13 What can I say for you, to what compare you,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is vast as the sea;
who can heal you?
14 Your prophets have seen for you
false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity
to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles
that are false and misleading.
How ought the people of God communicate the word of God to a lost world? Of course, this question has been asked and answered in a variety of ways, in a variety of books, at a variety of conferences, and in a variety of schools. We have tried social justice, street evangelism, random acts of kindness, gospel tracts, movies, relational evangelism, and much more. But I believe, as I consider the above verses, that a serious and straight forward communication of the truth of God is more and more needed than ever before.
The book of Lamentations is the poetic sorrow of Jeremiah the prophet at the destruction of the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian army. Jeremiah spent his life and ministry warning Judah against the nation’s rebellion against the Lord. Jeremiah warned the people that God had promised them judgment if they chose to worship false gods and to continue to live as the idolatrous nations around them. But, sadly, Jeremiah was one of the only voices preaching this message.
What caught my attention this morning was the portion of verse 14 which says, “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity
to restore your fortunes.” Speaking of the false prophets of Judah, Jeremiah laments that the people the nation will listen to have refused to expose the iniquity, the sinfulness, of the people. Why is it sad that the teachers have not exposed the iniquities of Judah? It is sad because exposing to the people the evil of their actions would be for their good, for their restoration before God.
Jeremiah is saying, by the inspiration of God, that it would have been good for the people had there been somebody honest enough to tell the people of Judah of the evil they were doing. It would have been good had there been people who called their evil actually evil. But, instead of that, the religious teachers of Jeremiah’s day came up with false ways to preach promises of prosperity to the people. This false preaching which hid the truth of the danger the people faced contributed to the downfall of the nation.
Thus I return to the question of how we communicate the word of God to a lost world. And my answer becomes, “Honestly.” There is no room for a child of God to communicate anything other than the genuine word of God to the world around us. We need to be honest enough to warn people against their sin. Yes, there should be wisdom in our dealings. Yes, we should be kind to others and form genuine friendships. But, we are fools if we hide from the lost the danger they face because of sinning before a holy God. We are unkind if we do not warn people that they face the judgment of God if they do not repent and turn to Jesus for mercy.
Our society considers any declaration of sin to be judgmental and unacceptable. But how can we allow ourselves and our message to be shaped by such values? Of course nobody wants to be told that their actions are sinful. We do not like that ourselves. However, it is far better to have a genuine call to repentance than to stumble blindly to destruction. If we are to love God and to love others, we must be willing to communicate to our world that their actions and values are not those of the God who made them. We dare not be the false prophets who prophesy false and deceptive proclamations that the morality of the Bible is now passé and that we are all OK with God so long as we are happy.