“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, “It shall be well with you”; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, “No disaster shall come upon you.”’” (Jeremiah 23:16-17)
The three readings from this past Sunday’s lectionary offer spiritual counsel to Christians in today’s America. We are in the midst of a great spiritual warfare that masquerades as politics, social activism, and demands for individual rights. The opening words of the Old Testament pericope from the prophet Jeremiah speak to our national climate at present if we consider that the lying prophets to whom Jeremiah alludes represent those in our culture who set themselves up as moral guides. Although these should be faithful Christian clergy and teachers, the truth is that people in our nation do not value their advice as much as they trust in the pronouncements of politicians, teachers, scientists, celebrities, and talking heads many of whom presume to dictate morality to the rest of us. If they know not Jesus, then their moralistic rhetorical utterances should carry no weight with believers. They are as bad as the lying prophets Jeremiah condemned for they told people what they wanted to hear rather than the truth from God.
Now Jeremiah was addressing King Zedekiah and his officials who did not like his prophecies about the impending fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. They had consulted other prophets who told them what they wanted to hear, those things that made them feel better and did not threaten them with God’s judgment. Jeremiah condemned the King and his advisers as false shepherds. Although God had put them in charge of His people they did not know Him and did not lead the people to Him. They did not advise the people that they needed to repent of their sins, to forsake their immorality and idolatry.
Today the same false message of God’s favor goes out from many churches as well as from the media and the politicians. People do not want to be told they are sinners. They do not want to be told they need to repent of sin or forsake idols. Thus when we Christians preach the exclusive nature of salvation through faith in Jesus alone, when we testify to the sinful nature of all human beings, we are ridiculed and condemned. In spite of this, we Christians should stand fast against lies, wickedness and idolatry in the church as well as in the nation, media and culture. After all, we are not here to win a popularity contest, or amass fortunes and material goods for ourselves. We are called to see that sinners are warned about the eternal destruction awaiting them and help them to realize that faith and mercy are available to them in Christ Jesus alone.