Scripture reading – Jeremiah 22; Jeremiah 23

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* This is the second of two Bible studies for today. The first was taken from Jeremiah 22.

Jeremiah 23

After addressing the failures of Judah’s kings (Jeremiah 22), Jeremiah was tasked with confronting the failure of the pastors. In the broadest sense, the “pastors” were Jerusalem and Judah’s religious and civic leaders.

A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

 Woe be unto the pastors [shepherd; leader; religious and civic leaders] that destroy [lead astray] and scatter [drive away] the sheep of my pasture” (Jeremiah 23:1; note, Ezekiel 34:1-10). 

Like the shepherd whose work is to lead, protect, and feed his sheep, so is the calling of a “pastor” to lead His people to better places spiritually. Judah, however, had been plagued with derelict pastors (Jeremiah 23:1). Rather than gathering and guiding the nation to the LORD, the pastors had destroyed, abused, and scattered the people. The LORD admonished the pastors, “Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited [inspected; nurtured] them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:2).

The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom (Jeremiah 23:3-8)

Remembering His covenant with Israel, the LORD did not leave His people without hope. He had scattered Israel in His wrath and determined the same would occur in Judah, yet He had not forgotten His covenant promises. The LORD, therefore, declared there would be a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (Jeremiah 23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which [would] feed [His people]: and they [would] fear no more…neither [would] they be lacking” (Jeremiah 23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 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” (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who was this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage? (Jeremiah 23:5) Only one man could fulfill that prophecy, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten, virgin-born, Son of God (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11). 

False Prophets and Their Error

False Prophets and Their Error (Jeremiah 23:9-32)

Jeremiah realized the judgment Judah would suffer and wrote, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (Jeremiah 23:9). False prophets were the curse of Judah. In a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people. He prophesied, “The land is full of adulterers” (Jeremiah 23:10), and prophet and priest were “profane” (godless, wicked, polluted, and corrupt, Jeremiah 23:11, 23:13).

The sins of Judah were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14).  Gripped by their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (Jeremiah 23:17). The LORD then declared: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:21).

Judah’s Contempt for the Message and Messenger of the LORD (Jeremiah 23:33-36)

Having embraced the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed Jeremiah. When Jeremiah was asked, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (Jeremiah 23:33), he was instructed to say that the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (Jeremiah 23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concluded with a stern warning against the false prophets, saying: “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: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 23:39b-40).

Closing thought

As noted earlier, the “pastors” in Jeremiah 23 were both Judah’s civic and religious leaders. However, if Judah’s religious shepherds (i.e., pastors) had served the LORD faithfully, the false prophets would have been exposed as liars and impostors. Tragically, they failed the people, and evil grew in the country until there was no hope.

The pastor’s work is an extraordinary calling. Teaching and preaching God’s Word is a high privilege. Yet, such a burden cannot be taken lightly. All who aspire to teach the Word of the LORD must remember they will face a greater judgment when they stand before the LORD.

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e., sentence].”

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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