Do Not Listen! (Jeremiah 27:1–22)

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. I have not sent them, declares the LORD, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you” (Jeremiah 27:14–15).

Poison is just as deadly if you change the label. Speaking lies in the name of Jesus doesn’t make them true. Slapping the label “Christian” on the world’s product and cleaning it up a bit doesn’t make it beneficial. It doesn’t even make it benign or neutral. Not everything “Christian” is Christian. For the Christian, the most dangerous poisons are the ones labeled “Christian.” It’s the pills labeled with our name that we mistake as intended for our health.

The saint would likely never consider buying into the advertisements of bottles labeled secularism, humanism, new age, paganism, or Buddhism; but change the label, modify the phraseology, and now you’re curious. Let me give just one example, perhaps it is the most pernicious one there is—Christian music.

Slapping the adjective “Christian” on the noun “music” doesn’t make it so, any more than one could change the nature of a demon by calling him a holy demon. When you see the label “Christian” what is often concealed is nothing more than a slightly “modified” poison.

people-2562222_1280Bethel Church in Redding California is a cesspool of false teaching where angel dust falls from the ceiling, members practice grave soaking (soaking up the anointing of the deceased), and prophets declare fresh apostolic revelation from God. Though their following is huge, I venture that many professing Christians wouldn’t want anything to do with such poison. But Bethel Music, directly connected to the church, has multiple albums at the top of the Christian music charts. They have one won four GMA Dove Awards. Jeremy Riddle is associated with Bethel Music and has “led worship” for them. Heard “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury? Yes, that hose is connected to this cesspool. Still want a drink? Phil Wickam has also recorded songs with them and taught at their school.

Vineyard Music is, you may have guessed, part of the Vineyard Movement. See the pattern? They’re not making it hard. Vineyard shares more than sharp naming skills with Bethel. They like to jam together sometimes. You’ll see some of the same artists associated with Bethel here as well. Their churches share much of the same theology.

Kari Jobe is a member of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas which preaches a slick hip version of the prosperity gospel and also has ties to Bethel Church. Todd White has preached there! Enough said. What Joel Osteen was to Benny Hinn, Robert Morris (their pastor) is to Joel Osteen—a repackaged product to market to a fresher demographic.

Finally, consider Hillsong United coming out of Hillsong Church (yep), which not only preaches the prosperity gospel but has waffled on issues regarding gender and sexuality. It was the pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz, who baptized Justin Bieber. No comment.

I’m not aware of one song from any of these sources that explicitly preaches their more heretical views, but the worldview of the lyrics is frequently and thoroughly alien to the Scriptures. Their message apes that of pop psychology, self-help, and humanism. Such music is the bait Satan uses to hide the hook. Many evangelical protestants likely never become prosperity gospel charismatics as a result of listening to such music, but they do become experiential, feelings-driven, and mystical in their approach to God. Satan doesn’t mind diluting a deadly poison and sweetening it up with some truth, or even adding some beneficial nutrients, so long as it remains poison just the same.

It is true that sometimes false prophets can speak truth, but such instances are very rare and not to be sought. God used Balaam. But how are you to know when God is using Balaam? Are you too going to claim to be a prophet? Ah, let’s test is according to the Word right? If it’s Scriptural, all truth is God’s truth, right? We’ve done such with Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well with My Soul.” He drifted into heresy. We use his song. Yes, but very few know this and virtually no one is led into Spafford’s heresy by his enduring hymn. The danger of Bethel Music and Hillsong is different. The virus is living. Throngs are attracted to their ministries by their music. The appeal is to bypass the mind go straight for the emotions. It is not truth but the aesthetic that is the attraction. It isn’t a theological commitment, but a taste of genre that draws one in.

What should we do then? I believe the answer is clear from Jeremiah 27. Do not listen to them! If for no other reason than this, can you not sense the narcissism, the self-centeredness, the self-obsession that dominates the music? The music is full of lies that will drown you in the image of your own reflection. Do not listen! It is a lie that they are prophesying to you.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 27:1–|| 22 Bear the Yoke and Do Not Listen || Josh King

Tuning In Only to Tune Out (Jeremiah 26:1–24

“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds” (Jeremiah 26:3).

Chapter 25 of Jeremiah is situated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; chapter 26 at the beginning of his reign. As reading the Old Testament in light of the New proves clarifying, so here, the future illuminates the past. Chapter 25, in illuminating chapter 26, darkens it. We read it knowing the hope held out in the third verse is not to be realized. Though Jeremiah lives, his voice is dead.

In chapter 25 Jeremiah recalls his ministering to Judah for twenty-three years. Twenty-three years in which he received and spoke the word. Twenty-three years for which they did not listen. How do we get to the hardened state spoken of in chapter 25? The answer of chapter 26 is alarming.

Though there are many who wouldn’t mind rubbing Jeremiah out, the masses are fickle. They hear. They may even hear with conviction. They hear with affirmation, acknowledging Jeremiah to be speaking the word of Yahweh. But this is as far as they go and it is not far enough. Jeremiah is tolerated. He is ignored. They’re typical conservatives. “Maintain the status quo!” They think they can play it safe and play with sin. They’ll hear Jeremiah and listen to the false prophets. If they execute Jeremiah, destruction is certain. But if they simply ignore him, maybe God will return the favor and ignore them.

The way God’s truth is dismissed by the masses isn’t predominantly with overt enmity but with apathy. Man’s hatred of God displays itself frequently in disinterest, indifference, passivity, lethargy, and unresponsiveness. God’s word comes to man with its total demands. Man responds with “Meh?” To dismiss God calmly instead of violently doesn’t avert disaster. Indifference is just as much an expression of hatred for God as is rage. Partial credit isn’t given for not persecuting the prophet. Just because you don’t kill the prophet doesn’t ensure God won’t kill you—eternally.

So how does one get from here to there? The most common highway taken to hell is the one where the Word is allowed to play on the radio while your mind drifts elsewhere. The word is heard but the people don’t listen. They can hum the tune, but they don’t know the words.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 26:1–24 || Who Is On Trial? || Josh King

Salvation by Judgment (Jeremiah 25:1–38)

“For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.

Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.

Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.”

—Jeremiah 25:3, 12, 15

eric-gilkes-DNbdk2BM0_I-unsplashJeremiah 25 is a stout drink. It’s all judgment, 200 proof. Or perhaps we should say it’s 99.9% judgment. There is a hint of grace, but it’s easy to miss because it is disguised as judgment. That grace can dress as judgment should come as no surprise. The protoevangelion, that is, the first preaching of the gospel, was good news in just this way. Genesis 3:14–19 is all judgment but nestled in the judgment of the serpent is the implicit hope and salvation of man. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). That word of judgment was grace. Here, the disguise is simply harder to see through.

We shouldn’t miss the implicit salvation for the explicit judgement, for when salvation comes, it is certain to be salvation by judgment. What is subtle here is lurid in Jeremiah 29:10, “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” However God saves, know that it cannot be in any way that compromises justice or righteousness.

The judgment of God is inescapable and inevitable. Judgment will fall and it will fall on every sin. Every injustice, every iniquity, every idolatry will be judged. You see this in how Babylon is used by God for judgment, and then judged herself. God’s judgment cannot be evaded. His righteousness cannot be compromised.

We have no hope that our sins might be swept under the rug. We, like Judah and the nations, have not listened. For this reason the wrath of God is revealed against us (Romans 1:18ff). We deserve to drink from the cup of the wine of God’s wrath and nothing more. Our only hope is that God would somehow act so that judgment would fall on our sins and yet not fall on us sinners.

The cup of God’s wrath is a common metaphor. In Isaiah 51 Yahweh promises grace to His people by judgment saying, “Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: ‘Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more; and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors…” (Isaiah 51:22–23a). Again, salvation for Judah comes by judgment. But still, how can the cup be taken from us? 

We find the answer in a garden where the only servant of Yahweh to ever listen perfectly and deserve no judgment prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus took the cup of the wine of God’s wrath, not because He failed to listen, but for our failing to listen. He drained it; finishing it off down to the bitter dregs, bearing the judgment of His people. Again, when salvation comes, it comes by judgment. We are saved because our sins were judged on another standing in our place.

Because judgment fell on the Just one, for the sins of the unjust, there is now no condemnation for those who are in union with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Saints, judgment has already fallen on this earth for our sins, but praise be to God, it wasn’t we who drank of that cup of the wine of wrath. It was drained for us by the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because He drained of the cup of the wine of wrath, we now raise the cup of salvation given to us by the exalted Christ.

Surprising Showers of Sovereign Grace (Jeremiah 24:1–10)

“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans.

‘But thus says the LORD: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 24:4–5, 8).

Those God drove out, He will bring back. Those who remain, will be driven out.

landscape-2130524_1280.jpgThe Scriptures are often paradoxical and surprising. One reason for this is that they are a revelation of God’s grace and His grace is a surprise. Problem is, most are surprised for the wrong reason. Today, fallen man isn’t so much surprised by grace as he is shocked by judgment. The Bible still catches him off guard, but he’s like the pedestrian who is stunned that there are cars driving down the highway. Twenty three chapters into Jeremiah this much should be plain, man is rebelliously ignoring the crosswalk. He’s defiantly walking into the oncoming traffic of God’s judgment. What’s surprising isn’t that man is doomed to die, but that he lives as long as he does. It is judgment that is to be expected. Every second of life in this fallen world is an incredible mercy. How much more surprising then is His saving grace?

Judgment is due. Grace is the surprise. Grace is not only the surprise, but it comes in a surprising way. God reveals what He is going to do for His people and still they jump when He does it. God is like that friend that lets you know he is going to get you, and even though you are on guard, you’re still pleasantly jolted. It is as though God loves to rub his grace in in that way. “Gotcha!”

Part of the shock, is that we, like the world, sometimes think we can predict where the rains of God’s grace will fall. “Certainly God will save that soul” we think, but there is never an indication that He does. “That person is surely doomed for hell,” and then Saul becomes Paul. We might be more conservative in our forecast than the world is. We don’t think it will rain everywhere! Still, we’re often running the wrong metrics. Our models are skewed such that we’re left standing with an umbrella in the middle of the Sahara. It should be no surprise that when we try to predict the God’s surprise of grace we’re left surprised that it didn’t play out how we thought. 

Because judgment is expected and grace is a free surprise, there is no way we can predict where the rain may fall. None are owed grace. None are beyond it. We can expect rain. That is promised. We should labor and love in the hope of it. But we expect it not because of who we are or who they might be, but because of who God is, and He is not only gracious, but sovereign and free.

Do you meet the truth of surprising shower of God’s sovereign grace with humble gratitude? Or are you irately agape? To be delighted by the surprise of God’s grace, one must not only taste of it; they must drink deeply. Drinking deeply means recognizing that in this sovereign surprise, God remains above us and not below us; that is to say, He remains righteous and not unjust. This is not the kind of surprise where we come off looking like the innocent victim of God’s prank. In this surprise, God remains faithful to his covenant, not unreliable. He is immutable, not erratic. God does nothing out of character, and yet, we are surprised. The surprise is not that God judges many, but that he has mercy on any. R.C. Sproul deals with this masterfully,

“The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.

Mercy is not justice. But neither is it injustice. …

There is justice and there is nonjustice. Nonjustice includes everything outside of the category of justice. In the category of nonjustice we find two subconcepts, injustice and mercy. Mercy is a good form of nonjustice while injustice is a bad form of nonjustice. In the plan of salvation God does nothing bad. He never commits an injustice. Some people get justice, which is what they deserve, while other people get mercy. Again, the fact that one gets mercy does not demand that the others get it as well. God reserves the right of executive clemency.

As a human being I might prefer that God give His mercy to everyone equally, but I may not demand it. If God is not pleased to dispense His saving mercy to all men, then I must submit to His holy and righteous decision. God is never, never, never obligated to be merciful to sinners. That is the point we must stress if we are to grasp the full measure of God’s grace.

The real question is why God is inclined to be merciful to anyone?”*

Why? There are mysteries here we cannot probe, but this much God has made clear, the showers of grace fall where they do, so that our only boast is Christ.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’ ” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31).


*R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Tyndale, 1986) p. 27

The State of the Church and the State of the State (Jeremiah 23:9–40)

 

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In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.

—Jeremiah 23:13–14

In conversations concerning politics and religion, Americans frequently mention a wall of separation between church and state. That idea was intended by Jefferson as a one way street, yet most people today, ignoring the “Wrong Way” signage, are driving the opposite direction. The phrase was meant, not to keep the church from driving to Washington, but to keep Washington from driving a church—a state church on the republic.

Nevertheless, using my liberty to leverage the phrase in yet another manner, let us pray that the church is truly separate from the state in this—in holiness. Let us pray that there is a wall of separation between the sins of the state and the state of the church. Unfortunately, I believe the reason the state is full of lies is because the church is. The world is dark because the world is dark while the light has been hidden. When the world is rotting without pause, it means that which is posing as salt isn’t salty and therefore good for nothing but to be cast out.

In Israel there was to be no separation of church and state; rather, both were to be separate, set apart unto Yahweh. But both the state, that is the kings, and the church, that is the prophets and priests, had become defiled. In chapters 21–23 Jeremiah first denounces the kings and then the prophets. More time is spent on the kings in these chapters, but it’s highly likely more time is spent on the prophets in the book as a whole. Indeed, Jeremiah speaks concerning false prophets more than any other true prophet.

Whereas the main invective against the kings was their oppressing the poor, that of the prophets was their deceiving the people. The former fleeces the sheep, the latter leads them to destruction. John MacKay comments, 

“From the preceding section the impression might readily be gained that the problems facing Jeremiah had to do with the political institutions of Judah and its civil leadership. That unfortunately was true but they were by no means the exclusive source of opposition to him. Both church and state were corrupt in Judah, and in this section he focus is on the religious degeneracy of the land. …it was what they [the prophets] proclaimed in the name of the LORD that set the tone for church and state in Judah, as well as reflecting prevailing sentiment.” 

This section is “concerning the prophets,” but yet is speaks of the wickedness of the land. The implication is that the prophets are to blame. Where prophets are false, the church is false. When the church is false, the state of the state is sure to be one full of lies.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 23:9–40 || Concerning the Prophets || Josh King

 

King or Tyrant (Jeremiah 22:10–23:8)

“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages,
who says, ‘I will build myself a great house
with spacious upper rooms,’
who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar
and painting it with vermilion.

Do you think you are a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
declares the Lord.

But you have eyes and heart
only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.” —Jeremiah 22:13–17

chess-2727443_1280.jpgIt has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others. The real genius of our democratic republic is more negative than positive in nature. The brilliance isn’t foremost in contriving a constitutional government that is so good, but recognizing that the constitution of man is bad. The system of checks and balances, the limitation of terms, the division of power, the constitutional rights—all of these limit how much bad, bad men can do. 

Given this, isn’t it peculiar, that even in our republic, even we are enchanted by kings. You could chalk this up to fairy tales, Arthurian legend, historical intrigue, and royal pomp, but I believe there is something far deeper. The historical story of kings is filled with injustice and unrighteous, and even so, there is a longing for the royal, the regal, the kingly, the majestic. Our republic betrays this when she says “In God we trust.”

From Jeremiah 21:1–22:30 we have a string of wicked kings, and the answer of chapter 23:1–8 to this, the hope held out, isn’t the abolition of the Davidic Dynasty, but the fulfillment of it. It is not less monarchy, but monarchy in the fullest that is the hope of man. Spreading the power of government out to more fallen men doesn’t bring enduring peace and justice. The answer is an absolute sovereign who is absolutely good. Mysteriously, He is also man. He is certainly more than a mere man, but He must be a man. He shows us man as man ought to have been. Kingly, imaging forth his Sovereign in the domain given to him, acting as a steward-king.

What is it that makes a king a king? Cedar does not a king make. Rightfully residing in a royal palace doesn’t make one royalty. Jehoiakim was indeed king, but he was not kingly. What is it that makes a king a king?

This is similar to the question “what makes a man a man?” There are men, who though they are men, they are not manly. They remain boyish. It is just this type who so often strives for manliness, but always in a way that makes it more boyish. Such men try to compensate by artificial markers of manliness, a self-defeating act manifesting just how boyish they are. Such violent strength and ill gained wealth are empty of all that is truly regal and royal. As Jehoiakim builds up, he tears down. As he tries to climb, he digs.

In Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, the earthy (not earthly mind you) King Lune of Archenland was kingly, whereas the outrageously opulent Tisroc was trying to compensate. What makes the difference? The Tisroc’s glory is one built by taking, whereas King Lune’s is built by giving. King Lune’s glory is one of magnanimous joy; the Tisroc’s, of demanding servitude of others. King Lune explains to his son, “…this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

The truly majestic is not a glory that grabs, but that gives. This is the difference between a tyrant and a king. The King of kings bled to make His bride beautiful. The kingly is that which flows with sacrifice knowing it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Perhaps? Perhaps! (Jeremiah 21:1–22:9)

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, ‘Inquire of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us’ ” (Jeremiah 21:1–3).

Zedekiah was the last reigning king of Judah. This siege began in the ninth year of his eleven year reign. This means Jeremiah had been prophesying near forty years at this point, warning Judah of judgment and calling for her to repent. Neither Zedekiah nor Jerusalem have repented, but ol’ Zed thinks “Perhaps?” Perhaps!

Perhaps Zedekiah recalls the instance when Assyria done messed up by mocking Israel’s God during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18–19). In that instance, it wasn’t so much that Judah was so good, but that Assyria was so bad. Though God has promised to destroy Jerusalem with the Babylonians, Zedekiah presumptuously thinks “Perhaps?” Perhaps!

Thomas Brooks warned “Despair hath slain her thousand but presumption her ten-thousand.” Ol’ Zed is not alone in thinking “Perhaps?” As Zedekiah went to the prophet, so we go to the word or the preaching of the word, not desiring to hear the word of the Lord, but a word from the Lord, because “Perhaps?” We don’t want to know what Scripture says concerning His will for our lives; we want Him to speak encouragement and blessing on our lives. We have no inkling of honestly obeying Him without reservation, yet we come to the word thinking “Perhaps?” Perhaps!

If you’re not following me, every time we sin, we presumptuously think to ourselves “Perhaps?” The presumption of “Perhaps?” is as foolish as heading west on Route 66 and expecting to get arrive in the Caribbean. We hear the serpent’s whisper, “You will not surely die… you will be like God.” We know what God said, but hey, perhaps? God clearly said that the wages of sin is death, but we think “Perhaps?” Perhaps!

To our wretched “Perhaps?” the immutable I AM of heaven always and without fail replies, “Absolutely not!”

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8)