30 “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NKJV)
When Jeremiah penned this warning from God, Judah was facing punishment for her sins (“Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 5:29). This passage gives us insight into God’s great displeasure with false teaching and religious oppression. Devastating and horrible things were happening in Judah, because false prophets were speaking lies in the name of God (Jeremiah 14:14). Yet, God’s people “loved to have it so.” The priests, who should have taught the people to be holy before the Lord, seized power for themselves at the expense of the people. And still, God’s people loved to have it so. In the end, they did not escape God’s judgment. Even now, some Christians are content to be deceived by false teachers. Instead of following God’s word, they are willing to be ruled over by the tyranny of human wisdom. Why? Perhaps, because it has always been easier to run with the crowd to do evil than to stand up and stand against unscriptural teaching and immoral practices (Exodus 23:2). God sees false teaching and unholy conduct as devastating and horrible things, that bring destruction upon those who “love to have it so.” May we resolve never to love what God hates (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9).
“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; And seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her.” (Jeremiah 5:1, NKJV)
The Lord God sent Jeremiah into the streets of Jerusalem to look for a righteous man; a man of justice (“judgment”), and one who seeks the truth. Such a discovery would prevent God’s punishment upon the rebellious, obstinate, sinful city (Jeremiah 5:3, 7-9). But, what Jeremiah found were lies instead of the truth (Jeremiah 5:2). None were found among the poor; they did not know the way of the Lord (Jeremiah 5:4). None were found among her “great men;” they had burst the bonds of divine rule in favor of destructive, sinful pleasures (Jeremiah 5:5-9). Does God find you to be a person who is just toward others? Do you seek truth, and pursue it? Or, have sin’s allurements enticed you away from Him, hardening your heart toward His will? Jerusalem reached a point of no return, and she was destroyed for her sins (Jeremiah 52:3-30). But, it is not too late for you to return to the Lord. His longsuffering continues to this moment, longing for sinners to repent (2 Peter 3:9). If you will heed His call and repent, He will pardon your sins, and you will escape His wrath (Romans 2:1-11).
16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”’; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16–17, NKJV)
The false prophets in Jerusalem during the life of Jeremiah sound much like the false preachers today, who tell people such things as, “Let your conscience be your guide,” and, “join the church of your choice,” and, “God will accept every person who has a sincere heart” (that was the very falsehood for which God punished His people, verse 17). Living “according to the dictates of his own heart” brings a person under God’s wrath, not God’s approval and pleasure. Such worthless teaching made the people spiritually worthless (verse 16). When Jeremiah opposed these false prophets, they tried to have him killed (Jeremiah 26:4-14). A person who tells you God’s truth is not your enemy; don’t make him out to be one (Galatians 4:16). Speaking God’s truth has never been popular. But, we must speak truth, attempt to save souls and please God. We dare not speak error to please men, for by doing so, we lose our souls, and they remain lost, too (Galatians 1:10; 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:16).
“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble.” (Jeremiah 44:16–17, NKJV)
Can you image God’s people telling God’s prophet that they would not listen to him? That is exactly what this remnant of Judah said to Jeremiah. They did not love the word of God, but themselves. They interpreted their days of plenty to mean God was pleased with them; they were wrong. They said this even though their beloved city of Jerusalem had been ransacked by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar! Yet, still they clung to their idols in their self-willed defiance, even though God would bring further judgment upon them for their rebellion (Jer. 44:12). This sounds very familiar. There are still many who claim to have faith in God that behave this way. Refusing to listen to the word of Christ from His apostles does not bring divine blessings, but certain judgment (John 12:48). To have God’s approval and blessings, the sin of defiant self-will must be abandoned, and replaced with humble submission to the word of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
31 O generation, see the word of the Lord! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness? Why do My people say, ‘We are lords; We will come no more to You’? 32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number. (Jeremiah 2:31–32, NKJV)
God repeatedly disciplined the nation of Israel for her transgressions against Him. Yet, with the immorality of idolatry, Israel continued to rebel against Jehovah. The people elevated themselves about the Lord in their own eyes. Israel acted as if she did not need God. It was utterly astounding to the Lord how Israel forgot Him time, after time, after time. A bride does not forget her wedding dress, yet God’s bride “played the harlot with many lovers” (Jer. 3:1). Still, God pleaded with Israel to repent and return to Him (Jer. 3:1). But, Israel would not. She said, “I am innocent,” and, “I have not sinned” (Jer. 2:35). Consequently, God punished Israel for her sins (Jer. 4:27). Here is our lesson as Christians: God will not overlook our sins, either. God said of Israel, “Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord. And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?” (Jer. 5:9) We must get serious about sin and repent, for “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3)? Will you “see the word of the Lord?”