Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
23:1. “Woe be
unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the
“Woe” may be translated also
as “a curse;” and “pastors” as “rulers, leaders, shepherds,” so that the
imprecation pronounced is upon kings, priests, and prophets whose evil example
and wrong teaching had led the people to follow their bad example, thus
bringing down the judgments of God, which included drought, famine, sickness,
etc., and the then imminent Babylonian captivity.
The curse, however, is not
limited to the leaders of that age. It applies with equal force to leaders in
every generation, and to none more than those who lead the people astray
today, for it is the evil example and false teaching of leaders political,
social, and religious, which have brought today’s world to a state of
wickedness greater than that of any past generation, western Christendom
being foremost in its promotion of wickedness worldwide. The judgment of the
then impending Babylonian captivity was but a foreshadowing of that of AD 70,
both of them being miniatures of the now fast approaching terrible Tribulation
thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye
have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them:
behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.”
The leaders whom God had
made responsible for the well-being of His people, by their failure to teach
and to set a proper example, had instead made themselves responsible for the
sinful state of the nation, thus bringing upon themselves and the people, the
judgment of God: first the Assyrian captivity of Israel (the ten northern
tribes), and now the imminent Babylonian captivity of Judah.
The scattering and driving
away of the people refer only indirectly to the approaching Babylonian
captivity: the sin of the evil leaders was that they had driven the people
away from adherence to God, and instead to the worship of idols.
“Feeding” in Scripture is
used metaphorically of reading or teaching, the well fed flock being the least
vulnerable to false teaching. The leaders, instead of teaching the people
truth relative to Jehovah, had taught them instead to worship the idols of the
surrounding nations, thus bringing the wrath of God upon their own and the
people’s idolatrous heads.
“... and have not visited
them,” “visited” in the present context meaning “to tend, watch over, care
for.” Accordingly God’s threat was that He would be careful to “visit” the
evil leaders with judgment, a threat that was fulfilled when He delivered them
and the guilty people into the hands of the Babylonians.
No spiritual reader will
have any difficulty finding in this an accurate picture of today’s
Christendom. Her leaders have been guilty of the same dereliction, and the
people have been just as eager as were the Judahites to imbibe the false
teaching and to follow the evil example of the miscreant leaders; nor will
that reader have any difficulty recognizing the imminence of the Tribulation
judgments with which God is about to requite their wickedness.
23:3. “And I
will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven
them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and
This had only a partial
fulfillment in the return of a remnant from Babylon and Assyria , and their
multiplication in the centuries preceding the Lord’s first advent, for the
remainder of this chapter makes it clear that the reference is to the
regathering of the people from the Diaspora which finds them still scattered
amongst the nations, except for the relatively small number who have been
returning to Palestine since 1948, that return being the evidence of the
budding of the fig tree mentioned by the Lord in Mt 24:32-34.
The regathering spoken of in
the verse now being considered is that which began in 1948 with the
restoration of Jewish autonomy, and which will continue in the Tribulation,
and conclude at the beginning of the Millennium when the Lord will regather
them from all the countries where they are presently scattered.
“... their folds” is
literally “their home, pastures, resting places, ” the reference being to
millennial Canaan, where they will enjoy the blessings so long forfeited by
23:4. “And I
will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no
more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.”
In that coming halcyon age
God will appoint the shepherds (leaders) of His regathered people, men who
will teach and tend them with loving care, so that they will never again have
need to be afraid.
“... dismayed” is associated
with the idea of being beaten or broken down by violence or confusion, and is
closely linked with the thought of being made afraid. Millennial Israel will
never be dismayed.
“... neither shall they be
lacking” means literally that not one would ever be separated from the loving
care of his God-appointed shepherd. Such will be the vigilance of the godly
overseers that there will never be a moment when one will be unaccounted for.
This sort of care is the
antithesis of that under which Israel has languished for most of the weary
centuries since she first became a nation, and which has brought her to her
present wretched state. Nor is the picture any brighter in Christendom. Her
present deplorable state is due entirely to the dereliction of her godless
shepherds. It is because of their evil example and teaching that she too is
about to experience the judgment of God in the coming Tribulation, for the
wickedness of the people is simply the reflection of the wickedness of their
leaders, civil and spiritual.
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous
Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and
justice in the earth.”
Very obviously the
fulfillment of this is still future, for unquestionably the reference is to
the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory at the end of the
Tribulation, to inaugurate His millennial kingdom, and reign over all the
earth, that glorious reign being earth’s great sabbath which will bring the
history of this present world to a close just prior to the coming of the
eternal new heavens and new earth.
It will be a sabbath in that
there have been six thousand years (by Divine reckoning six days, 2 Pe 3:8)
since Adam, that final thousand years (or one day) being the equivalent of,
and having the restful character of the sabbath which concluded the Jewish
week, and was a day of rest.
It is necessary also to note
here that while the Lord will be on the earth for the inauguration of His
millennial kingdom, His reign over the millennial earth will be from the
heavenly, not the earthly Jerusalem, Ezek 45:22-25; 46:2,8,10,12, 16-18,
making it clear that the descendant of David, the prince ruling on the throne
of the earthly Jerusalem during the Millennium, will have literal sons, and
will offer sacrifices, i.e., worship, something the Lord Jesus Christ does not
do. As God the Son He receives worship.
For other references to the
Lord Jesus Christ as the Branch, see also Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 33:15; Zech 3:8;
23:6. “In his
days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name
whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
In the Millennium Judah and
Israel will be united as a nation, and will dwell in the land safely, free
from harm, He Who is the very embodiment of righteousness being the King Whose
omnipotence will be their safeguard from all who seek to harm them.
“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more
say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land
Another translation of this
verse is, “In that day people will no longer say when taking an oath, ‘As the
Lord lives who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt,’” - Taylor
The Lord’s deliverance of
Israel from Egyptian bondage was the great event of the OT age, but it will be
eclipsed by His delivering them from their two thousand year scattering
amongst the Gentiles, which will culminate in the Beast’s merciless
persecution of the believing remnant in the now imminent Tribulation, and his
spiritual enslavement of the unbelieving mass who will worship him during that
same time, and thus condemn their souls to eternal perdition.
23:8. “But, The
Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel
out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them;
and they shall dwell in their own land.”
The great event yet to
occur, and that will be referred to by those taking an oath, will be the
emancipation of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation, when the Lord,
returned in power and glory, will deliver the believing remnant, and invite
them, and the believing remnant of the Gentile nations, to enter into the
enjoyment of the blessings of His glorious millennial kingdom.
The “north country” can
scarcely be anything other than the coalition of nations headed up by Russia,
as already discussed in chapter 3:18 and 6:22.
It is to be noted also that
those who will be delivered are described as “the seed, etc.,” i.e.,
the descendants of those addressed by the prophet, thus confirming that this
prophecy looks to a deliverance then far distant, but now very near.
heart within me is broken because of the prophets, all my bones shake: I am
like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the
Lord and because of the words of his holiness.”
Jeremiah’s heart was broken
because the lying words of the false prophets had encouraged the people to
continue in their sin, by giving them the assurance that all was well, that
adherence to the mere outward form of worship absolved them from all guilt,
and that God would never bring them into judgment.
The knowledge that a
terrible storm of Divine judgment was about to break over their guilty heads,
and culminate in the Babylonian captivity of the few who would survive the
slaughter, caused the prophet’s bones to shake, i.e., it caused him to
tremble. His being like a drunken man is simply and dramatic way of saying
that his contemplation of the coming judgment so devastated him that he was
left as powerless and befuddled as a drunk man. He knew of no way to avoid
the judgment, nor could he fully grasp what it was going to be like for the
rebellious people to be slaughtered, and the survivors carried away captive.
The prophet’s consternation
is similar to that of the godly believer who cares about men’s souls, and who
trembles as he contemplates the terrible eternity awaiting those who refuse to
believe the Gospel message.
The reference to God’s
holiness reminds us that the God with Whom men must deal is “of purer eyes
than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Hab 1:13. He who will
not be cleansed from his sin by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as his
Savior, must suffer the wrath of that same holy God in the eternal torment of
the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.
23:10. “For the
land is full of adulterers: for because of swearing the land mourneth; the
pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and
their force is not right.”
The adultery was both
spiritual and literal. Judah had turned away from Jehovah, her true Husband,
to worship idols, the licentious rites connected with that worship involving
also literal adultery. The “swearing” mentioned here refers to the covenant
God had made with Judah, in which He had sworn to bless obedience, and punish
disobedience, the mourning of the land being that which attended His
chastisement of their idolatry in the form of drought with its concomitant
evils. The whole course of life in Judah was directed towards evil, and all
their power was exercised in wrongdoing.
Few spiritual minds will
have difficulty seeing in the character and conduct of rebel Judah a very
exact picture of today’s Christendom, nor in the resultant Babylonian
captivity, a foreshadowing of the coming terrible Tribulation judgments with
which God will punish that wickedness.
23:11. “For both
prophet and priest are profane: yea, in my house have I found their
wickedness, saith the Lord.”
The wickedness wasn’t
confined to Judah’s political rulers: the prophets and priests were equally
evil, the prophets prophesying lies; and the priests practicing evil even in
God’s house, the Temple. And the dark sinful picture continues to be that of
today’s Christendom, for the counterpart of the OT false prophet is today’s
false teacher; and that of the OT evil priest, the unconverted cleric. As the
false prophets prophesied lies, so do today’s false teachers also teach lies;
and as the evil priests encouraged the people in sin both by their wrong
example and precept, so do Christendom’s unconverted clerics similarly
encourage their congregations in sin.
“Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they
shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even
the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.”
Driven on by their own evil
desires they would stumble along in the counterparts of dark, treacherous,
slippery paths in which they would fall, the present scandals rocking Roman
Catholicism at this the beginning of the twenty-third century being just one
example of the wickedness of Judah being reproduced in today’s Christendom.
And as the year of “visitation” (doom, punishment, penalty) overtook evil
Judah, so will the judgments of the impending Tribulation bring the judgments
of God upon equally evil Christendom.
23:13. “And I
have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and
caused my people Israel to err.”
Samaria was the capital of
Israel the Northern kingdom, its construction having been begun by Omri, and
continued by the wicked Ahab. It was notorious for its idolatry from its very
beginning, and here Jeremiah records that the Samaritan prophets prophesied in
the name of Baal, thus leading the people astray.
It isn’t difficult to see in
Samaria the OT counterpart of today’s Christendom, for as that city was the
center of the idolatry that developed as a result of the breakaway from Judah,
so is apostate Christendom the product of departure from the Divine order
which governed the early Church, and that still governs the lives of the small
remnant which constitutes the true Church existing in the shadow of the great
harlot counterfeit that has ruled Christendom for virtually two thousand
years. That evil system still causes people to err, including some of the
true believers found within the apostate mass.
23:14. “I have
seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit
adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that
none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom,
and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.”
The evil wasn’t confined to
idolatrous Samaria and
Israel: Jerusalem and Judah
were equally wicked. The false prophets of Jerusalem were guilty of horrible
sin: adultery and lying, their hypocritical religious claims making their sin
the more heinous. By their evil conduct they encouraged others to practice
the same evil so that the whole nation had become corrupt, reveling in sin and
despising righteousness. The religious leaders were as repugnant to Jehovah
as had been the inhabitants of Sodom; and the common people, as had been the
men of Gomorrah. And as He had destroyed those two wicked cities so would He
also destroy both the false prophets and people of Jerusalem and Judah.
Christendom is guilty of the
same hypocritical wickedness, and will just as surely suffer the judgment of
God in the impending Tribulation.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I
will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from
the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.”
The use of the term “Lord of
hosts” is the oblique reminder that He Who threatens has the power to perform
The term wormwood, name of a
poisonous plant, is derived from a word meaning to curse. As the false
prophets had fed the people lies, which believed, brought the curse of God
upon them, so would Jehovah feed those same prophets with the spiritual
equivalent of wormwood, i.e., He would make them accursed.
Gall is a general term used
for any poisonous liquid, so that God’s threat to make the false prophets
drink it is the equivalent of His destroying them.
“Profaneness” is also
translated profligacy, ungodliness, unclean behavior. The teaching of
the false prophets had produced all this wickedness, they being the
fountain-head of the flood of evil that had engulfed the whole land.
The false teachers of
Christendom have been guilty of the same wickedness, and will accordingly
receive the same recompense in the coming Tribulation.
saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that
prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart,
and not out of the mouth of the Lord.”
God’s warning to the people
was not to heed the words of the false prophets.
“... make you vain” is
variously translated make fools of you; fill you with futile hopes;
worthless teaching; figments of their own imagination.
The same warning applies to
the pronouncements of today’s false teachers.
23:17. “They say
still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and
they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart,
No evil shall come upon you.”
To those who rejected the
pronouncements of the true prophets, the teaching of the false prophets was,
Ye shall have peace; and to those who relied on the promptings of their own
evil minds, the message of the false prophets was, No misfortune will come.
You will have peace.
Little has changed since
that day. Apostate Christendom is given the same assurances by today’s false
teachers, in spite of the fact that the Lord has decreed judgment, everything
in the world pointing to the imminence of the Tribulation in which that judgment
23:18. “For who
hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word?
who hath marked his word, and heard it?”
Taylor translates this
verse, “But can you name even one of these prophets who live close enough to
God to hear what He is saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen?”
The same questions apply to the pronouncements of today’s false teachers.
Their teaching is a flat contradiction of what is written in Scripture, but
what they teach is what a godless world wants to hear, and what it will
believe until the judgment of God awakens the dupes to the fatal error of
their misplaced trust.
a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it
shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.”
“... whirlwind” is also
translated tempest; storm-wind; scorching wind. It is used here to
declare the destructive fury of God’s wrath against the ungodly, “grievous”
being associated with the idea of great pain. History has recorded the
terrible details of the destruction that came to Judah when God used the
Babylonians as His instrument of chastisement; and he is a fool who refuses to
believe that the threatened and now imminent Tribulation judgments will fall
with the same certainty and severity upon today’s wicked world.
anger of the Lord shall not return (abate, turn aside), until he have
executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart:”
This warning to Judah of the
certainty of the threatened judgment applies also to the warnings concerning
the coming judgments of the Great Tribulation. An apostate Christendom that
has followed all too faithfully in the rebellious footsteps of ancient Judah,
is about to suffer with the same certainty the judgments of an angry God, and
he is of all fools the greatest who refuses to cast himself on the mercy of
that God while it is still the day of grace.
23:21. “I have
not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they
Relative to this verse it is
necessary to understand that ministry so-called in Christendom is a travesty
of the Divine order which knows nothing of theological education as a
prerequisite. God’s order for ministry to His Church is recorded in Eph
4:11. Apostles and prophets were for the Apostolic age only, leaving
evangelists, elders (shepherds or pastors), and teachers to be the ministers
(servants) of the Church until she is caught up (raptured) to heaven just
prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Each evangelist, elder, and
teacher is given his spiritual gift at the moment of his conversion (as is
every other believer), and as he develops his gift by using it, God appoints
his sphere of service. Incidentally, these three gifts are not given to
women, nor does Scripture know anything of a congregation’s “calling” a
pastor. Pastors are literally elders, and there is always to be a plurality
of them in the local church, their principal work being to shepherd and teach
their fellow believers, amongst whom they serve as equals. These three
servants are gifted and given their sphere of service by God, not by men.
Christendom, however, swarms
with unconverted men and women functioning as “ministers,” and having no
qualification other than that which is an abomination in God’s sight: a
theological education. They are the counterparts of the false prophets of
old, and like those described in this verse, have neither been fitted nor
called by God; hence the parallel between the state of the nation addressed by
Jeremiah, and that of apostate Christendom.
23:22. “But if
they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then
they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their
If the false prophets had
adhered to and taught the people God’s truth, the people would have been
preserved from walking in a wrong way, and from committing evil; but the
prophets had ignored His Word, and had taught the people lies, so that
prophets and people alike had forsaken the right way, having chosen to walk
instead according to the dictates of their own evil hearts, thus cutting
themselves off from blessing, and making themselves heirs of Divine judgment.
And so is it today.
Apostate Christendom has followed the same course, her false teachers teaching
lies, and inducing the people to follow their evil example, so that teachers
and people alike have become abominable to God, and are about to experience in
the impending Tribulation the terrible judgments, of which the Assyrian,
Babylonian, and Roman were but the precursors.
23:23. “Am I a
God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?”
The question God propounds
here is whether the people and the false prophets were so foolish as to
believe that He couldn’t see beyond the outward form of their ritualistic
so-called worship; that He was unable to discern their evil deeds committed in
secret, or know what was in their wicked hearts. He Who knows the thoughts
and intents of the heart is not bound by such limitations as they in their
blindness attributed to Him.
23:24. “Can any
hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do
not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”
Their conception of God fell
very far short of that of king David who wrote, “Wither shall I go from thy
spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into
heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If
I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I
say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about
me. Yea, darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day; the
darkness and the light are both alike to thee,” Ps 139:7-12.
There is no thing or
creature that is ever beyond the all-seeing eye of the omniscient, omnipresent
23:25. “I have
heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have
dreamed, I have dreamed.”
The false prophets very
frequently made pronouncements which they claimed to have received form God in
dreams; nor was the deception practiced only by the OT charlatans, for in Jude
8 it is written, “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh,
despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”
Today’s false teachers may
not actually claim to have received their so-called knowledge through dreams,
but they are nevertheless of the same breed as their OT counterparts: they are
all of the same iniquitous parent, Satan, as the Lord Himself declared of the
hypocritical Jewish leaders who claimed to be God’s spokesmen, “Ye are of your
father the devil ...” Jn 8:44.
23:26. “How long
shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are
prophets of the deceit of their own heart;”
Jeremiah, it seemed, had
trouble understanding why God permitted the false prophets to continue
declaring lies which they told their duped audiences they had received from
God as His prophets, when their fabrications were simply illusions conjured up
by their own deluded minds.
Many today are equally
perplexed as to why God permits evil, not only to continue, but to abound. We
tend to forget that He is the God of eternity, with Whom “one day is ... as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” 2 Pe 3:8, and Who will in
His Own perfect time punish sin.
think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell
every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.”
The false prophets,
pretending to have received their communications in dreams from the Baals,
were careful to prophesy only what the people wanted to hear, in contrast
with the tidings of woe delivered by the true prophets, so that by this
subtlety they had succeeded in causing their dupes to forsake Jehovah, and
worship the Baals; and since generations of their fathers had done the same
thing, their task was easy, the people having already been brainwashed.
And history has repeated
itself. Christendom’s false teachers tickle the ears of their deluded hearers
by preaching a Gospel expunged of all that might arouse fear, and by giving
the assurance that everyone will eventually be received into the heaven of a
God too loving to consign anyone to hell; and by painting a rosy picture of
the imminence of a halcyon age on earth without any preceding Tribulation
judgments. By the same subtle tactics as were employed by their OT
counterparts they have succeeded in banishing from men’s minds the true
knowledge of God, the loss of that knowledge sealing the doom of all but the
tiny minority, who in spite of all this, come to a saving knowledge of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let
him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the
As in the parable of the
wheat and the tares, Mt 13, where both were to be allowed to grow together
until the harvest, so did God in His wisdom permit the false and the true
prophet to exist together in the OT age, as He also permits the false and the
true teacher to similarly exist during this present age of grace.
Why? One reason at least
suggests itself. The ability of the hearer to distinguish between what is of
God and what is of man, is one way in which God reveals those who are His own,
indwelt by His Holy Spirit, in stark contrast with those who profess to be
believers, but whose spiritual father is Satan.
The counterfeit prophet who
had nothing but an idle dream to relate, was permitted to continue deluding
those who had deliberately rejected the Word of God. The hardening of heart
which they themselves had begun by rejecting Him, God then made permanent,
thus sealing their doom. But for those who belonged to him through faith, He
graciously provided the ministry of the true prophets, the latter being those
through whom He spoke, and thus communicated with His own in that distant age.
The same scenario is being
played out today. The false and the true teacher are permitted to function
simultaneously, and for the same reason as were the false and the true
prophet. The true believer is able to distinguish between the precious wheat
and the worthless chaff, but the darkened mind of the unbeliever mistakes the
chaff dispensed by today’s false teachers, for the very word of God.
23:29. “Is not
my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the
rock in pieces?”
God’s Word is like a fire in
that it consumes all that is not of such a nature as to be able to endure its
activity, for example, it consumes wood, hay, and stubble, the symbols of what
is natural; but it purges away whatever dross may have become attached to
gold, silver, and precious stones, symbols of what is connected with Divine
life, thus purifying the Divine life within the believer.
Used here symbolically, it
represents the Word of God as the catalyst which separates between what is of
Him and what is of mere man. Applied in the power of the Holy Spirit to the
heart of the penitent sinner it convicts him of sin, and leads him to the Lord
Jesus Christ as his Savior; but applied to the heart of the impenitent
unbeliever it leaves him unmoved until the day of judgment when it will
torment him eternally in its perpetual flame in the lake of fire.
The hammer also portrays the
Word of God, but from another perspective. It is that, which applied in the
power of the Holy Spirit, can break the hardest heart, softening it to
submissive acceptance of God’s indictment that “all have sinned,” leading to
penitent confession of sin, and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as
Savior. To those who die in their sins, however, it will be as a hammer
metaphorically smashing them to pieces at the judgment of the great white
“Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my
words every one from his neighbor.”
Here the Lord declares His
opposition to the false prophets, who having no message from Him, proclaimed
what came from their own deluded minds, claiming that it had been given them
“... that steal my words
every one from his neighbor,” means that their utterances were simply
concocted variations of the same general lie, which was that adherence to the
outward form of worship absolved them from sin, and guaranteed that there
would never be the judgment foretold by the true prophets, even though that
judgment was about to break upon their guilty heads.
The same situation prevails
in Christendom today. The false teachers deny that there will be the judgment
foretold in Scripture and proclaimed by those whom God has enabled to
understand and teach His truth.
I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He
This continues to emphasize
God’s hatred of the false prophets who claimed that their pronouncements were
the words of God. His hatred of today’s false teachers who proclaim the same
lie, is no less intense, nor will they escape His judgment any more than did
their OT counterparts.
I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them
and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent
them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at
all, saith the Lord.”
God’s wrath against the
lying prophets was intense because they brazenly assured the people that what
they, the false prophets, said was what God had revealed to them in dreams,
their lying pronouncements encouraging their duped hearers to plunge the more
deeply into sin, to their present and eternal undoing.
“... lightness” is also
translated vain boasting: empty pretensions: wild and reckless falsehoods.
And He continues to
reiterate that they were not His messengers: He had never sent them, so that
their words would not only be of no profit to the people, but would on the
contrary, bring upon them His terrible judgment.
23:33. “And when
this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the
burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even
forsake you, saith the Lord.”
This was God’s command to
Jeremiah telling him how to respond when anyone mockingly asked him what
message God had given him. He was to say, “You are the burden,” the “you”
being the prophets, priests, and people, who by their sinfulness had made
themselves a burden to Jehovah, a burden He was about to get rid of by
delivering them into the hand of the Babylonians.
Christendom, by her
sinfulness, has also made herself a burden to the Lord, and as He cast off
rebel Judah, so is He about to cast off equally rebellious Christendom in the
now imminent Tribulation.
23:34. “And as
for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of
the Lord, I will even punish that man and his house.”
Whether it was a false
prophet, priest, or commoner who made light of, i.e., who joked about the
Lord’s message delivered by the true prophets, would incur the judgment of
God. And again nothing has changed, for the Word of God today is the butt of
the mockery of the false teacher, the hireling cleric, and the people in
general, and is also about to be visited with the judgment of God in the
shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What
hath the Lord answered? and, What hath the Lord spoken?”
Instead of mocking God’s
Word, the people in their general conversation, and in their family
discussions, ought to have been seeking in sincerity to know what answers He
had given in response to their questions, and what instructions He was giving
relative to their manner of living, for only as they obeyed Him would they be
And the same principle
23:36. “And the
burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more; for every man’s word shall be his
burden; for you have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of
hosts our God.”
This continues the command
to stop mocking the words of God; and warns the false prophets to stop
delivering lying words under the pretext of having received them from Him,
when their utterances perverted His truth. The reference to Him as “the Lord
of hosts” is the reminder that He Who gave the command had also the power to
destroy the man who would dare to pervert the Word of the Almighty.
That warning is as
applicable to today’s false teachers as to those addressed by Jeremiah.
shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the Lord answered thee? and, What
hath the Lord spoken?”
The prophet mentioned here
is obviously the true prophet, and the direction given to the people relates
to the proper manner of addressing such prophets relative to the answers God
may have given to their questions, or directions He may have given them
through His servants the true prophets. They were to be treated with the
respect due to men who were the true servants of the living God. Sadly,
however, it was the false prophets who were honored, and the genuine despised;
and so is it also today.
since ye say, The burden of the Lord; therefore thus saith the Lord; Because
ye say this word, The burden of the Lord, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye
shall not say, The burden of the Lord;”
“The burden of the Lord” was
the derisive term used by the people relative to the messages given by the
true prophets, and in spite of God’s having warned them to stop mocking, they
continued to scorn Him and His messengers.
“Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake
you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my
God’s punishment would be
that He would forget them as they had chosen to forget Him; and as they had
forsaken Him, so would He also forsake them and Jerusalem, the city He had
graciously given them and their ancestors, and where He had dwelt in their
midst. He would pick them up and fling them out of His sight, using the
Babylonians as His agent of destruction. So also will He deal with
Christendom which has chosen to ape
23:40. “And I
will bring an everlasting reproach (dishonor) upon you, and a perpetual shame,
which shall not be forgotten.”
This is not to be construed
as God’s eternal casting away of Israel (Israel and Judah), but rather of
those generations of Israel which refused to obey Him. The emphasis upon the
eternal duration of their chastisement is the grim reminder that the
consequences of sin unrepented of in God’s time, will continue eternally,
first in hell, and ultimately in the lake of fire.
While countless generations
of that wilful nation, and of the Gentiles, have made themselves heirs of such
punishment, Scripture makes it clear that there will emerge from the terrible
Tribulation judgments a repentant believing remnant of that same nation and of
the Gentiles, that will inherit the covenanted blessings, not just in the
Millennium, but eternally.