We are so careless with the word of God.
It isn’t heavy, weighty to us, something to be revered. We say it is but our actions betray our profession. Many of our Bible studies are not studies of the Bible at all but sharing our opinion in a socio/religious context.
We think we have really accomplished something when we get people talking, but maybe not. We are so reckless at times that we have swerved into foolishness and evil and don’t even know it. It sounds good and seems right.
- (Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 NCV) 1 Be careful when you go to worship at the Temple. It is better to listen than to offer foolish sacrifices without even knowing you are doing wrong. 2 Think before you speak, and be careful about what you say to God. God is in heaven, and you are on the earth, so say only a few words to God.
For the last two Sunday evenings I have preached from Jeremiah 23 addressing the big problem that Israel had at the time with the people who were supposed to be communicating the oracle of God to them.
Their prophets of Israel were so far gone that God told his people this:
- Jeremiah 23:16–17 (ESV) 16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”
Don’t listen to the prophets of God because they fill you with vain hopes. Astounding. And this was the majority religious voice at the time. Their main problem was that they were speaking for God but they were not first listening to God.
- Jeremiah 23:18 (ESV) 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
I am sometimes incredulous how nonchalant we are in speaking for God, but we have created an environment that breeds this attitude. Anybody can say anything and we should value their opinion.
No. We did not get that thought from God.
Value the person. Yes. Value their half-baked weirdness on spiritual matters. No. But again this is what we have come to expect.
I had a man call me aside one day to explain to me why we have earthquakes – “Earthquakes are caused by the devil making hell bigger.” I thought at first he was joking, but, no, he was completely serious. And what was his source of information. His opinion.
We have Christians inexplicably buying popular books so that they can learn that heaven is real. Really? Don’t we have a Book already that gives that information? Sit and listen to the discussion and be saddened as people who should know better listen to unbiblical nonsense.
Back to Jeremiah 23.
The prophets that God condemns in Jeremiah 23 were actually blessing people who despised God and who stubbornly followed their own hearts (23:17).
- Jeremiah 23:17 (ESV) 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”
God had neither sent these prophets nor spoken to them. And, if they had stood in his council, instead of blessing their evil they would have turned them from their evil.
- Jeremiah 23:21–22 (ESV) 21 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.
And here is possibly the greatest tragedy and irony.
The word from God that they were left with – the burden, the oracle – was no longer the word of God but just what they had been vying for all along. Their word had become God’s word to them.
- Jeremiah 23:36–40 (ESV) 36 But ‘the burden of the Lord’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the Lord,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ ” 39 therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. 40 And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’ ”
God forbade them to any more say “the burden of the Lord.” Continue saying “thus says the Lord” when you have not taken the Lord’s council, and God promises judgment.
- Jeremiah 23:29–31 (ESV) 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’
God’s word to many is child’s play but our God is a consuming fire, as it states above, “Is not my word like fire … and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
And we play with God’s fire. And our play is profanity.
Where is our holy God? Where is the one to whom we fall before in trembling and silence? And listen? And take council?
- Isaiah 66:1–2 (ESV) 1 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”