John T. Willis

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Misguided Influential Religious Leaders--Jeremiah 23:9-40

After delivering five oracles concerning king of Judah, God through Jeremiah turns to deliver an oracle concerning prophets and priests of Judah whom God and Jeremiah oppose. From God's perspective, these influential religious leaders are FALSE. They are misled, misguided--whether deliberately or unintentionally. The introduction in Jeremiah 23:9 says merely: "Concerning the prophets," but 23:11, 33, 34 include priests of Judah as well. This long paragraph in Jeremiah 23:9-40 falls into five parts.

I. Jeremiah's deep concern for the hypocrisy of the leaders of God's people. Jeremiah 23:9-12.
a. Jeremiah begins by expressing his deep frustration because the people of God are all "adulterers." They have forsaken Yahweh their true husband and gone after other gods. Jeremiah is "crushed" within him. He has become like a "drunkard." 23:9-10.
b. "Both prophet and priest are ungodly"--pretending to serve Yahweh while they are "in God's house"=the Jerusalem temple. Therefore, the Lord declares that he will bring "evil"=disaster on them because of their wicked ways. 23:11-12.

II. The prophets of Jerusalem are worse than the prophets of Samaria. Jeremiah 23:13-15.
a. In the days of Amos and Hosea, the prophets of North Israel forsake Yahweh to worship Baal and lead North Israel into wickedness. 23:13. As a result, the Assyrians overthrew North Israel and carried the North Israelites into Assyrian captivity. See 2 Kings 17.
b. But now [in the days of Jeremiah], the prophets of Judah in Jerusalem are worse because they commit adultery, walk in lies, and strenghten evildoers. They are like Sodom and Gomorrah. 23:14.
c. Therefore, Yahweh through Jeremiah declares that Yahweh will make God's people "eat wormwood" and give them poisoned water, the same figures Amos uses in Amos 6:12 [cf. Amos 5:7] to symbolize God's punishment of his people. 23:15.

III. Jeremiah through Yahweh commands his audience not to listen to the words of these false prophets. Jeremiah 23:16-22.
a. Jeremiah introduces his message to his audience: "Thus says the Lord of hosts." God is the commander who leads his heavenly and earthly army into battle [See Psalm 29:1-2; 1 Samuel 17:45]. 23:16a.
b. Yahweh through Jeremiah instructs his audience not to listen to the false prophets of God's people who delude them. They speak visions of their own mind, not from God. 23:16b-e.
c. The false message of these prophets is: "It is well with you," and "No calamity [evil] shall come upon you." 23:17.
d. Every day in the ancient Near East, a king gathered trusted individuals before him to "send" each one to a specific audience with a specific message. Assembled, these individuals composed the king's "council." God's true prophets appear before Yahweh to hear Yahweh's message and proclaim it. True prophets collectively are God's council. False prophets of God did not do this, but proclaimed their own messages. 23:18, 21-22.
e. God's true message is: "The storm of the Lord" is imminent. God's wrath has gone forth through the Babylonians. God's anger will not turn back. "In the latter days," that is, some time in the future, this will happen. 23:19-20. [And this happened!!!].

IV. Yahweh is against the false prophets of his people. Jeremiah 23:23-32.
a. No one can hide from God. God is far off, but he is also near. He is everywhere at all times. God fills heaven and earth. 23:23-24.
b. The false prophets claim they have received dreams. These dreams have led them to forsake Yahweh and worship Baal. 13:25-27.
c. The message of false prophets is like straw. God's true message is like wheat. God's word is like fire and a hammer. God's word will prevail. 23:28-29.
d. Yahweh is against false prophets. They utter lying dreams and lead God's people astray. 23:30-32.

V. False prophets declare that the "burden of the Lord" is a bright future, but Yahweh declares that these false prophets are the "burden of the Lord." Jeremiah 23:33-40.
a. Occasionally, the Old Testament uses the term "burden" for a message of God by different prophets. For example, this appears in Hebrew in Nahum 1:1 and Habakkuk
1:1. Thus, false prophets whom Jeremiah mentions in 23:33-40 use this term.
b. Yahweh through Jeremiah responds that God's message is that "the burden of the Lord" is the false prophets and priests of God's people. 23:35-40.

Not all prophets and preachers are true or genuine. God's word is the standard as correctly applied to each new situation.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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