Jeremiah says, "Preach the Word!"

I love the Prophets. They continue to speak volumes about the Gospel and how the people of God should live today. In Jeremiah 23 there is a strong message for pastors and church leaders. The message is clear: Care for your people and preach the word!.

Jeremiah in chapter 23 is denouncing the shepherds (leaders) of Jerusalem and the false prophets. The shepherds of Israel have stopped caring for the people they lead  and instead are out for their own self-interest. Similarly, the prophets have moved away from God’s word and now speak out of their own volition.

Particularly striking is God’s indictment of the false prophets in Jeremiah 23:16-17 saying, “they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” and they comfort people who despise the word of the Lord stubbornly following their own hearts saying, “It shall be well with you…no disaster shall come upon you.” Furthermore, in Jeremiah 23:23-32, the Lord denounces the prophets for proclaiming dreams as if they are from God, thought they are from their own deceitful hearts, for stealing words from each other, and saying “declares the Lord” after their own words when God had not spoken.

Jeremiah’s words cut to the heart of current Christian culture. It is popular today for some pastors and teachers to proclaim dreams instead of the word of God. One only need to look as far as the multiple accounts of life after death experiences enhanced by visions of heaven that have been made into multiple books and movies and preached in many pulpits as evidence. Jeremiah calls these fanciful dreams and visions straw compared to the wheat of God’s word in Jeremiah 23:28. These things are proclaimed to provide peace and comfort in the face of death and to draw a crowd. But instead of heading the promises in God’s word about heaven and the afterlife, people are led astray to trust in fodder.

Similarly, it is popular for pastors to water down God’s call for holiness and the prescriptions for Godly living in the scriptures. Instead, tolerance for sin is proclaimed, masked in the moniker of ‘God’s love for all,’ while totally ignoring God’s pervasive promises to be a righteous judge who will not leave sin unpunished. People who despise God’s prescriptions for moral living are left comforted about their decisions to not follow God’s word, even thinking things will actually go well for them.

Finally, many pastors confidently proclaim their own ideas and theology and are too quick to stamp God’s name right on top. In addition, they proclaim the latest cultural fad to improve life as if it were the word of Lord.

But Jeremiah warns us to be careful in what we say. To be careful to discern who and what we are listening to. To be diligent in how pastors care for their people. Above all, Jeremiah calls pastors to be rooted in the word of God. Preach the word! The Lord says in Jeremiah 23:29 that his word is “like a fire…a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.” The Lord said in Jeremiah 23:22 that if the prophets “had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from their evil of their deeds.”

God doesn’t need pastors to enhance his word. He doesn’t need extra visions, dreams, and ecstatic experiences to validate his promises. He doesn’t need pastors stealing stories of heavenly encounters from the most recent best seller. He doesn’t need you to make his word more palatable, and he doesn’t need you to proclaim the newest self-help technique. He needs pastors to be in his presence, listening to his very words in scripture so that they can faithfully preach the word.

If you are faithful in proclaiming God’s word he promises to be faithful to change hearts.

Anything else is straw.

Thanks Jeremiah.
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