What came to mind when you read that title? If you are politically inclined, perhaps some of the “appalling and horrible” executive orders that are now plaguing our nation, or some of the legislation that is not only legalizing but promoting sin, or some of the rulings by the Supreme Court that are systematically destroying freedom. If your inclinations are moral, then, perhaps the “appalling and horrible” murders of innocent infants in the womb—at the insistence of their own mothers!—or the perverted denial of objective reality being promoted by the transgender culture. If you noticed the quotation marks, perhaps you had second thoughts, but still you might not have come to the right conclusion regarding what the title was referencing. Jeremiah quotes the Lord: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land” (Jer. 5:30). For as outrageous as are the realities mentioned above, God reserved His particular indignation for three other issues.
1. “The prophets prophesy falsely” (v. 31a). Jeremiah had come to God’s people with a message of judgment: their sins had become so great, their rebellion so inveterate, and their stubborn wills so impervious to God that He was about to bring judgment on them, a judgment entailing the complete devastation of the nation at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and the hoards of his army. Their cities would be decimated, masses of their population killed, and many others carried away captive to Babylon. False prophets, claiming to speak in the name of the Lord, denied Jeremiah’s message from God, encouraged the people to reject His prophet, and advised them to continue contentedly in the rebellious course that they had insisted on pursuing.
2. “The priests rule on their own authority” (v. 31b). The priests had the authority to denounce the false prophets and the power to see that they be punished according to the law. But they had forsaken God (Jer. 2:8). “They have forsaken Me,” God declared, “and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands” (1:16b). Furthermore, “from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely” (6:13). Those who were to represent the people before God and were to offer holy sacrifices on behalf of the sins of the people had no more compelling motivation for serving than stark avarice. Instead of leading in the cleansing of their people, they led them into idolatry. It was more lucrative.
3. “My people love it so!” (v. 31c). How was it possible that God’s chosen people should be presided over by false prophets and greedy priests? Simple. It’s what they wanted. Isaiah quoted the Lord: “For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’; and to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions” (30:9, 10). Delusions were easier to swallow than the truth. Fairy tales were more comforting than reality. The gods of their imagination were more tolerant of their sin than the one true God. So they asked to be deceived—and got what they asked for.
It takes little imagination to see the parallels with Judah in Jeremiah’s time and our nation today. Everywhere we turn, men (and women), assuring us they come with a message from God, discourage righteousness, encourage greed, ignore the message of sin and judgment revealed in the Bible, and create idols every bit as false and outrageous as those in Jeremiah’s time. “Don’t worry about sin,” they say. “God is all-loving. He just wants you to be supremely happy today. Why worry about eternity when God wants things to be so pleasant for you now?” It is the message of the devil preached by those who are greedy for gain. And the sad similarity is that the “people love it so.” The Apostle Paul warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (II Tim. 4:3, 4). Once God’s truth permeated this society, but no longer. Will you be one who loves the truth or one who swallows the euphoric opium of false doctrine? Don’t fall prey to “an appalling and horrible thing.” Find your anchor in the truth of God’s Word.
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