“How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
“Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end;
strip away her branches,
for they are not the Lord‘s.
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly treacherous to me,
declares the Lord.
They have spoken falsely of the Lord
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.
The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!’” – Jeremiah 5:7-13 ESV
The people of Judah, like the people of Israel before them, were stubbornly resistant to confessing their sins, let alone repenting of them. They were set in their ways, enjoying their lifestyle of hedonism and religious pluralism. They enjoyed the things they did and saw no reason to stop. And this had been going on for generations, which led God to say, “For even your children have turned from me. They have sworn by gods that are not gods at all!” (Jeremiah 5:7a NLT). The extent of their unfaithfulness was undeniable, and God pulls no punches in describing it.
“I fed my people until they were full.
But they thanked me by committing adultery
and lining up at the brothels.” –Jeremiah 5:7b NLT
But the most disturbing aspect of Judah’s rebellion against God was not so much what they did, but how they had become convinced that God was going to do anything about it. Where would the people have gotten an idea like that? Jeremiah was not the only prophet speaking at this time. There were false prophets as well – self-proclaimed prophets who had no call from God and whose message were not were man-made, not God-sent. They were leading the people to believe that the words of Jeremiah were wrong. His predictions of gloom and doom were nothing but lies.
“They have lied about the Lord
and said, ‘He won’t bother us!
No disasters will come upon us.
There will be no war or famine.
“God’s prophets are all windbags
who don’t really speak for him.
Let their predictions of disaster fall on themselves!’” – Jeremiah 5:12-13 NLT
Later on in the book of Jeremiah, an event is recorded that describes a confrontation between Jeremiah and the priest and false prophets of Judah. He had been telling them that God was going to destroy the temple and the city unless they repented and returned to Him. But the priests and the so-called prophets didn’t like what he had to say.
The priests, the prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah say these things in the Lord’s temple. Jeremiah had just barely finished saying all the Lord had commanded him to say to all the people. All at once some of the priests, the prophets, and the people grabbed him and shouted, “You deserve to die! How dare you claim the Lord’s authority to prophesy such things! How dare you claim his authority to prophesy that this temple will become like Shiloh and that this city will become an uninhabited ruin!” Then all the people crowded around Jeremiah. – Jeremiah 26:7-9 NLT
A hasty trial was set up outside the temple in order to deal with this trouble-maker once and for all.
Then the priests and the prophets made their charges before the officials and all the people. They said, “This man should be condemned to die because he prophesied against this city. You have heard him do so with your own ears.” – Jeremiah 26:12 NLT
Jeremiah had been speaking for God, but these false prophets had been promising the people that nothing was going to happen, that God was not going to bring judgment or destruction on them. And they wanted Jeremiah dead. But while they judged and condemned Jeremiah, God would stand in judgment against them.
“Both the prophets and priests are godless.
I have even found them doing evil in my temple!
So the paths they follow will be dark and slippery.
They will stumble and fall headlong.
For I will bring disaster on them.
A day of reckoning is coming for them.” – Jeremiah 23:11–12 NET
These men wbo claimed to be speaking for God actually speaking lies. They had not been sent by God and were not getting their marching orders from God. They were self-appointed freelancers who told the people what they wanted to hear.
“They are unfaithful to me
and continually prophesy lies.
So they give encouragement to people who are doing evil,
with the result that they do not stop their evildoing.” – Jeremiah 23:14 NLT
The unmitigated gall of these men to lie in the name of God is hard to imagine. And God was going to hold them personally responsible for the sins of the people of Judah.
“For it is because of Jerusalem’s prophets
that wickedness has filled this land.”
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:
“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
They do not speak for the Lord!
They keep saying to those who despise my word,
‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ – Jeremiah 23:15-17 NLT
And God makes it clear that these men did not speak on His behalf.
“I have not sent these prophets,
yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
yet they go on prophesying.” – Jeremiah 23:21 NLT
They could say whatever they wanted to say. They could prophesy in the name of whatever god they chose to use, but their words would prove to be nothing but lies, providing nothing in the way of true hope. In fact, God concludes, “The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them” (Jeremiah 5:12 ESV).
This phenomena of false prophets and teachers was not relegated to the Old Testament time period. It was alive and well in the early days of the church. In fact, the apostle Paul warned his young protege, Timothy, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 NLT). False prophets will always be around, because people don’t want to hear the truth of God. They don’t want to be told they are sinners. They don’t want to be told that their sins will one day be lead to everlasting punishment. People don’t want to hear that they are hopeless sinners in need of a Savior. So, men and women rise up who will tell them what they want to hear. That God wants them happy, healthy and whole. He wants them to have their best life now. He loves them and would never do anything to harm them. They preach and teach that God is all-loving and non-judgmental, and would never send anyone to hell. In fact, they promise, God would never even consider making a place as hideous and evil as hell. And, they say, a loving God would not restrict salvation to just one way, through faith in one man. All roads lead to God, they assure their eager listeners.
But God would say, ““I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying.” (Jeremiah 23:21 NLT). And just because they garner a huge audience and have what appears to be a successful ministry, doesn’t mean they speak for God or have the blessing of God. False teachers and prophets will always be in high demand, because unfaithful people will always look for them.
They tell the seers,
“Stop seeing visions!”
They tell the prophets,
“Don’t tell us what is right.
Tell us nice things.
Tell us lies.
Forget all this gloom.
Get off your narrow path.
Stop telling us about your
‘Holy One of Israel.’” – Isaiah 30:10-11 NLT
The truth of God is always hard to hear. The reality concerning our sinful state is not something anyone wants to be reminded about. But the convicting power of God’s
Word is necessary for true repentance to take place. Jesus affirmed this when He spoke the following words to a crowd of Jews:
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” – John 8:28-30 NLT
And the text tells us that many believed in Him. Which led Him to say:
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32 NLT
It is the truth that sets you free, not the lies of false prophets and teachers. False prophets can only provide you with false confidence. They can make you feel good about yourself and help you justify your sinful behavior, but all the while they keep you chained to the sin in your life and unable to see the truth of God’s saving grace made possible through His Son.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.