Jeremiah 5:30–31 (NKJV)
30 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?
One of the reasons that it is critical for us to draw correct lines of parallel between the Old and New Testaments is that it equips us to understand the course of church history and our own moment in the story of redemption. In the history of the Church there are times of great blessing and growth – as in the days of King David and King Solomon – there are also times of judgment and shrinkage – as in the days of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah lived at a low point in Judah’s history. During his lifetime the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar besieged and destroyed Jerusalem including the temple. Jeremiah’s words today help illumine why God’s judgment was falling upon Judah: prophet, priest, and people had exchanged God’s Word for their own words; they had hardened themselves to the truth and embraced lies. Listen to Jeremiah: The prophets prophesy falsely – they speak not the words of God, not truth, but their own words, falsehood; the priests rule by their own power – not by God’s power but their own; and my people love to have it so – this is the sober finale, the people delighted in the deception practiced by prophet and priest. Leaders and people alike exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Consequently, God was judging Jerusalem.
We live in a day not unlike that of Jeremiah. Many of our prophets and priests – pastors and pastorettes in historically Christian churches – proclaim falsehoods and lies in the Name of God. They say that there are many ways to God; they say that Jesus was just a great man; they say that male and female are interchangeable; they say that God’s forgiveness makes holiness unnecessary; they say that homosexuality is acceptable to God; they say that we mustn’t judge unrighteousness or lawlessness. The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule by their own power, and my people love to have it so.
God’s assessment of this sin is found at the beginning of our text: An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land. Here we receive God’s twofold assessment of Judah’s sin. First, it is “astonishing” - hard to believe. After all, what can be more astonishing than to place one’s confidence in man rather than in God? God is eternal and unchangeable; His Word is sure and fixed, a solid and everlasting foundation. And man’s word? Fickle, unreliable, biased; subject to constant revision and change; influenced by the latte he had at breakfast and the paycheck coming next week. So it is astonishing to exchange God’s truth for man’s opinions.
But not only is it astonishing, it is also “horrible” – devastating in its results. In the end, what will all these lies profit? God sees infallibly the outcome of this sin: Jerusalem will be in ruins; many of the Israelites will die; and then they will stand before God to answer for their sin. Their exchange of the truth of God for a lie is not only astonishing but also horrible.
So here’s the challenge Jeremiah gives you: whose voice do you want to hear? Don’t be surprised that there are many voices, even among priest and prophets, articulating opinions contrary to God’s Word. This has happened before among our people. So don’t be surprised; but do be warned: God is calling you, in the midst of these unfaithful voices, to hear and obey His voice. Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as our fathers did. Determine to understand and submit to God’s Word, God’s wisdom. Have no problem texts; bow before the Lord and seek His grace and mercy to understand and to apply His Word aright.
Reminded of our sinful propensity as God’s people to reject God’s Word and replace it with our own; reminded that many in our day have done this very thing; let us confess our individual and corporate sin to the Lord and petition Him to have mercy upon us; and since we are confessing our sins, let us kneel in humility before our Lord.