Posts Tagged ‘prophets’


Have you ever wanted to just skip over certain verses in the Bible and pretend they weren’t there?  Well, if there ever was a chapter I wanted to skip, it is the one I met with today.  The more I studied Jeremiah 23, the less I wanted to comment on it.

Sometimes people avoid hard words because they do not like them.  Others shy away because they hurt too much.  But once in a while, both happen at the same time and the gazing in and drawing out of that which God intends is deeply painful.  Ironically, in this – the chapter that so reaches me at the depths of my heart – God’s Word is pointing at the fact that that indeed is what it is supposed to do when rightly divided.  Unfortunately, those who had charge over it’s distribution and understanding were corrupt and compromised.  Their fault was that they refused to hear, teach, submit to, or share the true words of God and instead led the people with lies and lasciviousness.

So, in the chapter warning of what happens when God’s shepherds avoid and deny God’s true words, I find myself reminiscent of a time where that very practice nearly destroyed me.  In a chapter where the leaders of God’s house, namely the pastors and prophets, were blatantly denying His Word, corrupting the people, and neglecting those whom they were responsible for caring for and shepherding on His behalf, I find myself not satisfied or glad for their soon coming judgment, but broken.  Because God will not be mocked.  He will not forever allow men to parade around pretending piety while partnering with false prophecies.  And apart from repentance, God will judge these kinds of men most harshly.  And that is the last thing I ever want to see, even for ministering men who most miserably mismanaged me personally and have made no apology.

If there is one thing I have learned as a result of corruption in church leadership, it is that when you love someone there is nothing they can ever do that will make you love them less.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  I have learned more about love from those who failed to love me well than I have from anyone else.  I have learned what love is not.  I have learned how much love costs.  I have learned how long love stays.  I have learned how desperate love is.  I have learned how much love forgives.  I have learned how long love waits.  I have felt how much love hurts.  I have learned how much love hopes.  I have experienced the brokenness of God in having a heart completely wrecked with love and anger at the same time.  I have shared in Christ’s sorrow in seeing those who I long to love despise and reject me.  I have learned so much about love from the pain I’ve known pertaining to the very things Jeremiah chapter 23 talks about.  This was a difficult chapter for me.  Bear with me.

In Jeremiah 23, the prophet is called to preach a message concerning the leaders of God’s people.  The priests (pastors) and prophets of God’s people, or shepherds, receive here a word of severe warning and coming judgment for their crimes.  “Woe to the shepherds…” says the opening verse.  Why woe?

The men who were supposed to be caring for, teaching, building up, and correcting the people of God were doing anything but.  They were actually doing the opposite.  They are here blamed for scattering the sheep, driving them away, and not attending them.  They are indicted for lying, prophesying falsely, idolatry, and personal corruption and immorality in their own lives.  They even were teaching the people to follow them in sin and corruption because that’s what it is when you have power, position, and influence over a people.  They do as you do.  Every student becomes like his teacher.

So God is not happy with these priests and prophets.  He tenderly promises to give His people new, good shepherds who will love and care for them (23:4).  He promises the Messiah who will be completely righteous to them and for them (23:5-6).  He promises deliverance from their enemies and restoration in their homeland (23:7-8).  But that’s the good news.  The bad news is, God has still got to deal with these guys who have so injured and marred God’s people and His true words.

Jeremiah himself is broken.  I feel you, Jer.  He’s looking out at all his would-be ministry friends seeing nothing but corruption and sin.  He’s seeing God’s just judgement coming for them.  He’s grieving for their wrongdoing, their lack of concern, lack of repentance, and all the collateral damage they have so foolishly, selfishly caused without care.  Listen to the prophet’s heart:

“My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words.”  ~Jeremiah 23:9

Jeremiah is just devastated.  He doesn’t understand how those who set out to be the very best for God ended up being the very worst.  They were all adulterers.  The priests and the prophets, who were supposed to be most responsible to be holy, just, and righteous were wholly ungodly and corrupt.  They prophesied by false gods.  They themselves committed adultery, walked in lies, and helped evil people prosper.  They promised peace as war was upon them.  They gave no urge to anyone to repent, rather, comforted those who continued in blatant sin as they themselves did.  And Jeremiah was here to tell them all that judgment was surely coming.

God goes on a bit of a diatribe with these guys through his prophet.  He says,

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord.  Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord…Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  ~Jeremiah 23:23-24, 29

God’s asking these rhetorical questions so that these corrupt leaders will recognize where they really are.  God’s like, do you guys really think there’s somewhere you can go to get away from me?  I’m everywhere at all times.  My word is like fire!  And the truth of it is about to burn this whole thing down.  Just who exactly do you guys think you are mocking me, maligning my words, and saying what ought not to be said of me?  Do you want to know what’s really going to happen because of these things you’re doing?  I’ll tell you:

“…I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers.  And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.” ~Jeremiah 23:40

God will judge most harshly those who pretend piety and hurt deeply his people.  He will faithfully send shepherds who love and care for those who have been so damaged by false pastors and false prophets.  And there is no cure for the bitterness those two realities are for one who loves both.

And the prophet was brokenhearted.  And the girl who knew so well the very deeds done here did not clap her hands.  She did not say, “Amen.”  She was not smug or satisfied.  She saw only what Jeremiah said as she sobbed.

“My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake.  I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words.” ~Jeremiah 23: 9



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Still on Mt. Sinai, once God was finished giving instructions to Moses on how to build and furnish the tabernacle, he proceeded to instruct Moses on the people who would be attending it – the priests.

Exodus 28 is a record of what the priests were to wear and the significance of their garments.  From their heads to their undergarments, the priests were to be notably and specifically dressed.

 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. ~Exodus 28:1-5

In verses 1-5, we see the sovereign choosing of God highlighted as he informs Moses that his brother, Aaron, and all of his descendants were to be the priests serving in temple.

Notice that Moses did not argue with God or sulk because he himself had not been chosen for this particular job.  Moses was a prophet.  He had much to do for God and for the people already.  Moses’ job was different than that of a priest.

In this time, priests were primarily responsible for attending the ever-burning fire and the sacrifices given.  Heads of families were responsible for the teaching of their own people on the ways of God.  Once synagogues became commonplace after the Jews’ captivity, the priests and leaders in the temple then became teachers and preachers of the law and the Word of God.

Today, it is still true that prophets hear words from the Lord, see visions, direct God’s people in His ways, warn, intercede, correct, and admonish all.  Priests and pastors attend to House of God, shepherd the people, and help them do what God has called them to.  These are very different callings .  Prophets can preach and preachers can prophesy, but these are not the primary responsibilities each has.  Both are equally important, but, a priest has a much more tender relationship with the people while a prophet generally is held at a distance because the people fear, avoid, and even hate him for his truth-telling.

Nevertheless, Moses isn’t complaining.  He is happy to give his younger brother this honor.  Aaron had served under him up until this point and God honored him for it.

As we see in verse 2, Moses was instructed to have holy garments made for Aaron.  He was told to call all those who were skillful to this task.  That tells us that these garments were not only mandatory, but they were greatly important to God.  He wanted them to be exactly as he instructed that his own glory and beauty might be seen through these men.

Each item that the priests wore had a meaning and a purpose.  We will be examining those in the coming days, but notice today especially what God’s Word says of those Moses was to call to the task of making these clothing items for the priests.

You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. ~Exodus 28:3

The lesson here is that God gives people their skills and talents.  He gives them a “spirit of skill” and he expects it to be used for his glory and according to his very specific instructions.

God chooses who will be the prophet.
God chooses who will be the priest.
God chooses who will make the garments.
God chooses who will have trade skills.
God chooses who will be given a spirit of skill.
Good chooses what those who have been given a spirit of sill and excellence will make and do.
Good gives the skilled workers the materials needed to produce what will most glorify him.

Get this, Christians!  This is so very important.  Prophets are not better than priests.  Prophets are just people chosen by God to be prophets.  Priests are not better than the people they serve because they are called to teach, preach, and counsel others.  Priests are just people chosen by God to be priests.  And, finally, skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade with excellence are not unspiritual or unused of God simply because they are preaching, teaching, or prophesying like prophets and priests are doing.  Skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade are filled with a spirit of skill, according to Exodus 28:3, and are therefore just as spiritual and used of God when they act upon their calling as prophets and priests.

Did you get that?  It’s important.  There are no spiritual superheroes in God’s house.  Every person is greatly needed and equally important.  Therefore, there should be absolutely no attitudes of superiority or looking down on a man who works a trade vs. a man who preaches or vise versa within God’s house.  AMEN.

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Hunger is a strange feeling.  It is a wanting after waiting; a need that becomes louder and louder until it is satisfied.

Often, we try to fill our spiritual hunger with physical food (or other things.)  It is when I am spiritually hungry that I tend to “stress eat.”  I find myself losing control of my diet when I hunger and thirst most for righteousness.  Nothing proves this truer than fasting because fasting reveals to us all the things we are wanting that eating physical food is substituting for.

I have recently felt a strong spiritual need to become physically hungry again.  Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and I am praying that the Lord helps me with this struggle.

In doing so, the first place I turned was to Matthew 5 – to the beatitudes.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied… “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Matthew 5:6, 11-12

We are blessed – living in the favor of God – when we are hungry for the right things.  Unfortunately, as history makes abundantly clear, those who were most hungry for righteousness (the prophets) were also most hated by men.

I began to study about some specific incidences of when prophets were hated and abused and I landed at 2 Kings 2:23-25.

 “He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.” ~2 Kings 2:23-25

There is a lot to be said about this brief interaction which conveys many insights as to God’s character.

Earlier in this chapter, we find that there was a problem with the water supply in Jericho where the prophet Elisha was.

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.” ~2 Kings 2:19-22

Interestingly, Jericho was the city where walls had been built and the people had isolated themselves – locked themselves in so they would not be ruled by God or by His people.  God used unorthodox methods to both bring down the walls and to prove the faith of His people.

So there’s a lesson for us.  It doesn’t matter how strong and tall your walls are, if they are made to resist God, they will soon be broken down.

Later, God cursed the man who rebuilt Jericho and killed his children.  Now, years later, we find Jericho still having problems.  The water supply was tainted and unusable.  The prophet Elisha was asked to help and the Lord healed the water through him.  That brings us to the incident at hand.

Apparently, it was commonplace in this area to mock and scoff at the prophets.  These people hated reproof and correction – so much so that they taught their children to upbraid them.  So common this practice had become of hating and mocking the prophets that even the children had no fear or respect for them.

If it had been the first time, the punishment likely would not have been so severe.  But it was doubtless commonplace to tear down the character of God’s prophets because they so hated correction.

Though the boys were small, they were not afraid or ashamed before God’s prophet.  Matthew Henry says this:

“Elisha heard their taunts, a good while, with patience; but at length the fire of holy zeal for God was kindled in his breast by the continued provocation, and he turned and looked upon them, to try if a grave and severe look would put them out of countenance and oblige them to retire, to see if he could discern in their faces any marks of ingenuousness; but they were not ashamed, neither could they blush; and therefore he cursed them in the name of the Lord, both imprecated and denounced the following judgment, not in personal revenge for the indignity done to himself, but as the mouth of divine justice to punish the dishonor done to God…We may think it would have been better to have called for two rods for the correction of these children than two bears for the destruction of them.  But Elisha knew, by the Spirit, the bad character of these children.  He knew what a generation of vipers those were, and what mischievous enemies they would be to God’s prophets if they should live to be men, who began so early to be abusive to them.  He intended hereby to punish the parents and to make them afraid of God’s judgments.” 

So then, 42 children died for their unruly disobedience and unwillingness to respect and love the prophet and his godly correction.  It was a judgment and a punishment for the parents who allowed such brazen disrespect and abuse to be heaped upon the one chosen to be God’s voice to them.

So my question for myself and for everyone else today is are you hungry for righteousness?  For truth?  For justice?  How hungry?  If you are, expect to be treated poorly – misrepresented, mocked, made fun of, rejected, and even hated.  God says it is all a blessing, though.

On the other hand, if you are the one mocking and hating a person of God for the truth they tell you, be warned.  God is sending that person for your good, because he loves you so much.  His patience will run out eventually and, as the scripture says, at that time there is no remedy.

15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. ~2 Chronicles 36:15-16


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ImageSaul is terrified.  The Philistine army is breathing down his neck.  God won’t answer his frantic get-me-out-of-trouble prayers.  He turns to the prophet Samuel.  There’s only one problem – Samuel’s been dead for quite some time.

Saul’s solution?  A seance conducted by a witch.  The apparition comes up and says this:

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”~1 Samuel 28:15-19

Saul tells the ghost his greatest fears as well as God’s seeming abandonment.  He asks the ghost what he ought to do.  Let me just repeat that so we can really hear it.  He asks the ghost what he ought to do.   (more…)

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ImageDavid, the undefeated warrior, has just backed down from several in-house fights.  His king has tried to kill him on several occasions.  He superiors have stalked him in his own home seeking his life as well.  His wife has slandered him and blackened his good and honorable reputation.  What more can God’s providence do to this poor guy?

David runs away.  And I would bet my swiftest slingshot that that was the hardest thing he ever did.  Consider what he could have done.

David had the strength and the power of God.  He had the favor of God.  He likely could have struck down both the king and the king’s men efffortlessly, divorced his betraying wife, and justified it all appropriately claiming self-defense.  The throne was his, after all.  He could have taken it by force and did just that which the homicidal has-been (Saul) expected him to.  And I don’t doubt that all of that would have been acceptable within the law of God.

Fortunately, as interested and invested as David is in living by and defending the law, he is infinitely more interested in living by grace.  Lord knows that a time is coming and has already come wherein David, too, is going to stand in need of tremendous, radical grace himself. (more…)

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