Jeremiah 23 (NLT)
The Righteous Descendant
“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord.
The flock of Jeremiah’s day was indeed scattered. Some were carried away to Babylon and the nations as captives, and others went as refugees to Egypt. This could all be traced back to ungodly and poor leaders for the people of God.
2 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. 3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!
5 “For the time is coming,”
says the Lord,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
6 And this will be his name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Israel will live in safety.
Isaiah 58:8 (ESV)
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Righteousness is something positive. The work of Jesus in His people is not only to clean the stain of sin. The perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus is ours in Him. “It speaks of one who will not only reflect the righteousness of God but will convey it to his people, making it their own possession.”
Paul may have had this promise in mind when he spoke of Christ Jesus as our righteousness, in 1 Corinthians 1:30.
7 “In that day,” says the Lord, “when people are taking an oath, they will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.’ 8 Instead, they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the people of Israel back to their own land from the land of the north and from all the countries to which he had exiled them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”
Israel rightly celebrated the deliverance from Egypt. Jeremiah announced that an even more wonderful deliverance would happen in connection with the gathering of Israel presented as an aspect of the New Covenant.
Israel was created in the Exodus out of Egypt and they were restored in the gathering out of Babylon and the nations. God promised that the restoration of Israel would be greater than the creation of Israel. This connects to the principle that restored or redeemed man is greater than created or innocent man.
Jesus, our righteousness, our salvation, is promised to us again! HERE is “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” a capella — one of my favorite Advent carols.
Judgment on False Prophets
9 My heart is broken because of the false prophets,
and my bones tremble.
I stagger like a drunkard,
like someone overcome by wine,
because of the holy words
the Lord has spoken against them.
10 For the land is full of adultery,
and it lies under a curse.
The land itself is in mourning—
its wilderness pastures are dried up.
For they all do evil
and abuse what power they have.
The great contrast between their message and his message made Jeremiah nauseous. His main message was repent; their main message was relax. They couldn’t possibly both be right.
11 “Even the priests and prophets
are ungodly, wicked men.
I have seen their despicable acts
right here in my own Temple,”
says the Lord.
12 “Therefore, the paths they take
will become slippery.
They will be chased through the dark,
and there they will fall.
For I will bring disaster upon them
at the time fixed for their punishment.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
Psalm 34:15-16 (NIV)
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
13 “I saw that the prophets of Samaria were terribly evil,
for they prophesied in the name of Baal
and led my people of Israel into sin.
14 But now I see that the prophets of Jerusalem are even worse!
God compared the prophets of Jerusalem and Judah to the prophets of Samaria that led the northern kingdom to spiritual and social ruin some 150 years before.
They commit adultery and love dishonesty.
They encourage those who are doing evil
so that no one turns away from their sins.
These prophets are as wicked
as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once were.”
How did the nation become so corrupt as to be compared to Sodom and Gomorrah? A major factor was false prophecy. The false prophets had a large, enthusiastic audience and were very popular because they made the people believe that all was well. By contrast, Jeremiah’s message from God was unpopular because it showed the people how bad they were.
There are four warning signs of false prophets—characteristics we need to watch for even today. (1) They may appear to speak God’s message, but they do not live according to his principles. (2) They water down God’s message in order to make it more palatable. (3) They encourage their listeners, often subtly, to disobey God. (4) They tend to be arrogant and self-serving, appealing to the desires of their audience instead of being true to God’s Word. (The Life Application Bible)
15 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says concerning the prophets:
“I will feed them with bitterness
and give them poison to drink.
For it is because of Jerusalem’s prophets
that wickedness has filled this land.”
16 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:
“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
They do not speak for the Lord!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’
18 “Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence
to hear what he is really saying?
Has even one of them cared enough to listen?
19 Look! The Lord’s anger bursts out like a storm,
a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not diminish
until it has finished all he has planned.
God’s anger against the corrupt prophets was not just a matter of personal irritation. It was righteous and would be performed against them until His justice was accomplished.
In the days to come
you will understand all this very clearly.
Which is to say — the people would know the truth of this prophecy when Jerusalem fell.
21 “I have not sent these prophets,
yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
yet they go on prophesying.
22 If they had stood before me and listened to me,
they would have spoken my words,
and they would have turned my people
from their evil ways and deeds.
23 Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord.
“No, I am far away at the same time.
24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?”
says the Lord.
25 “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. 26 How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. 27 By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal.
“Once men forgot the character of Yahweh, they could be persuaded to accept all kinds of doctrines.”
–J. A. Thompson
28 “Let these false prophets tell their dreams,
but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word.
There is a difference between straw and grain!
29 Does not my word burn like fire?”
says the Lord.
“Is it not like a mighty hammer
that smashes a rock to pieces?
30 “Therefore,” says the Lord, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. 31 I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the Lord!’ 32 I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the Lord, have spoken!
False Prophecies and False Prophets
We all know what it is like to have someone quote us, but quote us wrongly. The presumption of him or her! How offensive that is! How much more so for Almighty God, to hear people using his name to say things entirely opposite of what he means.
33 “Suppose one of the people or one of the prophets or priests asks you, ‘What prophecy has the Lord burdened you with now?’ You must reply, ‘You are the burden! The Lord says he will abandon you!’
34 “If any prophet, priest, or anyone else says, ‘I have a prophecy from the Lord,’ I will punish that person along with his entire family. 35 You should keep asking each other, ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What is the Lord saying?’ 36 But stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the Lord.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
37 “This is what you should say to the prophets: ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What is the Lord saying?’ 38 But suppose they respond, ‘This is a prophecy from the Lord!’ Then you should say, ‘This is what the Lord says: Because you have used this phrase, “prophecy from the Lord,” even though I warned you not to use it, 39 I will forget you completely. I will expel you from my presence, along with this city that I gave to you and your ancestors. 40 And I will make you an object of ridicule, and your name will be infamous throughout the ages.’”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of: