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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 27:8-11

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 7, 2015

8 The LORD said: I will punish any nation or kingdom which will not submit to this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon. I will punish them with sword, famine and plague, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, to your diviners, to your dreams, to your mediums, or to your sorcerers.

Four or five types of false prophets listed here are common in the Bible. God bans them or warns his people about them and others as early as the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai.

A false prophet (nabi’) might use miraculous signs (Isaiah 44:25) or simply preach against the message of the Lord’s prophets. True prophets were always desirable (Numbers 11:29; 1 Corinthians 12:28), but false prophets were not to be tolerated: “My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 13:9).

A diviner (qosem) used various means such as animal entrails to predict the future, to obtain answers to questions, or to speak curses. Balaam the false prophet during the Exodus was such a diviner (Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Nehemiah 13:2). Diviners are warned about their practices by the Lord: “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God” (Micah 3:7).

A dream (holem) might come to anyone. Ordinary dreams are a way for the mind to sort through memories, and Jeremiah does not condemn ordinary dreams. Prophetic dreams, however, are easily faked and quite dangerous, especially for the spiritually immature. Joel foresaw that true prophetic dreams would return to God’s people in the last days (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). Here the Lord is warning the people not to try to interpret their own or anyone else’s dreams, but just listen to what God was telling them through his prophets. God warned about dreams that contracted his word or which misled people: “You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3). The word of God is the standard by which anyone should measure a dream or a vision. If something contradicts the word of God, it is not from God and is either a temptation or a test.

A medium (‘onen) or soothsayer was someone who would “bring clouds” (Heb. ‘anan). Mediums spoke through visions (real or imagined) and told the future through omens in the stars (astrology), in the weather, or events in a person’s life. Mediums are also called necromancers since they claimed to have communication with the dead. The witch of Endor was a medium (1 Samuel 28:7; 1 Chronicles 10:13). God said, “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritists among you must be put to death” (Leviticus 20:27).

A sorcerer (kashaph) was someone who practiced magic or other trickery to deceive and to create a false sense of wonder or trust so that people could be coerced into revealing their own secrets (such as guilt) or into a certain desired behavior (such as attacking or not attacking another nation). God said, “Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Leviticus 19:26).

Do not listen to those who tell you, “You will not serve the king of Babylon,” 10 for they prophesy lies to you, to remove you from your land. I will drive you out, and you will perish.

There is no shortage of false prophets in the Old Testament. Before the coming of Christ, the devil used any and every means to lead people away from the word of God. But the devil’s own opinion and fear of Jesus is such that whenever Christ is preached, the devil’s only real weapon is somehow to try and pervert or twist the gospel into something else. The only religions that have any seeming success in places where Christ is also preached are those that either have some connection with God’s Old Testament message (Judaism, Islam, Baha’ism, the Masonic Lodge) or which embrace the New Testament, even in a non-Christian or antichristian way (as with the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses).

11 But if a nation bows its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serves him, I will let that nation remain in their own land. They will plow the land and live in it, declares the LORD.

Here was Jeremiah’s key message to the exiles: Bow your neck under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, and you will live. One generation would suffer, and then the people of Judah would return home again. For those who were permitted to remain home (not every Jew went into the exile), they would be left alone and allowed to thrive if they simply remained loyal to Babylon while Babylon was still in charge. It was a simple message, but hard for the people to swallow. The false prophets were attacking this message from every side, but it was the word of God.

There are still doctrines of Scripture that are attacked by people who don’t like them; who think that a modern world should not tolerate such teachings. There is hardly a doctrine in the Bible that is not attacked or challenged by someone. The trinity, the six-day creation, miracles, the resurrection of the dead, the authorship of Moses (or any other author of Scripture), the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament, the atonement for sin on the cross, the efficacy of baptism, closed communion, the existence of angels, the existence of heaven, the existence and punishment of hell, the possibility of demon possession, the occasional intermediate fulfillment of prophecy, the practice of church fellowship, and a list that could go on for pages and pages are all challenged as unloving, illogical, unchristian or even hateful by all sorts of people. But the word of God will stand.

All people are like grass,
   and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
   but the word of the Lord endures forever.
And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.