19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said. (John 1:19–23, NKJV)
We must know who we are. Christians are the children of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of righteousness (1 Jno. 3:1-3; Acts 11:26; Rom. 6:17-18). John knew who he was. Being repeatedly asked, “Who are you?” John quoted Isaiah 40:3, declaring himself to be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. John was not the Christ; he announced the Christ to Israel (Jno. 1:29-34; 3:28). John was not Elijah. He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” and called on Israel to repent (“to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”) “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:16-17). Jesus identified John as Malachi’s prophesied Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12). John was not “the Prophet” predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:18-19). He would decrease as Jesus increased and spoke the words of God (Jno. 3:30-34). John knew who he was. He fulfilled his God-given work. Do you know who you are? If so, then use today to do the work God has given you (Rom. 12:3-8).
20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:20–21, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is in heaven, ruling at God’s right hand (Acts 2:32-36). While there, “the times of restoration of all things” occurs. God spoke about the “times of restoration of all things” through His prophets. Let us hear God’s definition of this restoration. Peter begins with Moses, who told of a Prophet God would raise up and to whom every soul must listen or be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23; Deut. 18:15, 18-19). Peter applied this prophecy to Jesus. Next, he points out that “all the prophets from Samuel” onward “foretold of these days,” when the Prophet came bringing restoration. Peter and his contemporaries lived in “these days” and were witnessing “the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:24). Thirdly, God sent His Servant Jesus to the Jews to begin the restoration of all things that He promised to their fathers (Acts 3:25). What was this blessing of restoration? It was redemption from sin (“in turning away every one of you from your iniquities,” Acts 3:26). Soon, Gentiles would be brought into this redemption, since “all the families of the earth” are blessed in Abraham’s Seed (Christ) (Acts 3:25; Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 3:16). The “restoration of all things” God foretold is now summed up in Jesus Christ. The gospel age is the “fullness of the times” when God sums up all things in Christ and administers redemption from sin with the eternal inheritance “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:10-11). The “restoration” is the spiritual renewal of sinners in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jeremiah was unique before his birth. (The unborn baby is new human life, not merely a blob of tissue connected to a woman.) The Bible repeatedly upholds the dignity of life as from God, formed and sustained by Him. In Eden, sin interrupted life and brought death. God’s plan to redeem sinners (us) from death would involve the death of His Son. But, His power of life over death would resurrect Jesus (Rom. 1:4). God chose Jeremiah before He formed Him. He set him in place as a prophet of God’s redemptive purposes. He would speak God’s word to a Judah, a sinful nation on the verge of destruction for her sins (Jer. 1:6-10). Judgment was coming, but divine mercy and redemption would also come (Jer. 21:1-10; 23:1-8). After God’s judgment against Judah (the seventy-year Babylonian exile), God would restore a remnant to the land (which occurred under Cyrus, King of Persia, Jer. 29:10-14; 25:11-12; Ezra 1:1-4). God would send “David” (Messiah) to be their King, vastly different from the kings who rebelled against God (Jer. 22). He would be “a Branch of righteousness” who would “reign and prosper” God’s people with salvation and safety (Jer. 23:1-8; 30:8-9). Messiah indeed came, but they killed Him. Yet, Jeremiah’s prophecy came true – Jesus now reigns over His kingdom at God’s right hand – “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6; Acts 2:30-36; Heb. 1:8-9). Believe and obey the King and share in the salvation Jeremiah anticipated (1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 2:36-41).
13 Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. 14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13–14, NKJV)
Jerusalem and Judah were headed for destruction in the days of Jeremiah. Covetous hearts – greedy for power and wealth – guided both prophet and priest to speak falsely to a population that loved to have it so. These religious charlatans “healed” the spiritual ailments of the people with superficial dressings. They proclaimed “peace, peace,” even though hostility toward God and men ruled the day. Even now, religious leaders, with many followers, preach messages that fail to heal men’s soul – even as those souls rush headlong toward eternal ruin. Messages of peace that tolerate immorality are proclaimed. “Peace” is advanced at the expense of divine truth. (Indeed, evil is called good, and good is called evil, Isaiah 5:20.) Jeremiah’s warning remains relevant, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16). No peace can exist where sin reigns. Changing its definitions and ignoring its reality reveals hearts that are greedy for selfish gains, not selfless hearts devoted to the Almighty.
13 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jeremiah 14:13–14, NKJV)
Many prophets were telling Judah, “Peace, peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah was telling them destruction was on the way (Jeremiah 6:22-30). How was Israel to know the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet? “If the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Jeremiah was the true prophet; the others were false because their prophecies failed. False prophets are deceived and speak from hearts of deception, not from divine revelation. Even today some claim to be prophets of God. But, like the lying prophets of old, their words are false because they do not conform to the Scriptures (the revealed mind of God, 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Revelation is now complete (John 16:13). Today, we know whether a message is from God or from the heart of man by comparing it to the words of Christ’s apostles (1 John 4:1, 6). They wrote the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).
“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).
8 I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:8–9, NKJV)
The true and living God inhabits eternity; He is not confined by time, since He created it (Gen. 1:1, 5). This distinguishes Him from the lifeless, powerless images carved by men’s hands and praised as if they have any power at all. The fulfillment of God’s prophetic utterances declares His glory and demand that we praise Him. When one prophesies in the name of God and it does not come to pass, that person has spoken presumptuously, and is not a true prophet of God (Deut. 18:22). Jesus said, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (Jno. 13:19). Fulfilled prophecy testifies to the accuracy and the reliability of God’s inspired word, the holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The words of God’s prophets always came true. By and by, when they fail, the words of the false prophets are shown to be false. We can trust the truthfulness of the Bible, because its prophecies are fulfilled by the very God who gave them.
37 “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ 38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:37–39, NKJV)
Moses, the Lawgiver to Israel and Prophet of God, foretold of another prophet like himself whom God would raise up and to whom Israel was to listen. In Acts 3:22-26, the apostle Peter identified that Prophet as Jesus. The word of God spoken to Moses and to Israel on Mt. Sinai is described as living words. God’s word is not dead, but active and powerful to free us from sin’s captivity (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). Israel set an example in the wilderness we must not follow; she “would not obey” the living oracles God gave her. Note that Israel’s disobedience is counted as rejecting God’s prophet and God’s word. Disobedience arises from a heart that turns away from God. We cannot disobey God’s word and rightfully claim to be following God’s Prophet, Jesus. Rejecting His truth through disobedience reveals a heart that has turned away from Christ to continue in sin.