“When this people, or the prophet, or a priest, asks you, saying, ‘What is the message from Yahweh?’ Then you shall tell them, ‘ “What message? I will cast you off,” says Yahweh.’ As for the prophet, the priest, and the people, who say, ‘The message from Yahweh,’ I will even punish that man and his household. You will say everyone to his neighbor, and everyone to his brother, ‘What has Yahweh answered?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh said?’ You will mention the message from Yahweh no more: for every man’s own word has become his message; for you have perverted the words of the living God, of Yahweh of Armies, our God. You will say to the prophet, ‘What has Yahweh answered you?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ Although you say, ‘The message from Yahweh;’ therefore Yahweh says: ‘Because you say this word, “The message from Yahweh,” and I have sent to you, telling you not to say, “The message from Yahweh;” therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and I will cast you off, and the city that I gave to you and to your fathers, away from my presence. I will bring an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.’ ”
Making up a message from God is a very serious crime. According to what we read here, it will bring “an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.” Now, we know that this shame and reproach was paid for by Jesus when He died, but it demonstrates to us that what false teachers and prophets do is as serious as the sins that they claim to avoid. The sins of religious people are very serious because they claim to be speaking for God.
I’m a bit stunned about this since it seems quite different than it was when I was young, but we live in a very religious culture here in the United States now. By religious, I don’t mean that everyone believes in God or the gods. What I mean is that I am seeing what Jeremiah was seeing, that “every man’s own word has become his message.” People are making up their own truth about what God thinks, says or is. If they think Christianity is wrong about something, they simply revise it and continue to call themselves a Christian. Then they claim that everyone that doesn’t follow their ideas is not a Christian. No wonder Jeremiah couldn’t get along with anyone. Everyone had decided to listen to themselves and I can’t imagine a less unified culture.
I do have a word of encouragement for Christians, though. One of the blessings we have as Christians is that we have each other. In a day when everyone follows their own word, we follow God’s and when we do it, we do it together. We can have unity that shines like a light in the darkness. As we simply love each other, we will attract those who are seeking a way out of the violence and disunity of this world.