Jeremiah had a very hard ministry. He spoke to the people of Judah the word of God in a time when the people were not following God. The people disobeyed. The kings of Judah disobeyed. No matter what Jeremiah said, the leaders of Judah would not listen. And, as frustrating as anything, there were others who claimed to be prophets who said exactly the opposite of what God was actually telling Jeremiah to say.
Take a look at these words from Jeremiah, and notice the radical comparison that the Lord makes.
Jeremiah 23:13–17 – 13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” 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.’ ”
In verse 13, God said that the people of the northern kingdom had faced his judgment because of their idol worship, their following of Baal. But then God says something about Judah that appears, by comparison, to bring the wrath of God even more. God is going to judge Judah for the evil messages of the false prophets.
And what were those false prophets doing? They were speaking messages not from the Lord as if they were from God. They were telling the people of Judah that it was OK for them to live in sin before the Lord. The false prophets were telling the people to just keep enjoying what they were doing, that God is fine with them, and that no consequences were on the way. As verse 17 says, “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.’”
We could think of this as an interesting historical footnote for us were it not for the fact that the same thing is happening among those who claim to be Christians today. God’s word speaks absolutely clearly about issues of sin and righteousness. And there are those in our day who will claim that things that the Lord says are sin are now OK given our progressive culture. They will claim to have a new word from God allowing evils that the Lord formerly called abomination in his word.
Of course, there are also those who claim to have a word from God that they use to manipulate others around them for personal, financial gain. Evil men claim to have prophecy from the Lord, words from God that God did not speak. They will use this language to get people to send them donations in exchange for the Lord’s healing or the promise of a prosperous business.
Christians, take a note from our text in Jeremiah. It is deadly to claim to have a word from God when God has not spoken it. It is deadly to say that things are right when God has called them sin. It is evil to tell someone that they will have only peace and prosperity with God when that person stands in opposition to the Lord. May we be a people of the word of God who rightly proclaim the word as God intended. May we live in accord with his word and never give anybody false comfort for the sake of societal gain.