our bones shake when we consider Your awesome holiness.