Jeremiah 23:16-22 (NIV) 16This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The LORD says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? 19 See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. 2 2 But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.
Trying to avoid sugar, I use an artificial sweetener in my tea. Sweet’N Low is a brand of artificial sweetener made primarily from granulated saccharin. It also contains dextrose and cream of tartar, and it is distributed primarily in packets. The name promises that you will receive the sweetness of sugar with a smaller amount of calories (4). In fact, saccharin is an artificial sweetener with effectively no food energy that is about 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose.
We have scientifically produced a substance that is much sweeter than the real thing. I began thinking about how this could apply to my spiritual life.
Throughout the Old Testament, false prophets would reassure the people and their rulers that they would prosper. These deceivers often had greater popularity than the Lord’s true servants.
Yahweh declared that they gave the people false hope. These manipulating yes-men told the people what they wanted to hear. They gave the people a sweeter version of reality.
On the other hand, scholars often refer to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. He endured hardship and persecution for speaking truth to power. However, Jeremiah spoke the true Word of God.
How does this apply to our day? Please beware of any speaker, teacher, or writer who proclaims that we will always prosper financially and have good health. Be cautious of anyone who only speaks about our rights but never our responsibilities. Notice if someone only quotes the promises of God but never our obligations to God. A godly communicator will comfort us but will also tell us how we need to change our lives for the Lord. We learn from Job and Ecclesiastes that sometimes the people of God suffer, and we learn from John the Baptist and Jeremiah that we need to humble ourselves and change our ways.
The Lord’s message to Jeremiah was to call people back to God and away from their wicked ways. Confession and repentance are not popular words in our culture and Jeremiah almost died for telling the king to repent. His own king left Jeremiah to perish in a cistern.
John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of Jesus by calling on the crowds to change their ways. John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3:11-12, (NIV) 11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Jesus began his ministry by also focusing on the need for repentance. Matthew 4:17 (NIV) “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Following God requires us to change and it will require sacrifice.
I do not enjoy preaching or teaching about confession and repentance. However, I cannot ignore our Savior’s command to preach the entire gospel and also to examine my own life. Jesus in the Beatitudes reversed the expectations of the crowds and his disciples. The disciples and their mothers fought over who would sit closest to Jesus in glory. The Pharisees expected the Messiah to be a rule enforcer who would endorse their theology. The Essenes wanted a revolutionary Messiah to overthrow the Romans. The Sadducees wanted a Messiah who would keep them rich and in places of honor.
Jesus came as a suffering servant who calls us to die so that we might live. We are to seek first His kingdom and then our needs will be met. We are to humble ourselves and then we are glorified. We are to put off instant gratification, so that we may reign with our King forever and ever.
Prayer: Lord, please remind us of the importance of confession, obedience, and repentance. We know that it is only through your grace, love, and mercy that we can respond to you in faith. Father, may we keep our eyes focused on Your Son and our hearts filled with Your Spirit. Amen.