The Prophets We Deserve
Loving Lord, You call me by name and You make me new. I wait now for Your word.
Read JEREMIAH 23:9-40
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psa. 139:23).
Now God, through Jeremiah, turns his attention to another set of leaders: the prophets. As one who shares their vocation, Jeremiah is heartbroken (9) at their failures. They have been sidetracked by their own interests, and used the power of their position for their own unjust means. Even if we do not feel as deeply as Jeremiah, there is sadness when a Christian leader abuses his or her power—and it is not as uncommon as we would like it to be.
The prophets of Jeremiah’s time were not listening to God. The task of the prophet is to stand “in the council of the Lord” (18). The prophet listens in to the divine cabinet meeting and from there conveys God’s perspective to God’s people. Amos also understood this, but the prophets of whom Jeremiah complained were listening to another voice: their own. They “live a lie” (14), and, in a vivid turn of phrase, they “run with their [own] message” (21). As a result, their words “distort the words of the living God” (36). God promises to “forget” such prophets (39) so decisively that their shame ironically lives on. It is better to be remembered by God than to be remembered in shameful ways by history.
As the people suffer under the failure of kings to rule justly, so do they also suffer when their prophets speak the “delusions of their own minds” (26). But from v. 33 onwards, the complicity of the people with the false messages of their prophets also gradually becomes apparent (“these people,” v. 33; “anyone else,” v. 34). They have chosen lies over truth, and for that God holds them responsible (34). Ultimately our leaders can only lead us astray because we allow them to.
Are you ever tempted by your own self-interest to distort the Gospel of Jesus? Can the delusions of our own minds obscure the message of Christ to those whom we encounter?
Lord, I pray for Christian leaders with a prophetic ministry in the church and the world. Give them courage and clarity to speak to the issues that break Your heart.