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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 23:33-36

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, March 5, 2015

33 When this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, “What is the message from the LORD?” tell them: What message? “I will abandon you”—this is what the LORD says.

In Hebrew word for “message” here is massa (מַשָּׂא) which can also mean “burden.” The Greek translation, followed by the Latin, has “tell them: You are the ‘burden’” instead of “tell them: What message?” Both are retorts form the Lord’s prophet to the false prophets. Whatever they might be expecting, the Lord’s response is severe: “I will abandon you.” Four hundred years earlier, Solomon’s prayer had been: “May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us or abandon us” (1 Kings 8:57). But Solomon was in heaven, and the people had wandered away from the faith of Solomon and David. So the Lord’s ominous response was now: I will abandon you.

34 As for the prophets, the priest and the people who say, “The message from the LORD,” I will punish that man and his household.  35 Each man will say to his neighbor, “What has the LORD answered?” or “What has the LORD said?” 36 But do not refer to the message of the LORD anymore, for each man’s word has become his own message, because you have perverted the words of the Living God, the LORD of Armies, our God.

Jeremiah ends this message with three divine titles. This puts a special stamp of solemnity on the text, but we also see a hint of the Trinity here as well. It is not as if we need to dogmatically assign every reference to “the Living God” as meaning God the Father, or “the LORD of Armies” as God the Son—this is because it would be extremely difficult, even impossible, to assign every passage that speaks of “our God” (Hebrew elohenu) as being exclusively about the Holy Spirit. Deuteronomy 6:4, for example (another passage underscoring the threeness and unified oneness of God) places “our God” (elohenu) second in its list, not third. The threeness of God in this case underscores his holiness, as in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies.”

As the Lord repeats the term “message” (massa) here, he plays on both meanings of the word: message and burden. When people want to hear a massa (message/burden) from a false prophet, it will truly be a burden. A true message from the Lord is no burden at all. Jesus said: “My yoke is easy, my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). And John wrote: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). This is because a person with faith in Christ is enabled by the Holy Spirit to obey God. “This is the victory that has overcome the world,” John said: “our faith” (1 John 5:4). So someone who keeps saying that the word of God is a burden is a person without faith. Human words are a burden. God’s word is new life on earth, hope, forgiveness and the resurrection to eternal life in heaven.

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.