For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

23:1.  “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.”


“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 judgments.


23:2.  “Therefore 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 increase.”


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 their disobedience.


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.


23:5.  “Behold, 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; 6:12.


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.


23:7.  “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 of Egypt.”


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.


23:9.  “Mine 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.


23:12.  “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.


23:15.  “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 His word.


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.


23:16.  “Thus 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 will fall.


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.


23:19.  “Behold, 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.


23:20.  “The 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 prophesied.”


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 doings.”


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 God.


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.


23:27.   “Which 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.


23:28.  “The 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 Lord.”


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 throne.


23:30.  “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 by God.


“... 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.


23:31.  “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.”


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.


23:32.  “Behold, 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 coming Tribulation.


23:35.  “Thus 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 blessed.


And the same principle applies today.


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.


23:37.  “Thus 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.


23:38.  “But 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.


23:39.  “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 presence:”


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 Judah’s folly.


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.

[Jeremiah 24]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough