Monday, August 8, 2016

Jeremiah 23:23-29 False Prophets are Soothsayers

KEY TEXT: Jeremiah 23:28-29 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 

KEY THOT: God speaks to His people orally through his prophets in the OT, before they had the written scripture. And often, the word of the Lord came to the prophets in dreams and visions. So, it’s hard to judge truth from error as anyone could claim to have divine dreams. In Jeremiah’s times, there were many self-appointed prophets who spoke of positive dreams and visions to soothe the anxious minds. Jerusalem was being threatened by the Babylonian invaders and these soothsayers were telling the people what they wanted to hear--that God would never abandon His people. They didn't need to repent because they were God's special people.

On the other hand, Jeremiah was prophesying doom and destruction and the people rejected his negative message of judgement. But the Lord himself says that his words are not always soothing: it is more like fire that burns and a hammer that breaks down the hardest hearts. 

We NT believers are not much different: we all like sermons that are “positive” and upbeat. We like preachers to soothe our anxiety and tell us that God wants to bless us endlessly. We dislike preachers who give us the "negative" messages of God's judgment. We read the Gospels selectively, skipping the “hard-sayings” of Jesus. But in the face of impending judgment, such soothsayers are doing God’s people a disservice for they fail to prepare them for coming suffering and hardship. As in the case of the people of Judah, when the judgment finally came in 587 BC with the invading Babylonian army burning the city of Jerusalem to the ground and razing the temple, the people were not prepared. Those who had prepared themselves knew it was coming and surrendered to the Babylonians who brought them back as captives to Babylon where they would stay and prosper for 70 years. But those who tried to escape were killed and slaughtered.

In order to prepare us for hard times, God’s word is sometime more like fire and hammer than the soothing balm of Gilead. That is because we are so dulled by our own sinful indulgence, we cannot stand tough messages. Let’s not reject the hard sayings of Jesus in order to reassure ourselves falsely that God will never judge his people--no matter what we do. Whether pre-Cross in the Gospels or post-Cross in the Book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ has not changed: Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever! 

Father God, we thank You that You love us so much You gave Your Son to die for our sins. Help us understand that Your grace is never cheap and it is a fruit of divine judgment, not on us but on Jesus Christ as our sin-substitute. Deliver us from complacency to listen to Your word carefully. Amen.

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