Day 125: A Crime Against Humanity

Jeremiah 29:24-32

Concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite you shall speak, saying, “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘Because you have sent letters in your own name to all the people who are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, and to all the priests, saying, “Yahweh has made you priest in the place of Jehoiada the priest, that there may be officers in Yahweh’s house, for every man who is crazy, and makes himself a prophet, that you should put him in the stocks and in shackles. Now therefore, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who makes himself a prophet to you, because he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, The captivity is long. Build houses, and dwell in them. Plant gardens, and eat their fruit?” ’ ”

Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, saying, “Send to all of the captives, saying, ‘Yahweh says concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: “Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, and I didn’t send him, and he has caused you to trust in a lie;” therefore Yahweh says, “Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his offspring. He will not have a man to dwell among this people. He won’t see the good that I will do to my people,” says Yahweh, “because he has spoken rebellion against Yahweh.” ’ ”

There are many sins that people commit, but there is one sin that Jesus characterized Satan as being the father of. Murder is horrible, but the sin of lying is capable of causing us to commit every other sin quite naturally, including murder. Today, people tend to believe that God is a myth and that molecules-to-man evolution is real. Evolution is a lie and out of it comes almost every imaginable sin. When a person who clams to talk for God, speaks lies to people, it is a very, very serious crime against humanity and this passage shows us the kind of thing it causes.

In this case, Shemaiah took it upon himself to speak for God and started telling priests what they should be doing. He even told them to lock up Jeremiah. By doing that, Shemaiah told the people who would follow him, that Jeremiah was wrong. Worse than that, it made the people think that God was lying and Shemaiah was telling the truth. They were slandering a prophet of God and even suggesting that he should be killed. So you can see that lying leads to slander and murder and because this lie made the people disobey God’s voice, it could have ended up condemning all of mankind to hell. If the people were not to listen to Jeremiah and were to try to oppose Babylon instead, God would have been obligated to destroy them and since the Jews were the only ones able to bring about the Messiah, the whole world would have been lost. So, we can see what is probably Satan’s most powerful tool: the lie.

If you think that Christians are obsessed with the truth, you are right. It is the truth about Jesus that sets people free. Without the truth, real faith would not be possible. In order to save mankind, God must stop those who speak lies in His name. In this case, God made sure that Shemaiah would be removed and have no offspring in Israel. May God continue to impress upon us the importance of the truth and may we continue to share that truth so that many will be saved.

Day 124: God Eliminates a Couple of Options

Jeremiah 29:15-23

Because you have said, “Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon;” Yahweh says concerning the king who sits on David’s throne, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who haven’t gone with you into captivity; Yahweh of Armies says: “Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that can’t be eaten, they are so bad. I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed back and forth among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an object of horror, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not listened to my words,” says Yahweh, “with which I sent to them my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but you would not hear,” says Yahweh.

Hear therefore Yahweh’s word, all you captives, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in my name: “Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he will kill them before your eyes. A curse will be taken up about them by all the captives of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, ‘Yahweh make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;’ because they have done foolish things in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken words in my name falsely, which I didn’t command them. I am he who knows, and am witness,” says Yahweh.

After considering the ministry of various prophets in the Bible, I started to notice that they appear to have a set of signs that they do repeatedly. Jeremiah has a sign that could very well be the most serious of all. When a false prophet opposed him, that prophet ended up dead. He wasn’t the first to have this sign. God did the same thing through Moses in the wilderness when He was opposed. This sign didn’t stop with Jeremiah, either. It continued into the New Testament in an even more immediate way when Peter spoke to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. There are certain, critical times in which God chooses to remove false prophets in a public way like this. God intends to make His message clear and when a false prophet muddies the waters, it puts large groups of people at risk of not hearing the truth and being saved.

This should also be a warning to those who want to be “neutral.” God won’t allow it. Notice that the people were saying: “Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon.” We read here that these prophets were speaking lies to the people at this critical time and for a while they thought it was a good thing. I believe that God destroyed the neutral approach by removing one of the options from the realm of possibility. Jeremiah predicted that after God destroyed the false prophets, the people would change and it would be evident in their curses when they say: “Yahweh make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire.” That’s quite a swing in public opinion don’t you think? When it comes to God’s word, there is no neutral approach. There’s no way to avoid trouble by acting neutral either. Eventually, trouble will come and force us to stop pretending.

Day 123: A Letter from God

Jeremiah 29:8-14

For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you. Don’t listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them,” says Yahweh. For Yahweh says, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says Yahweh, “and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh. I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been violently ripped from your home and made a slave in a country that doesn’t speak your language and does everything differently? Then can you imagine what it would have been like to receive a letter directly from God like this? What a wonderful thing that would be don’t you think? God tells His people that He has “thoughts of peace, and not evil” toward them. That’s quite amazing considering the fact that they were being punished for their rebellion. God tells them in His letter that he wants to give them “hope and a future.” Then He lays out the plan. He intends to wait until they seek Him with all of their heart and then take them back out of their captivity and bring them back to their own land. He even tells them how long it will be. That’s quite a letter.

We have similar times in our lives. There are times when things are so confusing that we don’t really know what to expect tomorrow. Then God gives us hope. He helps us to see His hand in our lives and may even give us a clear vision for several years into the future. God loves us, even though we are sinners and His intention for mankind has been good since the very beginning as we have been reading for several years now.

There’s another important thing that we need to really pay attention to as believers. God can and does speak through dreams. Even in the New Testament, we see examples of this, but that does not mean that God speaks through all dreams. In this letter, God makes that clear. He warns His people that the dreams that the prophets are having there in Babylon are not to be trusted. They were having dreams but those dreams were simply their own. They weren’t from God. I believe that the Bible makes it clear that all truth that is not directly written in the Bible is to be carefully tested. Even good people can have dreams that are more related to stress or a meal that they ate before going to bed. There are even drug related dreams that unbelievers have that could be influenced by evil. We need to remember what God wrote in His letter to us:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Day 121: An Actual Contradiction

Jeremiah 28:10-17

Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it. Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Yahweh says: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations within two full years.’ ” Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go, and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Yahweh says, “You have broken the bars of wood, but you have made in their place bars of iron.” For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. I have also given him the animals of the field.” ’ ”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! Yahweh has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will send you away from off the surface of the earth. This year you will die, because you have spoken rebellion against Yahweh.’ ”

So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

When Hananiah went on to say that Babylon’s power would be completely broken in the region within two years, a contradiction was not only apparent, it was real. God has spoken through Jeremiah that the people in other nations were to prepare for the Babylonian takeover. That takeover would not be happening if what Hananiah said was true.

Notice that Jeremiah didn’t say anything after Hananiah took the bar from his neck and used it as an illustration. He probably saw the contradiction quite clearly himself now. Both Hananiah and Jeremiah could not be true prophets of God. One of them was an imposter. Evidently, Jeremiah walked away. I know this because God told Jeremiah to “Go,” and tell Hananiah a new message which means he had to go to where Hananiah was. It’s important when we see a real contradiction, that we not try to accept it. It is also true that we shouldn’t speak until God shows us to what to say, but this passage also demonstrates that God will deal with a false prophet.

If God would have left things like they were, the people would have been confused. Which message was from God? To me, this seemed like an impossible problem but God provided an amazing way out.

The people had only one way to tell if a prophet is true. They had to see if what he predicted would happen. Both prophets could not be right, but if they were to wait until two years passed, it might be too late to follow Jeremiah and surrender to Babylon. I would imagine that Satan created this dilemma but God made it look easy. He simply had Jeremiah predict the death of Hananiah in a few months! Since both prophets could not be false, all the people had to do is watch to see if Hananiah would or die not! God not only proved to the people that Jeremiah was a true prophet, He also took out the bad one. God is quite capable of making His voice clear to us. He is also very serious about those who speak His word. This is a blessing to those of us who are telling the truth and a fearful warning to those who don’t.

Day 118: The Real Enemy

Jeremiah 27:8-15

“ ‘ “ ‘It will happen that I will punish the nation and the kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon,’ says Yahweh, ‘with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. But as for you, don’t listen to your prophets, to your diviners, to your dreams, to your soothsayers, or to your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon;” for they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land, so that I would drive you out, and you would perish. But the nation that brings their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serves him, that nation I will let remain in their own land,’ says Yahweh; ‘and they will till it and dwell in it.’ ” ’ ”

I spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as Yahweh has spoken concerning the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon;’ for they prophesy a lie to you. For I have not sent them,” says Yahweh, “but they prophesy falsely in my name; that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you, and the prophets who prophesy to you.”

In this passage, God continues His communication with the non-Israeli nations that were to be affected by the Babylonian takeover. Once again what we have is a very simple and clear message. If the people will surrender, they will get to remain in their own land and continue to do business there. Jeremiah tells them not to listen to the false prophets.

To the king of Judah, Jeremiah said that he should obey God’s word so that he doesn’t suffer with other nations that don’t listen. When you think about it, it would be a bigger tragedy for Israel to not hear the words of their own prophet than it would be for those nations that don’t usually listen to Israel’s God. The sad thing is that Israel wasn’t going to listen. Also, notice that Jeremiah tells the king of Judah to not listen to the false prophets.

Something that caught my attention in this passage is that God was warning them all to not listen to the false prophets because they were saying false things in order to get them to sin and to force God to drive them out of their land. I believe that from the context of what we read here, that the prophets themselves were not doing it for this reason. In fact, we read that if these nations were to listen to the false prophets and not obey Jeremiah’s word, even the false prophets would end up dying and being driven out. I seriously doubt that the false prophets were doing it so that they could die, so that leads us to a question. Who was doing this so that God would destroy both Jew and Gentile and their nations? The answer is pretty obvious. Satan and his powers were behind what the false prophets were saying. Jesus told us that Satan is the father of liars. We also know from other parts of the Bible that Satan deceives people and they in turn deceive others. This demonstrates the fact that Satan isn’t a friend of any human. He doesn’t care if you are a Jew or a Gentile. He’d just as soon see you dead. What we see here is that God is trying to save all of mankind. Even when we don’t understand why God works the way He does, we can rest assured that He cares and knows what He is doing. We need to have faith and simply do what He says.

Day 107: Thinking Critically About What Teachers Say

Jeremiah 23:25-32

“I have heard what the prophets have said, who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceit of their own heart? They intend to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they each tell his neighbor, as their fathers forgot my name because of Baal. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat?” says Yahweh. “Isn’t my word like fire?” says Yahweh; “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who each steal my words from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who use their tongues, and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams,” says Yahweh, “who tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their vain boasting; yet I didn’t send them or command them. They don’t profit this people at all,” says Yahweh.

Many books in the New Testament have warnings in them about the false teachers that were to come. The men who wrote these warnings had the writings that we are reading today from the Old Testament. It is very valuable and contemporary for us to consider what Jeremiah wrote down for us about the false prophets of his day. It allows us to recognize people like this when they try to deceive us today.

One thing that false prophets do is to use their dreams as proof of God’s direction in our lives. The problem with doing this is that God tells us clearly, here, that false prophets used dreams to spread lies about God’s direction. If I’m reading this correctly, God is telling us to not rely on the dream alone. Notice that God tells the prophets to go ahead and tell their dreams, but he also says to that those who have His word should speak His word too. God then mentions straw and wheat and that His word is like fire. Now straw cannot be eaten, but wheat can be. Somehow, a person must separate straw from wheat. I do know that God’s word is required to interpret the dreams that come from God so we can tell truthful dreams from lying ones. It could be that God is using this metaphor to explain this. Fire burns wheat and straw, but I think that a skilled farmer learns to apply fire to the straw and keep the wheat. The fact that God’s word is like a hammer, reminds me of how much more powerful propositional truth is compared to mysterious dreams. Once the clear truth is known, it crushes the foolish interpretations of a dream that don’t apply.

We need to be aware of the fact that there are those who will claim to speak the words of God that have not received a message from God at all. God tells us this right here and we must learn to critically separate the truth from a lie using the clear words we have in the Bible.

Day 105: Don’t Listen to Them

Jeremiah 23:16-22

Yahweh of Armies says,
“Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They teach you vanity.
They speak a vision of their own heart,
and not out of the mouth of Yahweh.
They say continually to those who despise me,
‘Yahweh has said, “You will have peace;” ’
and to everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart they say,
‘No evil will come on you.’
For who has stood in the council of Yahweh,
that he should perceive and hear his word?
Who has listened to my word, and heard it?
Behold, Yahweh’s storm, his wrath, has gone out.
Yes, a whirling storm:
It will burst on the head of the wicked.
Yahweh’s anger will not return until he has executed,
and until he has performed the intents of his heart.
In the latter days, you will understand it perfectly.
I didn’t send these prophets, yet they ran.
I didn’t speak to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have caused my people to hear my words,
and would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their doings.

It’s very important for all of us to understand that just because someone is a pastor or a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible teacher, doesn’t mean that we should listen to them. This is just one of the places in the Bible where God tells us to not listen to spiritual leadership. This creates a very serious issue for certain religious traditions. There are those who call themselves Christians that teach that their leadership is capable of adding new truth to the Bible and can actually change what it means, but the Bible teaches that individuals like you and I are supposed to be critical of those who speak for God. If we don’t decide for ourselves, how will we separate the ones that God tells us not to listen to from those we should listen to? Back while the Bible was being written, the test was whether or not they could accurately tell the future. Now that we have the Bible all written down, all we have to do is see if the teaching we hear goes against it. It is our responsibility to stop listening to those who do not accurately teach the Bible.

This is also one of the places in the Bible where we learn that God is responsible for tornados and hurricanes. Here He purposefully places them “on the head of the wicked.” This does not mean that only wicked people die in hurricanes! That’s actually an abuse of logic. God didn’t say that storms only affect the wicked. He only said that He does use storms to affect the wicked.

We also learn a bit about the kinds of things that false prophets do here. This is very helpful to us today because it gives us some things to watch out for. One thing it tells us is that they teach empty things that they have made up. If a spiritual leader starts teaching their own opinions instead of the truth in the Bible, that’s a bad sign. Next we learn that they teach those who hate God that everything is going to be fine for them and that they don’t have anything to worry about. They say the same things to those who stubbornly live the way they want to instead of the way God tells them to. They encourage those who keep living in sin by telling them that God isn’t going to punish them. Isn’t that what we are seeing today in many previously Christian cultures. Pastors and teachers are telling those who live lifestyles that the Bible clearly says are wrong, that it’s acceptable to God. There are church denominations that are publicly promoting abortion. They act as if they will never be punished and God tells us here that they most certainly will. Our responsibility is simple. Let’s obey God and stop listening to them.