Jeremiah 23 “Be Discerning; Be a Watchman on the Wall”
Jeremiah’s words could have been written today for today our culture “demonizes what is right and celebrates what is wrong.” [Decision Magazine] Our culture wants God’s love apart from the price paid on the cross. The people of Judah were uncomfortable with Jeremiah’s words of impending judgment for their sin and so they flocked to the street corners to hear those who preached “you can be happy for God is with us.” Jeremiah’s words fell upon deaf ears and sometimes landed him in stocks or a mud filled cistern. How then do we discern those who are not of God because they only know ‘about’God but do not ‘know’ God?
Jeremiah gave the people at least 6 ways to discern those false prophets. We can learn from his words. The question do we just want our ears tickled or yearn for truth? Observe and listen carefully. Do their words line up with what God’s Word? Secondly, observe their lives in and out of the temple or church or whatever you call your religious institution; is it consistent? Are they honoring God in word and deed? Thirdly, are they presenting false hopes? These street corner preachers countered Jeremiah’s words of judgment with ‘nothing bad will happen to you.’ Fifthly, they were in a hurry to present their message. Sixthly they claimed to hear God speaking but had they been in God’s inner circle they would have heard the same words of impending Babylonian judgment God gave Jeremiah due to their disobedience.
Fast forward to today. There are sheep in wolves clothing amongst us. We must also discern the character of them. Listen and look; observe their fruits, listen to the doctrine they teach. “We dare not become lazy and expect others to do our studying and thinking for us.” [B. Deffinbaugh]
The duck idiom says “if you look like a duck, swim like a duck, quack like a duck, you must be a duck.” According to abductive reasoning this may or may not be true but it does reflect how we might be seen in the world. We have melded into the fabric of society and no one knows we are not a duck but a believer in Christ. Therefore, Paul reminded his readers to not be conformed or molded into the world’s system just like the frog scenario. We are put into the pot and the enemy heats up the water but we are unaware that we are being cooked!
Also, just as a salmon swims against the flow of the river to achieve its place to spawn so we must swim against the false current of the world’s philosophy. The salmon faces many trials to arrive so too we will trials and enemies. Therefore we must be saturated with the Word so that we can discern truth from error. [Heb 5:14] We have this promise: He who hath begun a good work in you will complete it at the day of Christ but until then we are moment by moment being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is His work that is being accomplished as we surrender and become a living sacrifice. It is all His power and all because we are a new creation in Christ. He enables us to “behold the glory of the Lord.” (2Cor 3:18] This is how the mind is renewed — by steadfastly gazing at the glories of Christ for what they really are.
How does the world see us; ducks, frogs, salmon or a transformed believer in Christ?
Discipline is hard for parents and for children but this keeps both accountable and keeps the family living peacefully with one another. Paul has been acting as the parent to these precious Galatian babes in Christ who are dividing the Galatian church by their childish actions of snapping and arguing and had fallen for the bait of the “Thou Shalt be Circumcised and Obey the Mosaic Law” legalists. Paul asks those who had had not swallowed their bait to take on a mighty task of restoring gently those who were the back biters, devourers and provokers so that the church is once again united in Christ.
However, before they or anyone takes on this task there is are two steps that must be adhered to: “First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” And secondly, be living by the law of Christ which means living out the character of Christ step by step. Both of these require self-examination so as not to be self-deceived and quench and grieve the Holy Spirit. The only thing that mattered was: faith working through love and demonstrating that one is a new creation in Christ. This is how you love your neighbor as yourself.
Are we mature enough in the Lord to do this? This can only happen by immersing oneself in the Word, meditating upon it so you can discern truth from error. Only then can one bear the burdens another carries.