Let Us Speak God's Word Faithfully
O Lord, heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for the all that You have done for me! You have blessed me in this life, but more importantly You have blessed me with eternal life through the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ. Be with me as I join in the worship of Your holy name this day. Amen.
The psalmist here uses many different words to describe the Bible: word, commandments, statutes, judgments, precepts, and ways. May we make the study and learning of God's Word the highest priority in our lives.
Through the work of the Spirit of God we are able to call the God of heaven and earth “our Father.” We are sons, children, and co-heirs of an eternal heavenly kingdom with Christ.
Jesus describes how to identify a false prophet, by examining what they teach. He also describes the eventual fate of all of those who depend on their own works and expect salvation based on them.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace" '; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.' " 18 For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? 19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury -- A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. 21 " I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. 23 " Am I a God near at hand," says the LORD, "And not a God afar off? 24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the LORD; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the LORD. 25 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' 26 "How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27 "who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. 28 "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the LORD. 29 "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
LET US SPEAK GOD'S WORD FAITHFULLY!
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
The prophet Jeremiah lived at a very sad time in the history of the Jewish nation. Gone were the days of the mighty kings David and Solomon whose kingdoms stretched beyond anything Israel ever had or ever would achieve again. Gone even were the days when those kingdoms were split in two. The nation of Israel in the north which contained 10 of the 12 tribes had already been carried away into captivity by the great Assyrian empire. All that was left was the nation of Judah in the south which contained the other 2 tribes.
Jeremiah lived about 600 years before Christ. As a very young man, likely under 20 years old, Jeremiah was given a very difficult task. He was called by God to tell the people of Judah that the judgment of the Babylonian captivity was coming. And why did Jeremiah need to do this? Why was this judgment coming? Because the people of Judah had been unfaithful to the Lord.
Yes, they at times had followed after false idolatry and pagan worship as so many of their forefathers had. However, the warning, that Jeremiah recorded for them here in chapter 23 and that he records for us, is following after false teachers--false teachers who claimed to be hearing dreams and receiving visions from Jehovah, when in actuality they were simply making them up.
This is where the lesson is for us. When we sit in the pews every Sunday we need to be asking ourselves, “Is what I am hearing the thoughts and words of God or the thoughts and words of man?” When we read a religious book, is what we are reading based on God’s Word or is it based on man’s word? When we are having a religious discussion with someone, is that individual hearing God’s Word and letting it speak to them? Or are they trying to put their own thoughts and ideas into God’s Word?
So, in contrast to the false teachers, we are to follow the directive of the Lord when He says, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.” May the Spirit direct our study as we learn to SPEAK GOD’S WORD FAITHFULLY by Not Mixing it with Man’s Word.
I. Not by Mixing It with Man's Word
One thing that they really focus on teaching us in the Seminary is the correct use of the two great teachings of the Bible, the law and gospel and when to apply each one. It was very succinctly summarized by one of my professors like this: “A pastor’s job is to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted.”
Basically it means that if you are comfortable in your sin darkened position, if you are comfortable in your imperfect relationship with your perfect God, that means you need the law applied to you. You need to be afflicted with the law to realize that you are a sinner, that you are lost on your own, and that you need a Savior.
At this point, the pastor is to comfort the afflicted. Once someone realizes they need a Savior, point them to their Savior! Point them to Jesus Christ! Point them to the life, death, and resurrection of their Redeemer and the treasure that is waiting for them in heaven.
I bring this up because this was the mistake the prophets, talked about in our text, were making. Listen again to verse 17: “They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace" '; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'”
These false prophets, and we know they were false prophets because of the word “continually,” were comforting the comfortable. The people of Judah were despising God, they were following their own hearts, and they needed to be afflicted by the law! But instead the prophets were telling them that everything was going to be just fine.
These words the false prophets were speaking were not from the mouth of God, but rather from their own hearts. They were mixing God’s Word with man’s word. And we read in verse 16 that it made the people of Judah “worthless.” Think about that!
Think about all that God had done for the children of Israel: bringing Abraham to the land of Canaan; bringing them out of the land of Egypt; helping them conquer all of Canaan--miracle after miracle, wonder after wonder. These people must have had some special standing with God, right? Yet, here we read that by following the dreams and visions of the false prophets these “special” people for whom God had done so much were made worthless.
That is what happens when God’s Word is mixed with man’s word. Sadly, much the same thing has been going on in our country for many years. Pastors and teachers are misapplying the law and the gospel. Writers are claiming to have received visions from God that are contrary to His Word. Take a few examples.
. That sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? Who really wants to talk about sin, the devil, and hell?
And yet, really consider what this pastor is doing. He is misusing the two great teachings of the Bible, the law and the gospel. Really, he is throwing the law completely out. We are sinners and God gave the law to us sinners so that we realize our own sinfulness. So it really is a complete misapplication of the Word of God. It is a mixing of the Word of God with the word of man.
For another example consider the actions of the false prophets described by the Lord in verses 25-27 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' 26 "How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27 "who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.”
The prophets were claiming that they had received special dreams and visions from God and were putting their dreams and visions on par with the Word of God. They were again mixing the Word of God with the word of man.
One of the most popular devotional books in the world right now is entitled “Jesus Calling.” It is written by a woman named Sarah Young who claims that her book was written by a series of “messages” and “directives” received in a dialogue with God. She says she followed the example of two other women who would practice “waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they ‘listened.'”
In other words, she is calling out just like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” In other words she is mixing the word of man with the Word of God.
It really reminds me of the bird cage that Pastor Nolting and I saw when we did a devotional Bible study at Autumn Grace on Friday. From a distance these creatures are flashy and beautiful, flapping and cheerful, but when you get up close and look in the cage you can see that it is full of bird droppings.
Many preachers and many books in this world sound so wonderful and inviting, they are enjoyable to listen to and magnificent in their presentation and showmanship. But when you get up close and compare what they are saying to the Truth, to the Word, they are nothing but bird droppings.
If we look around at the world of religion we see countless examples of this happening. And in every case it leads to a growing disregard for God’s Word and for the message of salvation. In the Mormon church, Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and put it on an equal level with God’s Word. Mixing the Word of God with the word of man.
In the reformed churches many set aside the truths of the Word of God and say that logically it doesn’t make sense that the body and blood of Christ is in the Lord’s supper. It doesn’t make sense that faith is created in the heart of a baby through baptism. It doesn’t make sense that God both desires all men to be saved and yet chose His people before the foundation of the world. They are mixing the Word of God with the word of man.
In the Catholic church the Word of God is set on an equal level with the writings of the church fathers, the decisions of the church councils, and the decrees of the pope. And, in claiming to be the vicar and spokesman of Christ here on earth, the pope is claiming to be the authority of God on earth. They are mixing the Word of God with the word of man.
II. By Standing in the Counsel of the LORD
Therefore the question we need to consider is this: how can we avoid keeping God’s Word separate from man’s word? How can we make sure that it keeps a place of ultimate importance among us? In verse 21 the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah tells us, “For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it?” These three phrases stand in parallel to each other. To stand in the counsel of the LORD means the same thing as to perceive and to hear His word which means the same thing as to mark His word and hear it.
Because where on earth would be considered in the counsel of God, except for right here in the Bible? We stand in the counsel of God any time we gain understanding in His Word. We stand in the counsel of God any time we mark as true and right the statutes of our God.
We stand in the counsel of God when we make personal Bible study a priority in our lives. Imagine for a second that the almighty God of heaven and earth wrote a book just for you. This book holds all of the answers to all of the questions you have in life and all of the answers you have to all of the questions you have about the next life. Now quit imagining because you already have that book! It is the Bible!
And yet how many of us fail to prioritize this important book in our lives? How many of us will spend hours every day watching television or even reading a different book and forget to crack open our Bible? How many of us spend so many hours working every week that we decide we are just too tired or too busy to study the Word of Life?
So how can we make our Bible reading a priority and do it effectively? I always like to use the acronym PROP. Pray, Regular, Observe, Persist. First, before you even start reading Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you understanding and growth in your knowledge of the Bible and in your knowledge of salvation.
Second, be Regular in your Bible reading habits. Make it a part of your daily life and routine. Every morning before you get up or every night before you go to bed or every noon over your lunch hour. Whatever it may be make it a habitual thing that needs to happen every day in your life.
Third, Observe what God is telling you in Scripture. This focus keeps us from trying to read our own ideas, man’s words, into the text. Instead, we read what the Holy Spirit has written down for our learning. Then we can use these observations in our daily lives as we apply the truths of God’s Word to our individual situations.
Finally, Persist. There may be times that we get bogged down, that we get confused, that we simply don’t understand what is being said in Scripture. That is okay. We can go our whole lives studying God’s Word and still not have scratched the surface of the depths of knowledge found here. But we can persist, knowing that God will bless our efforts with ever greater faith in His promise of life and salvation.
Standing in the counsel of God is studying His Word. There are many other ways we do this as well. Having a family devotion in which passages are read, ideas are discussed, questions are asked, and the Word is used for answers.
Attending church every Sunday is standing in the counsel of God. Gathering together with your fellow believers who confess the same truths that you do. Worshipping our Triune God in His very house, singing His praises with dignity and honor. This is standing in the counsel of God.
And that is how we will continue to speak God’s Word faithfully. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). It is amazing and almost circular logic! It is the Word of God which enables us to faithfully speak the Word of God which enables us to faithfully speak the Word of God which enables us to faithfully speak the Word of God…….
The Word of God is a power source all its own. It is the Word of God that converts hearts and changes minds.
The Lord concludes this section by saying, “"Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” It is a rhetorical question. God’s Word is the fire that will consume all of the false visions, dreams, and doctrine spread in His name. God’s Word is the hammer that will destroy all those who have continually misused and misapplied the Scriptures and led people astray.
The judgment did eventually come upon the people of Judah. They spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon. We do not know what the Lord has in store for us. There may be some judgment looming for the complete disregard and outright mockery that so many people in our country have shown towards God’s Word.
But we do know this: God will bless us as we continue to stand in His counsel and as we continue to abide in His Word. Because He promises in 2 Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” Our God is faithful, His Word is faithful, LET US SPEAK HIS WORD FAITHFULLY! Amen!