Jeremiah 23:15-24

15 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets:

“I will make them eat bitter food
    and drink poisoned water,
because from the prophets of Jerusalem
    ungodliness has spread throughout the land.”

16 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 They keep saying to those who despise me,
    ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
    they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
    to see or to hear his word?
    Who has listened and heard his word?
19 See, the storm of the Lord
    will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
    on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he fully accomplishes
    the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
    you will understand it clearly.
21 I did not send these prophets,
    yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they have prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
    they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
    and from their evil deeds.

23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 23:15-24 NIV)

In Chapter 22 and verses 1 – 8 of Chapter 23, the Lord spoke concerning the kings of Judah.  In verses 9 – 40 of Chapter 23, the emphasis shifts from the Judean kings to the prophets.

In yesterday’s text, we saw the dialogue between Jeremiah and God.  We saw Jeremiah’s question, God’s response, and Jeremiah’s observation.  Because of the length of the passage, we will cover the remaining sections in subsequent days.

Today we will see the Lord respond to Jeremiah first (v. 15).  The Lord then speaks to the people of Jerusalem, warning them not to listen to the false prophets (vv. 16-24).

Verse 15 starts with “Therefore”, indicating the response to Jeremiah’s observation (vv. 13-14).  Similar to verses 11-12, the Lord declares judgment on the false prophets (v. 15).

In verse 16, the Lord disassociates Himself from anything the false prophets are saying.  The Lord points out that the prophets are speaking their mind, and not His words, filling the peoples’ minds with false hopes, not truth.

In verse 17, the Lord spells out the particulars of the prophets’ lies:  “You will have peace” to those who despise the Lord, and “No harm will come to you” to those who knowingly engage in sin.

How can a person have peace with someone they despise?  It’s not possible.  This view secularizes God and makes Him irrelevant in peoples’ daily lives.

And how can there be no consequences for willful, blatant sin?  This view promotes cheap grace, the idea that God overlooks sin, and that moral character and integrity have nothing to do with our relationship with God.

In verse 18, the Lord asks a hard question:  Which one of the false prophets have stood in the council of the Lord, or paid attention to His Word?  The implied answer is obvious:  none of these false prophets have spent any time with God or His Word, so how can they speak on behalf of the Lord?

The false prophets are like a lot of radio or television talk show hosts of today – a lot of opinions and feelings are expressed as facts, but the truth is nowhere to be found.

Verses 19 – 20 reiterate the judgment that is upon these false prophets – they will suffer the consequences of their sin.

In verse 21, the Lord again disassociates Himself with the false prophets and their message.  They are speaking on their own, but making their prophecies in the name of the Lord.

In verse 22, the Lord points out that if the prophets were, in fact, speaking God’s truth to the people, they would be addressing the sin of the people and their broken relationship with the Lord.  By contrast, we can see that the false prophets were speaking the opposite of what Jeremiah was proclaiming on behalf of the Lord.  By condemning the false prophets’ words, the Lord is affirming His message through the real prophet Jeremiah.

In verses 23 – 24, the Lord asks the people questions that remind them of God’s omniscient, all-knowing mind and His pervasive, everywhere-at-all-times presence.  Like Psalm 139 so eloquently expresses, the Lord is everywhere and knows everything at all times.  Nothing and no one can escape His view and knowledge.

May we remember the Lord’s desire is to have a relationship with us, and He will pursue us to the ends of the earth to restore us to Himself.

May we take our sin seriously, letting nothing and no one come between the Lord and us.

May we be careful with our words, remembering to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).