Don’t Listen to False Prophets

Posted: June 26, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26-27, "Don’t Listen to False Prophets"

It’s no surprise that false prophecy can cause a lot of damage.  In the 19th century, William Miller preached the return of Jesus in 1844, and many went out on hillsides to wait.  The result was termed "The Great Disappointment," and caused the fall of many from the faith. Edgar Whisenant published "88 Reasons Jesus is Coming in 1988" (and the not-so popular follow-up "89 Reasons Jesus is Coming in 1989").  More recently, Harold Camping proclaimed twice in 2011 that Jesus was coming back – and later recanted.

Of course, it’s not just false prophecies about the return of Jesus that leaves people hurt and faith destroyed.  It’s false prophecies about God’s work in general.  What does God have to say about false prophets?  Are God’s people just subject to the whims of supposed prophets saying whatever they want to say?  No.  God does give RIGHT prophecy, He expects His prophets to RIGHTLY prophesy, and He expects His people to RIGHTLY judge prophecy.  This is all part of His protection and His plan.  What God speaks to His people, He wants us to be able to trust – because God’s word is always trustworthy.

Jeremiah 26 – Jeremiah’s continued persecution
– God’s message for Jeremiah to proclaim (vss. 1-6)
1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD : ‘Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word. 3 Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.

  1. Ch 25 also began with a message from The Lord through Jeremiah towards the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, though that was specifically placed at the 4th year of Jehoiakim & the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar’s ascension in Babylon.  This particular oracle was apparently given a few years earlier, in the very "beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah."  Remember that Jehoiakim was not the 1st king to follow Josiah – that had been his brother Jehoahaz, but Jehoahaz had been been removed from the throne by Pharoah Neco of Egypt.  At this point in history, Judah’s independence was already a thing of the past, practically speaking.  Although still populated, it was a vassal state under the influence of Egypt, and Egypt itself was about to fall.
  2. With that history in mind, what is it that God tells Jeremiah to tell the people?  As bad as things were, they were about to get worse.  Egypt may be their de facto rulers for now, but there was another "calamity" upon the horizon yet to come.  All of the things they had experienced so far was due to their continued sin against The Lord, and they still hadn’t learned their lesson.  They had continued in evil, so God would continue in punishment.  The trials they experienced were not the chance circumstances of the political upheaval among the world; they were the direct result of the hand of God against His own people.  God was trying to get their attention, but they weren’t responding.  Gradually, He turns up the proverbial heat to get them to turn, but they were being obstinate and willful in their rebellion.
    1. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves doing the same thing.  We sin, and God brings discipline.  It’s perhaps not too bad at first, but we can find things getting worse and worse as time goes on.  What needs to be done?  Repentance!  The first rule of holes is: stop digging.  Too many times we don’t realize that we’re the ones digging our own holes, and we just need to stop.  God allows certain consequences to come into our lives to grab our attention.  The question is: are we paying attention?  Or are we just pleading with God to take away the consequences so that we can go on with our sin?
  3. The message God gave Jeremiah was to be given a very specific way. He was to "stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house."  Obviously part of Judah’s problem is that they weren’t coming to worship God (at least not sincerely), but the point is clear: this was a message for all of God’s people, and it was to be proclaimed from a place of visible authority.  God’s prophet standing in the front of God’s temple, speaking to God’s people, preaching repentance from sin.  This was designed to grab the most attention, and apparently it worked.  Although the people did not respond in complete repentance, they at least paid attention (as we’ll see) and knew it was The Lord speaking.
    1. Interestingly, something similar will be seen during the days of the Great Tribulation.  There will be two prophets of God standing in front of the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, proclaiming the word of God, calling people to repentance (Rev 11). For 3.5 years, they will prophesy under the divine protection of God, unable to be killed, then God will sovereignly remove His protection – they will be killed – and then rise again to life 3.5 days later to the surprise of all of those who killed them and rejoiced.  Why will God do this?  For the same reason God gave this mission to Jeremiah: He wants to grab the attention of as many people as possible.  He wants everyone to know clearly about their need to repent and cry out for the grace of God.  God won’t force anyone to ask for forgiveness, but He definitely ensures that people will know of their need to do so.
  4. Notice there is a bit of a warning to Jeremiah in all of this as well.  The prophet is to be sure to speak all of the word of God to all of the people of God, and to be careful not to "diminish a word."  Don’t take away from anything God commanded.  The message might be hard to preach, but it needed to be preached in its entirety.  The prophet was not to try to massage the message in order to make it more pleasing in the ears of the people; he was simply to be a faithful steward of the message and pass it on.
    1. A similar thing can be said of how the gospel of Jesus Christ has been entrusted to the Church today.  We have been told to take ALL of the message to ALL of the nations.  We’re not to take away from it, nor diminish a word.  There is a temptation today to try to make the gospel more palatable in the ears of our culture – to try to downplay the need for repentance, or to reword the Scripture in order to avoid the potential of "intolerance."  That is not our right nor our responsibility.  The word of God has been entrusted to us in order that we might transmit it faithfully.  We are not the editors of Scripture; we are simply the method by which God chooses to transmit it to the world.  Don’t take away a word of it!  Don’t try to write it off, or find some way of explaining it away.  Just be faithful to what God has said & given.

4 And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD : “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, 5 to heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you, both rising up early and sending them (but you have not heeded), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.

  1. What was the message?  The same as John the Baptist’s, or Jesus’: "Repent!  Listen up!"  God had spoken to His people again & again, but they had not heeded His word.  They knew what God had said; now they needed to act according to the word.  There could be no question of what God had spoken to them in the past – too many prophets had been sent by God for them to ignore (something that the people themselves will remember later in Ch 26).  They had the head-knowledge, but not the heart-knowledge.  They hadn’t actually done anything in accordance to what had been proclaimed to them.
    1. There are multitudes of people in that same category today!  They’ve heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, how He is The Lord God crucified for their sin & risen from the grave.  They know well the command of God to repent from their sins and place their trust in Jesus, receiving Him as Lord.  They have all of the head-knowledge that is required…there have been too many proclamations of the gospel for them not to know.  The problem is they’ve never acted upon it.  Like ancient Judah, they "have not heeded" the word of The Lord.  They need to respond.  Multitudes of people will face God on Judgment Day knowing the truth about Jesus, but still go away unsaved because they never responded to the truth about Jesus.  It’s not knowledge that saves us; it’s the grace of God through faith in Christ. (Eph 2:8-9)  That is something that must be exercised.  (Have YOU responded to the message of God through the gospel?)
  2. Why "Shiloh"?  Remember that Shiloh had been the home of the ark of the covenant during the last days of the tabernacle prior to the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.  Shiloh had historically already been overrun and made desolate (though not by the Babylonians); Jerusalem would not prove to be any different.  If the previous home of the ark had faced destruction, what made the Jews think that Jerusalem would escape the judgment of God simply because that is where the temple was?
    1. Religious "stuff" doesn’t provide protection.  Rosaries, crucifixes, Bibles, etc., don’t provide protection from bad circumstances.  We need to be careful not to fall into the lies of that kind of superstition. 

– The people’s response to the message (vss. 7-15)
7 So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You will surely die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without an inhabitant’?” And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

  1. Obviously God’s plan worked.  The people plainly heard what Jeremiah spoke to them; they just didn’t like the message he delivered.  No doubt Jeremiah spoke more than what was recorded here in Ch 26 (some believe this was the message of Ch 7-10), but whatever God had given Jeremiah to speak, Jeremiah did it faithfully.  His reward?  Seizure by a violent mob.  Priests and laypeople alike rejected the word of God spoken by the prophet.  They couldn’t bear the thought of Jerusalem and the temple being overthrown, and they considered it blasphemy to utter such things in the courtyard of the temple.  In their view, God would only give His people "good" news; not a message of judgment and calamity.
    1. God DOES give good news: that’s why the gospel is called "the gospel."  But with the good news of salvation comes the bad news of the knowledge of sin.  We have to know of our need to be saved, if we’re ever to going to cry out for the grace of a Savior.  That’s exactly what God was doing through Jeremiah’s messages.  They were harsh messages proclaiming the sure judgment of God, but the one response God desired to bring out of all that was the repentance of His people, so that they might turn to Him and live.  Likewise with today.  The bad news of sin and judgment needs to be faithfully proclaimed if the good news of salvation and grace is going to be recognized as truly good.
    2. Besides, is news truly good if it’s not true?  The people of the day only wanted to listen to prophets who proclaimed good things & blessings to the people – but that isn’t what God was actually speaking to them.  How could a lie be good for the people?  Sadly, that is often what is portrayed in some modern day "prophecy."  All sorts of blessings are proclaimed upon the people of God by supposed prophets of God – but the problem is that God never gave the word to the men & women speaking.  The words might sound "good," but they aren’t true.  And as a result, people put their hopes in something false, and their faith is often damaged as a result. []  Praise God for prophecy, when God gives prophecy.  But we want to be sure that what we receive as prophecy is something that God actually gave.  Just because it sounds "good" doesn’t make it true.

10 When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and sat down in the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house. 11 And the priests and the prophets spoke to the princes and all the people, saying, “This man deserves to die! For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.

  1. Jeremiah was replaced in the temple courtyard by the "princes of Judah" – the mob arrest had turned into a mob trial.  People were clamoring for his death, for the supposed crime of blasphemy.  In an ironic twist, they judged Jeremiah for false prophecy when he was one of the only people actually speaking the truth.
  2. Persecution is often a reality for those who serve God (be it in full-time ministry, or in every day occupations around the world).  Our news headlines finally recognize some men and women suffering for their faith (Kenneth Bae in North Korea – Saeed Abedini in Iran – Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan, among others).  They have committed no crime except faith in Christ – they are just being faithful to what God has given them to do.  That was true with Jeremiah as well.  Jeremiah’s only "crime" was being obedient to The Lord, and he was persecuted for it…to the point of being sentenced to death.  This is the reality for most of the world, but our culture has somehow bought into an idea that this is the exception, rather than the norm.  "Christian" teachers regularly proclaim how believers are to expect worldly blessing, wealth, prosperity, political influence, and more because of their faith.  The Bible tells us the opposite.  The Bible tells us that all those who are godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12).  When we’re being honest, godly obedience does NOT always bring worldly blessing – much of the time, it brings the exact opposite.  However, godly obedience DOES always bring spiritual riches.  Matthew 5:11-12, "(11) Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." []  None of that makes enduring persecution easy, but it does keep things in perspective.
    1. We have a responsibility to remember those who are persecuted!  We need to pray for those who are in prison, and those who are suffering for their faith.
    2. We also need to decide now how we will respond if/when we face our own persecution.  Thus far, we might not experience anything more than the disapproval of a friend, family member, or co-worker.  But it might not always be that way.  So often we say, "I don’t know how I would respond in the same situation," and to some extent, that’s true.  But we need to make up our mind now as to how we want to respond.  If we’re not set NOW to be faithful to Jesus, no matter what – how can we expect to have any true conviction when the need actually arises?
  3. Jeremiah knew how he would respond!  He gave his own defense starting in vs. 12…

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the princes and all the people, saying: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city with all the words that you have heard. 13 Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you.

  1. Jeremiah knew that his message (and thus his authority) came from God.  He hadn’t sent himself on this mission; this isn’t likely something anyone would have chosen for themselves!  This was a command from The Lord God, and Jeremiah was simply being faithful to what he had been given.
  2. Jeremiah knew that the message was truly a message of compassion.  Yes, it was a message of judgment, but the proclamation of judgment had a purpose and design: God wanted the people to repent.  If they but changed their ways & obeyed, then God would gladly "relent concerning the doom" that had been promised.  God’s mercy was available for the asking; the people simply needed to demonstrate a sincere heart of humility through repentance.  If they would repent, The Lord would relent.
    1. Objection: "But what about the fact that God is unwavering?  Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God will never repent from His purposes?"  Yes, it does.  God is not a man that He should repent (Num 23:19); God does not change (Mal 3:6); Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).  But none of that precludes God’s ability and sovereign choice to act in response to our response.  God has given us free will, and He has the sovereign right to interact with our free will however He so chooses.  For example, God told Moses of the destruction He would bring upon Israel for their sin in worshipping the golden calf, but when Moses interceded for the people in prayer, God relented from the harm He was about to bring (Exo 32:14).  That is not an example of God being wishy-washy; that’s an example of God choosing to act in mercy when His prophet acted in the way God desired His prophet to act.  God wanted Moses to intercede, and when Moses did, then God had a plan already in place for that.  How exactly all of this works together in light of God’s omniscience and predetermined will is a mystery, but we can be assured that it’s no problem whatsoever with God.  He has His plan – He calls us to respond – and God has the right to respond to our response.
  3. For Judah, they had the opportunity right in front of them – and Jeremiah was making it plain as day.  They didn’t have a moment to lose; they needed to respond while they had the chance.  And killing the prophet certainly wasn’t going to help their case with God!  See vs. 14…

14 As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you. 15 But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.

  1. Basically, Jeremiah says "Do what you want, but just know the consequences that will come as a result."  He could not make them restrain themselves from murder, no more than he could make any of them heed the word of God.  All he could do was speak to what would happen if they followed through with it.
    1. A similar principle applies in evangelism.  We can never force anyone to respond to the gospel.  All we can do is be faithful to proclaim it.
  2. Jeremiah knew that if they executed him, they would only be compounding their sin.  He had done no wrong; the people would be shedding "innocent blood."  Keep in mind that Jeremiah is not claiming to be sinless; he’s simply saying he hadn’t committed a capital crime in Jerusalem.  If he had indeed prophesied falsely, then he could (and should) be executed according to the Hebrew law.  However, if he spoke the truth (which he did), then it would be the people who would be guilty of sin if they carried out a death sentence on him.

– The people’s change of heart (vss. 17-19)
16 So the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve to die. For he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” 17 Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying: 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.

  1. Some good news for a change: the people actually changed their heart!  They heard the words of Jeremiah, and decided they shouldn’t execute him after all.  Whether they were just being fickle, or truly repentant is unknown – but it was good news for Jeremiah!
  2. The reason for their change of heart?  They remembered the words of Scripture.  Jeremiah had proclaimed the destruction of the land, unless the people repented – and that was the reason the people turned against him.  Yet when they looked back into their history, they could see another instance when a prophet was sent by God to proclaim destruction to the people, and yet God relented from harm when the people responded as God intended.  They quote Micah 3:12, given during the days of Hezekiah, just prior to the Assyrian invasion.  Micah would have been a contemporary with Isaiah, who had also clearly proclaimed the Assyrian invasion.  Isaiah goes on to record the details of how Hezekiah repented and God delivered Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib, but Micah does not.  Instead, Micah proclaimed how Zion would be plowed upon, and Jerusalem become heaps of ruins.  Did Micah lie?  Obviously not.  Those things did come to pass exactly as spoken during both the Babylonian conquest and the Roman destruction in 70AD.  However, they did not immediately happen with the Assyrians.  God had invited the nation to repent, Hezekiah repented, and the nation experienced deliverance – exactly God’s intent all along.
  3. In all of what the people of Jerusalem did wrong, don’t miss what they did right here: they took the time to properly evaluate prophecy and judge it.  Granted, this is one of the few occasions that they rightly judged prophecy, but at least they did it!  This is exactly what the NT tells Christians to do in response to prophecy we might receive today.  Writing to the Corinthians about orderly worship services, Paul says: 1 Corinthians 14:29, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge." []  There are many people who desire to hear from prophets today, but not too many that are willing to judge the prophecy that is given.  Yet that is exactly what we are supposed to do.  And like the Jews of Jeremiah’s day, the way to do it is to take the prophecy back to already accepted Scripture, and hold it in light of the word of God.  God will never contradict Himself, and what God says will always be accurate.

19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.

  1. The people remembered the previous prophecy given by Micah, and they also remembered the previous response by King Hezekiah.  Hezekiah could have rebelled against the word of God through Micah (and Isaiah, and others), and if he did, the Assyrians would have overwhelmed Jerusalem.  Instead, Hezekiah humbled himself, sought The Lord diligently in prayer, trusted God, and saw the deliverance of God.  What Hezekiah did in generations past is what the Jews of that day needed to do as well.
  2. The sad part is that this is as far as the people of Jerusalem got.  They relented from putting Jeremiah to death, but they never followed all the way through with the example of Hezekiah.  They never humbled themselves before The Lord in repentance.  If they had, they may have experienced a similar result as Hezekiah.
  3. Jeremiah was a prophet faithfully speaking the word of God to Jerusalem, and although he felt utterly alone at times, he wasn’t the only one.  There were others.  See vs. 20…

– Persecution of another prophet (vss. 20-24)
20 Now there was also a man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath Jearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. 21 And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid and fled, and went to Egypt. 22 Then Jehoiakim the king sent men to Egypt: Elnathan the son of Achbor, and other men who went with him to Egypt. 23 And they brought Urijah from Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.

  1. This is all we’re told of this particular prophet.  He has no books written in his name, nor any other records of him in the Scripture.  Whoever he was, he was also called by God and used by God in a similar mission as Jeremiah’s.  He was also given a word from God to call Jerusalem to repentance.  He was used by God to proclaim the coming destruction and judgment.  And likewise, he was also persecuted by the king and people, who even pursued him down to Egypt in order to bring him back.
  2. Where things differ is the result.  Jeremiah was persecuted, but he lived.  Urijah was persecuted unto death.  This doesn’t mean one was more blessed of God than the other; it simply means that God had different plans for them. 
    1. Likewise, Christians in the United States cannot consider ourselves more "blessed" of God because we live relatively free of persecution.  It’s not as if we’ve done anything to deserve our nation of birth.  Christians who face imminent danger because of persecution often have a greater, more mature spiritual life than those who do not.  Who is truly more "blessed"?  A complacent Christian living in safety – or a persecuted believer on his knees?

24 Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

  1. Simply shows the contrast of Jeremiah with Urijah.  One lived; one died – both were used by The Lord God for His glory.
  2. BTW – "Ahikam the son of Shaphan" has an interesting history himself.  Shaphan was the scribe that Hilkiah the high priest called to, after finding the book of the Law in the temple during the days of King Josiah (2 Kings 22).  It was Shaphan and Ahikam (among others) that were used by The Lord to help bring about the last true revival in Judah prior to the Babylonian captivity.  Apparently Ahikam still had a heart that sought after The Lord in that he put himself at risk in order to protect Jeremiah from harm.

Jeremiah 27 – True and false prophecies of Babylon
– God gives the Gentile nations to Babylon (vss. 1-11)
1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD to me: ‘Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck, 3 and send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah.

  1. There’s a textual question regarding vs. 1.  Although most Hebrew mss say "Jehoiakim," there are other mss that say "Zedekiah" (as reflected in many English translations).  Zedekiah is probably the accurate wording, when we consider the prophecy that is actually contained in Ch 27, as we’ll see from the later timeframe of vss. 12 & 20.  There are a couple of different possible explanations for the difference.  (1) Perhaps 27:1 actually belongs at the end of Ch 26, as a way of bookending what Jeremiah had been given.  (2) Perhaps the difference is due to a copyist error in transmission.  We believe firmly in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, as it applies to the original manuscripts.  God is infallible; humans are not.  Human copyists can make errors, and if you’re looking for "Biblical errors," most of what you’ll find are along these lines.  Two things to remember: (1) There is always a logical explanation, most of which is evident directly from the text itself (as is the case here), and (2) None affects any major doctrine.  There may be a copyist error regarding the name of a king, or the age a king ascended to the throne, but there is no error regarding anything dealing with the character & nature of God, the gospel of salvation, etc.  We can trust our Bibles, and do so without hesitation.
  2. That said, what was the message?  This was actually a message from God to the Gentile nations.  Although God usually used Jeremiah to speak to Judah, occasionally He would have the prophet speak to other nations, and He does so here.  God gives Jeremiah a visual lesson (much as He did with the potter & broken flask), and tells him to send physical yokes to the Trans-Jordan nations, symbolic of the yoke that was about to be placed upon them from the Babylonian empire.  For nations that did not serve The Lord God of Creation, having this kind of message sent to the from a prophet in Jerusalem surely would have made quite an impact (even if it was one they would choose to ignore).

4 And command them to say to their masters, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel—thus you shall say to your masters: 5 ‘I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.

  1. First part of the message: Who was speaking to them.  This was "the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel."  Culturally at the time, each nation worshipped their own local deity.  They believed that it was their individual gods who gave them power over their enemies, or were overwhelmed by more powerful gods if they were defeated.  It would have been truly unusual to receive a message from a deity that governed a land not their own.  Yet this is what was happening.  The God of Israel was reaching out to Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Sidon.  And what was truly unusual about the God of Israel is that He did not claim to be ONLY the God of Israel.  He is "the LORD of hosts" = the Commander of the heavenly armies.  The God who was Commander in Chief of the army of Jerusalem (which was tiny) was also Commander in Chief of the armies of angels in heavenly places (which is massive!).  It was a drastic contrast; one that was likely inconceivable in the eyes of the world.
    1. There is nothing logical about the fact that God has chosen to love us.  Out of all people in the world, God chose to bestow His love and blessing upon US, and use US to share the good news of salvation with all the world.  There is a reason Paul knew that the gospel was seen as foolishness by the world.  But in reality, it is the wisdom of God!  The Lord of Hosts is OUR God – the God who commands the heavenlies also looks out after us, and calls us to be His children.  It is an incredible contrast…one that is a very definition of "grace."
  2. Who else is this God of Israel?  He is the Sovereign Creator.  This is no local deity; this is the God who made the heavens and the earth.  This is the God who formed every man and beast upon the ground, in the sea, and in the sky.  He fit together the tiniest atomic particles, and formed the most massive stars billions of light-years away.  How did God do it? By His "great power" and His "outstretched arm."  IOW, He did it all by Himself.  God did not need help in creating the universe.  He didn’t need hundreds of billions of years – He didn’t need the assistance of Darwinian evolution – all God needed was Himself.  God willed the universe to exist, and it existed.  It was all done by the power of God.
    1. If the power of God is sufficient to create the universe, just think what else the power of God is sufficient to accomplish.  Is there anything that can be outside His power?  Absolutely not!
  3. More to the point, God is stating His sovereign right over all the universe.  He created it all, so He can do whatever He wants to with it.  In terms of political nations, God is the One who raises up kings and the One who puts them down again.  God could take away the power of the Egyptian Pharaoh and give it easily to the Babylonian king – and that’s exactly what He was telling the Gentile nations that He was going to do.

6 And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him. 7 So all nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.

  1. It was God’s will that Nebuchadnezzar rise to power; God would use the pagan Babylonian king as His own "servant."  Was Nebuchadnezzar evil?  Surely.  There seems to have come a point in his life that he eventually came to faith, but don’t forget that this was a man so egotistical that he had an giant statue of himself erected in Babylon for the whole city to fall down and worship.  He subjugated the entire Middle East under his thumb, and the Babylonians weren’t exactly known for their kindness in warfare.  He was a brutal king in every respect…and God STILL chose to use him for God’s own sovereign purposes.
    1. We need to remember that God has a right to do what God wants to do.  God is God, and we’re not.  If God chooses to allow our nation to experience godless leadership, it is still something that GOD has allowed, and thus we need to pray for the godless leadership just as much (or more) than when we might have more God-fearing leaders.
  2. In this case, God made it clear that He was raising up truly godless leadership in Nebuchadnezzar, and that all of the lands of the Fertile Crescent would serve him.  That said, the time God gave to Babylon was limited.  The nations of the Middle East would serve Nebuchadnezzar, his son, and his grand-son, and then time would be up.  The reign of Babylon was limited "until the time of his land comes," and at that point other nations and kings would make Babylon serve them.  Historically, this is accurate to a "T".  The reign of Babylon was limited from Nebuchadnezzar to the reign of his grandson Belshazzar.  It was then that Babylon fell in a single night to the Medes and Persians, and Babylon became just another of many other vassal states to Darius.  This tells us two things:
    1. God was sovereign over the whole thing.  He oversaw and planned for both the rise AND fall of Babylon.  If God had a plan for them, we can be sure God has a plan for our time too.
    2. God’s word is absolutely trustworthy in every respect.  The OT prophets have come under much criticism, many times because they have proven to be so eerily accurate.  Thus critics claim that there is no way that the prophets could have written these things in advance.  Yet that’s no problem at all when we recognize that the prophets simply wrote what the All-Knowing Sovereign God commanded them to write.  The Bible IS God’s word…we can trust it!

8 And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish, says the LORD, ‘with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.

  1. Because God was raising up Nebuchadnezzar to rule, the nations of the world were being given the opportunity by God to submit to him.  As with God’s own people of Judah, God was giving the Trans-Jordan nations the opportunity to experience mercy in the midst of the Babylonian conquest.  They did not have to suffer and be destroyed.  They could submit to the will of God and live.  It was only if they struggled and rebelled against God’s sovereign plan that they would experience "the sword, the famine, and the pestilence."  They didn’t HAVE to experience any of that.  But for that to be the case, they had to make the choice to trust God rather than the wisdom of the world.  See vs. 9…

9 Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11 But the nations that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land, says the LORD, ‘and they shall till it and dwell in it.

  1. Apparently the Trans-Jordan nations had the same problem as the Jewish one: there were false prophets in their midst.  Of course ANY prophet (or diviner, dreamer, etc) that does not worship the One True God is a false prophet, but the end result is still the same.  The people wanted to hear "good" news – they wanted to hear how they would be blessed and experience victory over the Babylonians.  They didn’t want to hear a message of certain subjugation and defeat.  They wanted their ears tickled & their egos stroked…no matter if the message was true or not.
  2. The true message was the God-given one – the one Jeremiah was passing to them by sending them the ox-yokes.  The nations of the world would come under the yoke of Babylon, but it didn’t have to mean the end.  If they submitted to the will of God for them, they would live (and unlike Judah), even being able to stay in their own land.  The only requirement: trusting the sovereign plan of God and submitting to it, no matter how hard it sounded.
    1. It is sometimes difficult to trust the plans of God – especially when other options seem so appealing.  Why extend forgiveness when a person is so hateful and unlovable?  Why preach a gospel message knowing a possible (or even likely) rejection?  Why stand firm on the word of God, knowing the coming accusations of intolerance?  Why pray at all?  Beloved…trust God.  Trust that God’s word is true in every circumstance.  If nothing else, look again to the accuracy of prophecy.  God’s word has been proven true historically time & time again.  If it was true with them in those situations, why would we think it would be any different with us?  Choose to trust The Lord!

– God gives the Jewish nation to Babylon (vss. 12-22)
12 I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

  1. What God spoke to the Gentile nations, He also spoke to the Jewish one.  Jeremiah was commanded to send ox-yokes to the nations around them, but he could speak directly with Zedekiah, king of Judah – and that’s what he did, basically saying the same thing.
  2. Why die?  Why suffer through continued rebellion?  God wanted His people to live, and He was giving His people an opportunity to live.  By the time Zedekiah came to power, Jerusalem had already been besieged once by Babylon (2 Kings 24) – there was no reason for them to do it all over again and endure even worse.  God had already proclaimed what was going to happen, it did no good to struggle and fight against it…all it did was make things harder upon the people.
  3. Why might Zedekiah refuse to submit to Nebuchadnezzar (and thus God)?  Because he was listening to false prophets.  See vs. 14…

14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon, for they prophesy a lie to you; 15 for I have not sent them,” says the LORD, “yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you.

  1. Just as in times past, what the false prophets spoke might have sounded nice, but it was all a lie.  God hadn’t sent them, and God wasn’t speaking through them.  The proof was in what had already happened.  The nation had already been overrun by Babylon – there was no question now regarding whether or not Nebuchadnezzar would rise to power; that was already done.  So why listen to what should have been obvious lies?
  2. Notice the result of false prophecy: it kills.  Because Zedekiah would listen to the false prophecy, God told him "you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you."  In Zedekiah’s case, false prophecy brought him literal death and suffering.  In our case, false prophecy often brings the death of faith.  There are always consequences to those who trust the lying words of someone falsely speaking in the name of God.  Healings are promised which are never experienced – miracles are proclaimed that are never seen – prosperity is promised that never materializes…and in response to that, many people often lose faith.  It’s tragic, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  We don’t want our faith to be based upon the words of men, but upon the Word of God.  Listen to the truth, even when it’s difficult to hear.

16 Also I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says the LORD : ‘Do not listen to the words of your prophets who prophesy to you, saying, “Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house will now shortly be brought back from Babylon”; for they prophesy a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live! Why should this city be laid waste?

  1. Again, God didn’t want His people to needlessly suffer.  He didn’t want the city to be destroyed any more than necessary.  But if Zedekiah refused to abide by the true word of God – if he refused to submit himself to what God had clearly revealed, that would indeed be the result.  And it was.
  2. What had Zedekiah been told by the false prophets?  That everything that had already been taken from the temple would soon be brought back.  Every time Jerusalem was overrun, the temple was ransacked, due to all the gold and treasure housed there.  Apparently the false prophets had said that what was taken would quickly be returned.  The proof would be in the pudding.  See vs. 18…

18 But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon.

  1. If they truly WERE prophets, then these same prophets should be able to pray to God and see the results of their prophecies and prayers.  Not only should the treasures be returned, but no more should be taken away.  If these guys were truly on the up & up, then they should be able to pray according to God’s will (which they claimed to speak accurately), and see God’s will done.
    1. Again, true prophecy will always be able to be judged accurately.  There ought to be a track record and testimony.  If it’s truly according to the will of God, then God will see it done.  If not, then it’s a good sign we ought not to listen.
  2. Of course, these prophets were NOT true prophets.  God’s will for the remainder of the temple furnishings was vastly different.

19 “For thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, concerning the Sea, concerning the carts, and concerning the remainder of the vessels that remain in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 yes, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem: 22 ‘They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall be until the day that I visit them, says the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place. "

  1. Even those things left behind would eventually be taken. Just because some items were left behind after the first siege did not mean that they would always be left behind.  If Babylon had to come back (and they did), then the destruction would be even worse the 2nd time (and it was).
    1. EVERY word of God is true.  Every. Single. Word.
    2. God gives this word in all His authority.  He is "the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel."  He gives this promise as the commander of the Heavenly Armies, and the covenant God of the nation of Israel – their rightful Divine ruler.  What God says, God means. 
  2. Don’t miss the best part.  Yes, everything would eventually be taken, but there is also a promise of restoration.  One day, everything would be brought back.  God had a future plan for His people; they simply needed to submit themselves to His plan in the first place.

There was false prophecy among the Gentile nations – there was false prophecy among the Jewish nation.  People had gotten so accustomed to the false that they rejected that which was true.  It’s not that God refrained from speaking to His people; He had much to say to them – they just weren’t listening.  They didn’t judge what they DID hear, so they weren’t ready to trust when God DID speak.

May we not make the same mistakes!  When it comes to prophecy, God tells us very specifically to judge it.  We need to do so gladly…and those who have truly been given a prophecy from The Lord will be glad to have their prophecy judged.  Most importantly, we need to deeply know the word of God so that we’ll be able to properly recognize the voice of God when He speaks.  That’s true whether He’s speaking through a prophet or speaking through the Scripture.  We need to be attentive to His voice, and responsive to what He has to say.  It may not always be the word we want to hear, but we can be sure that it will always be the word we NEED to hear.

Trust God’s word!  It’s always trustworthy.


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