Listening to the Right Voices
Listening to the Right Voices.
“Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who have shed in her midst the blood of the righteous.”
Having tasted the hope of God’s mercy, Jeremiah again falls back to the despair of the present circumstances. In 583 b.c., against the word of God spoken through Jeremiah, King Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon and sought to ally with Egypt. The result was swift and predictable. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Assyria, invaded and surrounded the city of Jerusalem. For 18 months, he would tighten the noose around the city so that none could come in or go out. It was a time when the famine in the city became so severe that people resorted to cannibalism. It was a desperate time when life descended into a living hell. In chapter four, Jeremiah gives us a glimpse into the distress that fell upon the people of Israel.
In verse 13, we find the reason for the distress. The prophets and the priests, who should have led the people to repentance, had led the people into sin. God holds his appointed leaders responsible for failing to proclaim his word faithfully. In Jeremiah 14:13-22, God condemned the prophets for giving false visions and prophecies. Instead of proclaiming God’s word, they deceived the people with their own thoughts (vs. 15). Instead of warning people of the coming judgment, these false prophets had only pronounced prosperity and peace. But it was an illusion of their own making. As a result, God prophecies that they will die by the sword.
In Jeremiah 23, God judges the religious leaders responsible for shepherding and leading the people. Instead of leading them to God, they had “scattered My flock and driven them away and have not attended to them” (Jeremiah 23:2). To gain the people's approval, these false prophets proclaimed a false message. So also, the priests failed to instruct the people from the law and did not rebuke them for their sins. As a result, God holds them to greater accountability. Thus God exposed their failure before the people so that they would reject and repudiate these leaders. (Lamentations 4:14-16).
This passage serves as a warning to both the leaders and their followers. The one thing we should not tolerate is leaders who do not uphold God’s word. In an age when people follow pastors based on their accomplishments and charisma rather than their character and faithfulness to God’s word, this serves as a warning. God is not complacent about false teachers and people who are called to lead, yet distorting the truth. He will expose them. We have seen this over and over again in churches today. James 3:1-2 warns teachers of the dangers of teaching falsely. In Acts 17:11-21, Paul commends the church at Berea, for they examined the apostles’ teaching to ensure that it was according to the teaching of scripture.
Yet this also serves as an essential lesson to those in the pews. God is a God of truth, and his word is always accurate. Consequently, he does not tolerate those who distort his word to fit their own viewpoints. Therefore, there are two things we should never tolerate: leaders who lack character and teachers who are not faithful in proclaiming the truth of God’s word. Instead of looking for leaders who accomplish great things, look for leaders who manifest godly character. Instead of listening to eloquent preachers, listen to preachers who faithfully proclaim the word of God.