Editorial

To Whom Shall I Speak and Give Warning?
(Jeremiah 6:10-ff)


The prophets of God were His mouthpieces to Israel, the way in which He revealed His will to the people. Regarding the office of prophet, Jehovah said in Deuteronomy 18:18-22, "I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'; when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, 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; you shall not be afraid of him."

From the above quote we learn several things of importance.

(1) The prophets were the mouthpieces of God. Peter said, in 1 Peter 1:20-21, "... no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." The prophets were raised up by God, chosen to be his mouthpieces. As our text indicates, God would "put My (His) words in his mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."

(2) As the prophets were from God, it was the responsibility of Israel to "hear" them. God would hold accountable those who would not heed the message of the prophet. "I will require it of him." Peter said the same concerning the newly revealed gospel. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation," (1 Peter 1:16-20). The gospel preached by the Apostles was "confirmed" as being from God, and we are required to heed it.

(3) The false prophet, the one who "presumes" to speak for God, was worthy of death! It has ever been that those who put themselves in a position to speak for God have a great responsibility. It matters not if the teacher claims inspiration, or simply speaks "as the scribes", to misrepresent the will of God is a serious matter. The Pharisees of Jesus' time were guilty of this. Notice what He said about them in Matthew 7:7-14, "'Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."' When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, 'Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.' Then His disciples came and said to Him, 'Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?' But He answered and said, 'Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.'" Their worship was vain, and they were termed "blind leaders of the blind" and plants which would be "uprooted", all because they were "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

Those in the church who would be teachers are given a strong warning in this regard. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1). False teachers are spoken of disparagingly in the New Testament, both because of what they taught, "when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage" (2 Peter 2:18-19), and because of the end of their teaching "concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck" (1 Timothy 1:19), "they overthrow the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:18).

(4) Finally, the standard by which we know whether what a man teaches is from God is objective. For the prophets, "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, 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." It was not necessary that their motivations be known. The false prophet had impure motives, greedily seeking after notoriety or gain. However, motivation is from the heart, and we aren't able to read the hearts of men. What could be read was the end result of the message. If the prophecy did not come to pass, the prophet spoke presumptuously.

The same is true regarding New Testament teaching. Peter characterized false teachers as being individuals who are secretive, covetous, deceptive, corrupt, immoral and greedy. (cf. 2 Pet. 2). They "exploit you with deceptive words." But, how can they be known? Again, the standard is objective! It is the word of God. And we can know whether a man is a false teacher or not by examining his teaching in light of what the scriptures say. It is the noble thing to do, (cf. the noble Bereans), "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

Jeremiah Was a Prophet of God

During a very dark period in the history of Judah, God called his servant Jeremiah to be His mouthpiece to Israel. God said, "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 1:5). He encouraged Jeremiah in His work, saying, "... you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you ..." (1:7-8). The mission of Jeremiah was stated very clearly, "The LORD said to me: 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant'" (1:9-10). Judah had become rebellious, and it was time for the people to suffer the retribution of God.

Jeremiah was a compassionate man. Perhaps the most compassionate of all the Prophets. He had a tender heart, and agonized over the people's rebellion against Jehovah. Notice the following from chapter 4, "O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried, For the whole land is plundered. Suddenly my tents are plundered, And my curtains in a moment" (4:19-20). It was precisely this compassion which compelled him to warn his people of the end result of their rebellion against the Almighty. Understand this, the only way that love for his brethren could truly be shown by Jeremiah was through the preaching of God's message. Warning would mean great unpleasantness for him personally. All of this is amply demonstrated by the following:

Though it could lead to his death, Jeremiah was compelled to preach a message of repentance to Judah! His tender nature, his compassion did not lead him to overlook the sins of the people, but rather compelled him to condemn such rebellion and prophesy doom to the city. Those today whose sensibilities do not allow them to speak plainly in convicting sinners and false teachers would do well to heed the example of Jeremiah.

The Sins of the People

The evil present in the land during the time of Jeremiah was very great. Jehovah God despaired of the impenitence, and expressed that disappointment in a very interesting statement, found in chapter 6, verse 10, "To whom shall I speak and give warning, That they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, And they cannot give heed ..." The land was so corrupt that there was no one who would listen to God. What were the sins of the people? Why were they in such a state?

  1. "Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; They have no delight in it" (6:10). Their attitude toward the will of God was not what it should have been. In contrast, note the words of the Psalmist, who said, "Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalms 1:1-2). Today the people of God need to be in love with His words. We need to delve deeply into His word and will for us today. Only in this can we stem the tide of digression that we see troubling the body of Christ in our time.

  2. "... From the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness ..." (6:13). Covetousness is a disease of the heart, which manifests itself in unseemly actions. This was evident in the time of Jeremiah, when this covetousness led the people, from "the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely." Cheating, stealing, lying, treachery, all of these have to do with a covetous heart. In our materialistic world, where possessions, and "getting ahead" are such a priority, covetousness is a real problem. The people of God should be on guard against this sin.

  3. "They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, 'Peace, peace!' When there is no peace" (6:14). Here we have a very interesting manifestation of ungodly attitudes. During this time of great rebellion, there were many who would not address the real problem. The people were hurting, and the "problem solvers" were only dealing with the hurt superficially. If a patient has cancer, and the doctor only deals with the symptoms, without excising the cancer, the patient will die. If a patient has a brain tumor, and the doctor only prescribes pain killers, the patient will die. Unless the sin is dealt with, there is not peace! There are many in our day who are guilty of the same exact thing. While digressive attitudes proliferate, and immorality and ungodliness affects the church, some are saying, "Peace, Peace." They do not see the danger, and only heal the hurt of the people "slightly". May we ever have the attitude of Jeremiah, and proclaim what the people need to hear.

  4. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush." What a parallel with our times. We have homosexuals "out of the closet", licentiousness on the television and at the movies, all manner of immoral dress and lascivious activity going on all around us. As a nation of people we have forgotten how to blush! But, what about the Lord's people? Have we been affected by such a degradation of morals to where we too are no longer ashamed at such ungodliness? When you have Christians who are defending adulterous relationships, social drinking, gambling, immoral dress, public swimming, etc. you have a people who have been unduly influenced by an immoral society. Recently I read a discussion ongoing on an internet discussion group where a number of Christians were defending seeing a movie which contained nudity, profanity, and featured an illicit love affair (fornication) as a positive love story. They went so far as to chide those who objected to such a movie as being too harsh and judgmental in their attitudes. Brethren, where are we when we do not know how to blush?

The sins of Judah were great, and the punishment God would inflict upon them was just. Because of the ungodliness of the land, God said, "Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time I punish them, They shall be cast down," says the LORD" (6:15). We should take the end of Judah, taken away into Babylonian captivity as a warning to us today.

Thus Says the Lord

The unwillingness of the people to listen (cf. 6:10) did not preclude God instructing them in what they should do to return to Him. Again, His warnings to the people serve as instructions to us as we seek to serve Him. Thus says the Lord:

  1. "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" (6:16). The "old paths" here describe the revelation of God, the way in which their fathers walked when they were pleasing to God. The plea is appropriate for our day as well. In the gospel of Christ, the Apostolic tradition we have revealed for us all we need to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. When the people of God depart from the "old paths", the only cure is to return back to them. But notice what the people said, "But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'"

  2. "Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!'" (6:17). When exhortation is made, sounds of warnings are trumpeted, the people of God need to listen. However, in our day there are complaints made when watchmen sound the warning. Just as the people objected to Jeremiah's message, when godly elders, preachers and Christians warn of sin among the people, some cry out against them. That is as it was in Jeremiah's time, "But they said, 'We will not listen.'"

Conclusion

Because of Judah's rebellion, Jehovah said, "Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people; The fruit of their thoughts, Because they have not heeded My words, Nor My law, but rejected it" (6:19). Jehovah, through the words of Jeremiah, called the people "wicked" (6:7), "covetous" (6:13), "stubborn rebels" (6:28), "walking as slanderers" (6:28). Because of this, God rejected them, "People will call them rejected silver, Because the LORD has rejected them" (6:30). Jeremiah, because of his love for Judah, told the people God's message. He did this despite rejection, and even personal danger. He did it selflessly, and the people hated him for it. They hated him because "the word of the Lord is (was) a reproach to them."

We as Christians ought to examine closely our attitudes toward the preaching of the word of God. It is disturbing to hear the criticism that is being expressed toward those who are following the example of Jeremiah and warning of sin in our time.

May we as God's people ever have a tender heart towards His will, and those who proclaim it to us.


e-mail Stan Cox

return to Watchman front page

return to June index