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]
Have you ever felt your heart so sad that you thought it would break? This is what Jeremiah faced for five full chapters. That is why, as Jeremiah, we begin to wonder—-is there any good news? Is it all bad news? And there right front and center we see the heart of God.
Jer 5:1 “See if you can find a single person who deals honestly and tries to be truthful. If you can, then I will not punish this city.” Flashback: Return to Gen 18 where we encounter Abraham and the Lord God as they converse about Sodom and Gomorrah. In His mercy he had quietly shared with Abraham: “I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests, If NOT, I want to know.”
We know that God is omniscient yet He still “wants to know.” And that is because God is a personal God not an arbitrary idol god. Chisolm writes: God always thoroughly investigates a situation before passing judgment and sending calamity. “The Lord would not arbitrarily destroy them [the people of Sodom and Gomorrah]. As a fair and just judge, He would examine the evidence and then reward their deeds appropriately. God does the same for each one of us and it is because God’s character is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” It is because His “lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.” [Lam 3] James reminds us that we too are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” [James 1]
Thank God for teaching us how to respond according to His character. May we learn to exhibit this same character quality to others.
Family reunions are both a blessing but sometimes an embarrassment such as when “Uncle Judah” shows up. Memories flash through our minds of his two wives and his unrighteous sons. We feign welcome but our minds reel at his latest episode of impregnating his daughter in law unsuspectingly. And here he is in the line of Christ along with that daughter in law Tamar. How did he get here? The sovereign hand of God shows us that He will make us part of His family when we seek His face and His forgiveness. He used people who were righteous such as Abraham but also those rascals such as Judah. And how did that happen? “But youwere washed, youwere sanctified, youwere justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”[ 1Co 6:11]
It was not until 14 generations had passed that God sent His Son to be born of a virgin and join this genealogical lineage and he would do it through the Holy Spirit. And then God would provide a righteous earthly father to shelter the virgin. God’s plan in eternity past came to fruition that we might behold His glory, Emmanuel, God with us and the very radiance of God himself.
God had a master plan for Judah and He has one for you. He sent His Son to save you from your sins so that you could be included in his family reunion. Have you had your name written in His book?