Today’s Bible reading* points out that time and again, God’s true prophets have spoken to the people, yet they did not listen and repent.
“From the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until this very day—twenty-three years—the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you time and time again, but you have not obeyed. The LORD sent all his servants the prophets to you time and time again, but you have not obeyed or even paid attention. He announced, ‘Turn, each of you, from your evil way of life and from your evil deeds. Live in the land the LORD gave to you and your ancestors long ago and forever. Do not follow other gods to serve them and to bow in worship to them, and do not anger me by the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm. “ ‘But you have not obeyed me’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘with the result that you have angered me by the work of your hands and brought disaster on yourselves.’
Jeremiah 25:3–7 (CSB)
Upon hearing Jeremiah’s message of God’s Word of judgment against the people, the priests, the prophets, and the people demanded Jeremiah’s life for what he had said. Fortunate for Jeremiah, they relented and didn’t kill him. (Jeremiah 26:16)
When he finished the address the LORD had commanded him to deliver to all the people, immediately the priests, the prophets, and all the people took hold of him, yelling, “You must surely die! How dare you prophesy in the name of the LORD, ‘This temple will become like Shiloh and this city will become an uninhabited ruin’!” Then all the people crowded around Jeremiah at the LORD’s temple. When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went from the king’s palace to the LORD’s temple and sat at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD’s temple.
Jeremiah 26:8–10 (CSB)
As we have seen several times before, the people chose to listen to false prophets instead of the true prophets of God like Jeremiah. In fact, Jeremiah’s Word to the people was to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, while the false prophets told them to reject him. God’s message was, basically, “Submit to the evil king for a while and I will deliver you. Reject him and I will punish you.”
So how were the people to discern whether to listen to Jeremiah or the other prophets like Hananiah? Jeremiah says,
The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, disaster, and plague against many lands and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace—only when the word of the prophet comes true will the prophet be recognized as one the LORD has truly sent.”
Jeremiah 28:8–9 (CSB)
It seems that God’s people tend to gravitate toward those who will say what they want to hear. It was that way in the Old Testament and it’s true in the New Testament, too! But God cautions His prophets to stay true to His Word.
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2–5 (CSB)
It’s God’s people’s responsibility to be discerning. Unfortunately, there are a lot of false prophets and false teachers around today. And there isn’t a “clearinghouse” or “accountability board” that can vet Bible teachers and preachers. So you have to be careful what you hear.
So how do you know?
Jeremiah gives us a clear Word: compare what they say with the truth. (Jeremiah 28:9b) God’s written Word is the truth. (John 17:17) Comparing what they say with God’s Word requires that we know God’s Word deeply. And that requires lots of time reading it, hearing it, studying it, and memorizing it.
When a Bible teacher or preacher doesn’t line up with the truth of God’s Word, don’t be afraid to walk away and never look back. But for your own sake, stay true to God’s Word and find another Bible teacher or preacher who will stay true to God’s Word. You may not like everything you hear or read. But that can be a good thing. Don’t just look for someone who will tell you what you want to hear. When a Bible teacher or preacher says something you don’t want to hear, but lines up with God’s Word, be sure to listen and repent.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: