It is always a blessing to be asked to preach the gospel. I’ve recently been given the invitation to do such at a local church in June. I think I know what I’m going to preach. I plan to preach the story of Josiah. To prepare I’ve been reading Kings, Chronicles, and the Prophets that deal with Josiah’s reign and the events prior and following. (Follow his reign is really important in the history of Israel and the history of Redemption.) Today I was reading Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah following Josiah’s reign.
As I’ve been reading some of the prophets lately I’m learning quite a bit about pulpit and pastoral ministry. God is serious about those whom he have called to say, “Thus saith the LORD.” Serious, very serious. Preachers would be wise to take note of the seriousness of speaking the words of God. When you read how serious God is about those who speak for him you can see why James warns us that many shouldn’t become teachers because of the stricter judgement to come.
Jeremiah records the words of the LORD,
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. 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.'” 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? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. – Jeremiah 23:16-20
There is serious need for discernment when one hears someone claiming to hear a message from God. His magnificent plans will not be thwarted. The same cannot be said for the plans of men who speak out of turn for the Lord. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah concerning his words in light of the false prophets of Judah:
“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 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. – Jeremiah 23:21-22
When God speaks the darkness flees. Our hearts when pricked by the words of God Almighty are meant to turn from evil and idolatry. False prophecies only breed and fuel the idol factory of the human heart. But the council of the LORD turns hearts to him when it pierces the heart.
Lest false prophets think they speak only to their hearers they are gravely mistaken and God will not be mocked.
“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? – Jeremiah 23:23-27
The word of the Lord stands in contrast:
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? -Jeremiah 23:28-29
How wonderfully does the word of the Lord stand in contrast to that of false prophets! The word of the Lord comes with power. The word of the false prophets are like a filler of straw good for lining the floor of barns, where the word of the Lord is like wheat to feed the soul.
Preacher, who do you preach? Is it Christ and Him crucified? Is the word you preach the word of the Lord? Is it truth? Is your sermon yours? Do you preach the Baals of today? What is your boast? Let it be Christ and Him crucified supreme over all things.
The Lord has but one gospel and it is his, he will tolerate the preaching of no other gospel.
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 23:30-32
May we stand with Jeremiah with hope and faith in the word of the Lord in the gospel of Christ Jesus:
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.” But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers. – Jeremiah 20:9-13