One of the things that happens in a nation in decline is that the men of God meant to preach and declare God’s Word – stop doing that task. It is not a pleasant task to be those who help act as the conscience of a nation – yet without them, that nation will find itself plunging into ruin as sin abounds. What had happened in Judah was that their prophets and priests had decided to turn to a “more positive message” than that of declaring that the nation had sinned and needed to repent. Look at these passages from Jeremiah 23.
"Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray. Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; and they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” Jeremiah 23:13-14 (NASB)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You will have peace"'; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, 'Calamity will not come upon you. But who has stood in the council of the LORD, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Jeremiah 23:16-18 (NASB)
"I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds. Jeremiah 23:21-22 (NASB)
"I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, 'I had a dream, I had a dream!’ How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal? The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has a My word speak My word in truth. Jeremiah 23:25-28 (NASB)
"Behold, I am against the prophets," declares the LORD, "who use their tongues and declare, 'The Lord declares.' Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams," declares the LORD, "and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:31-32 (NASB)
To summarize – the spiritual leaders of God’s people had first let their own morals and character decline. As a result of their own sin – they were less likely to speak on sin – and therefore strengthened people in the same sins that were rampant in their own lives. The second passage related how, having grieved the Holy Spirit, they no longer had the Spirit leading them. What is a prophet to do when he has no prophecy from God’s Spirit? Why that’s easy – he prophesies from his own spirit instead. That is what they were doing – prophesying on their own – telling people what they wanted to hear – preaching peace where there was no peace – and helping people sin and think God was going to do anything about it. God even asks if any of them had stood in His counsel and received His Word. The answer to that was a resounding – NO! They spoke dreams and visions of their own making – or they stole stuff from other prophets who were popular among the people. God said that these “so-called” prophetic words, dreams, and declarations were not helping people at all. God’s Word would have declared to them their sin – and presented God’s remedy for it. They didn’t want that because that meant speaking of sin and repentance to the people. What is truly dangerous about all this is that in the end – the people love the new prophets! They are not “negative” and don’t speak of things like sin and repentance. They have a God who never judges – except against those who are judgmental!
There is a haunting end to all this according to God – who speaks to Jeremiah.
"Thus will each of you say to his neighbor and to his brother, 'What has the LORD answered?' or, 'What has the LORD spoken?' For you will no longer remember the oracle of the LORD, because every man's own word will become the oracle, and you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. Jeremiah 23:35-36 (NASB)
The end of all this is a complete loss of the Word of God among a nation – or at least a perverting of it. The men of God, who should be waiting on God for His Word, are no longer doing so. Instead they prophesy from their own inspiration and share their own “more positive” message. Before long – everyone can “learn” to prophesy – and they start to do so, which results in just about everyone thinking that they have, “a word from the Lord.” But what has actually happened is that the “Word from the Lord” has actually been lost. This is because as God says here through Jeremiah, “every man’s own word will become the oracle.” What happens is that everyone’s word is considered the Word of the Lord – because to say otherwise is to be judgmental and sectarian. The religious world looks very similar to the time of Judges when “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” The only difference is that in this situation – every prophet’s word becomes God’s message in his own life.
God sent Jeremiah into the midst of this mess to declare His Word in the midst of it. It was a word of righteousness calling the people to repentance and return to God and the Word He gave in Scripture. It was a word that sounded harsh to that generation – because they no longer thought God to be a righteous God – who had absolute moral truth – and a godliness to be followed. It was also a word that warned that God WAS about to bring judgment to the world – and severe discipline to His people for their abandonment of Him. When they asked Jeremiah what the Word of the Lord was – he simply answered, “I will abandon you.” That is a difficult word to hear – especially for any generation like ours. But an even more terrifying word was coming to those men who were posing as prophets, priests, and men of God. To the ones who prophesied out of their own spirit – who turned from being God’s prophet – to being one who only seeks profit from being a prophet – God had an even harsher (yet perfectly righteous and just word).
"Therefore behold, I will surely forget you and cast you away from My presence, along with the city which I gave you and your fathers. I will put an everlasting reproach on you and an everlasting humiliation which will not be forgotten." Jeremiah 23:39-40 (NASB)
In the end – these posers faced not only their own demise – but also the demise of the entire nation whom they had led astray. They would be cast from God’s presence – along with the city (or maybe in our generation we can read “audience”) where they prophesied. They would receive an everlasting reproach and humiliation from God Himself for their wickedness.
Saints of God – I don’t particularly enjoy having to write such things. But the fact of the matter is that we are living in Jeremiah’s day again in our nation. As we plunge head first into whole new depths of wickedness, sin, and depravity – the false prophets and dreamers are continuing to tell people that what they lack is health, wealth, and prosperity. You can turn on the religious TV stations and hear it again and again – with an appeal at the end for more of your money to help fund their wicked empires (and to get them a new jet which they say is a necessity for their ministry). Their preaching draws huge crowds and their “self-styled” and “self-inspired” words from God are providing absolutely no profit to the people – even as they do provide plenty of profit for the false prophet. In the end – both they and their hearers will be abandoned and given over to judgment. Oh that there were men of God who would wait in the presence of the Lord to declare the Word of the Lord to His people. Oh that God would raise up true prophets who would declare the sin of this nation to its people – so that there would be a benefit from their words. Oh dear God – where are the Jeremiah’s of God for this current generation!?