Study of Jeremiah, Chapters 23-24 Entrusted With Responsibility

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responsibility

All of us are entrusted with the care of another at some point in our lives, whether it be our children, a parent, even an animal.  The leaders of our churches, our government, and our nations, are entrusted with the care of their members, and the people.  But, what happens when those who are entrusted with this responsibility are irresponsible, reckless in their actions, and negligent?

Jeremiah 23:1-8Jeremiah 23:1-8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that 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. THE LORD...: Heb. Jehovahtsidkenu 7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8 But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.  

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1 “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people – the shepherds of my sheep – for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the LORD.
2 Therefore, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds:  “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction.  Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them.  3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them.  I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number.  4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again.  Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!
5 “For the time is coming,”
says the LORD,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
6 And this will be his name:
‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Israel will live in safety.
7 “In that day,” says the LORD, “when people are taking an oath, they will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.’  8 Instead, they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the people of Israel back to their own land from the land of the north and from all the countries to which he had exiled them.’   Then they will live in their own land.”

The leaders that were responsible for caring for the people of Israel were not good shepherds.  They were to care for the people as though tending to their flock.  But instead, they ‘destroyed and scattered’ the people who they were to be caring for.  The leaders were responsible for the current condition of destruction and God was not happy with their actions.  We will all be held accountable to God for those that we had influence upon, and those that we lead.
Even in this time of great sorrow, Jeremiah shares that a great leader will come from David’s line, the coming Messiah, the perfect and righteous King, who will rule Israel in an absolute difference from the four kings that were discussed in chapter 22.  This leader, the Messiah, will rule with a godly leadership, and the Israelites will be home.

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false prophet

What happens when we become comfortable in the lives that we live?  False teachers!  You ask how?  me here…the more comfortable we become in the flesh, the less and less we seek God.  Yeh, we may feel guilty for not attending church on Sunday, so we try to find a church that ‘we like’, which translates into ‘saying what we want to hear’.  Hence, false teachers!  Or, we try to find like-minded folks to associate with.  Hearing the spoken truth sometimes places a conviction on our heart, which most times, takes us out of our comfort zone.  We are responsible for discerning the truth from lies in every aspect of our life.  Those who are false teachers will fall under their own judgment from God for leading people astray.

Jeremiah 23:9-14Jeremiah 23:9-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. swearing: or, cursing course: or, violence 11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD. 12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. 13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. folly: or, an absurd thing: Heb. unsavoury 14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. an...: or, filthiness  

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9 My heart is broken because of the false prophets,
and my bones tremble.
I stagger like a drunkard,
like someone overcome by wine,
because of the holy words
the LORD has spoken against them.
10 For the land is full of adultery,
and it lies under a curse.
The land itself is in mourning –
its wilderness pastures are dried up.
For they all do evil
and abuse what power they have.
11 “Even the priest and prophets
are ungodly, wicked men
I have seen their despicable acts
right here in my own Temple,”
says the LORD.
12 “Therefore, the paths they take
will become slippery.
They will be chased through the dark
and there they will fall.
For I will bring disaster upon them
at the time fixed for their punishment.
I, the LORD, have spoken!
13 “I saw that the prophets of Samaria were terribly evil,
for they prophesied in the name of Baal
and led my people of Israel into sin.
14 But now I see that the prophets of Jerusalem are even worse!
They commit adultery and love dishonesty.
They encourage those who are doing evil
so that no one turns away from their sins.
These prophets are as wicked
as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once were.”

The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day were very popular and had a huge audience.  These prophets led the people to believe that everything was okay, which was a false sense of security.  This was quite the contrast to Jeremiah’s message, which actually showed the people how sinful they were.

There are four warning signs of a false prophet:
1) They will appear to speak the Word of God, but do not live according to the Word of God.
2) God’s message is watered down to make it more inviting to people.
3) People are encouraged, very subtly, to disobey God. This may include, but not be limite to, eluding you to believe that sinful behavior is acceptable in certain circumstances.
4) They tend to be self-serving, and focus more on being appealing to their audience than being true to God’s Word.

Sodom and Gomorrah are referenced throughout the Bible and teachings.  They represent the ultimate in sinful behavior and rebellion against God.  They were destroyed by God and can read about their destruction in Genesis, Chapter 19.

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sharing the gospel

Sharing the Gospel with others is a huge responsibility!  It doesn’t matter whether you are a Preacher, a teacher, or just sharing, it is our responsibility to communicate God’s Word accurately.  Spreading the Gospel is not limited only to our words, our actions speak much louder.  What good are a thousand words of truth, if our actions do not reflect it? We should live what we say!

Jeremiah 23 15-32

15 Therefore, this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says concerning the prophets:
“I will feed them with bitterness
and give them poison to drink.
For it is because of Jerusalem’s prophets
that wickedness has filled this land.”
16 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:
“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
They do not speak for the LORD!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
‘Don’t worry! The LORD says you will have peace!”
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
they say, ‘No harm will come you way!’
18 “Have any of these prophets been in the LORD’S presence
to hear what he is really saying?
Has even one of them cared enough to listen?
19 Look! The LORD’S anger bursts out like a storm,
a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD will not diminish
until it has finished all he has planned.
In the days to come
you will understand all this very clearly.
21 “I have not sent these prophets,
yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
yet they go on prophesying.
22 If they had stood before me and listened to me,
they would have spoken my words,
and they would have turned my people
from their evil ways and deeds.
23 Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD.
“No, I am far away at the same time.
24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?”
says the LORD.
25 “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. 26 How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. 27 By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal.
28 “Let these false prophets tell their dreams,
but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word.
There is a difference between straw and grain!
29 Does not my word burn like fire?”
says the LORD.
“is it not like a mighty hammer
that smashes a rock to pieces?
30 “Therefore,” says the LORD, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. 31 I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the LORD!’ 32 I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the LORD, have spoken!

God is very clear in His message regarding false prophets.  They are NOT from God, but delivering a message of deceit and lies.  The use of the analogy of ‘straw and grain’ to a false prophet and a true messenger of God, He is saying that the straw (false prophet) is no use to anyone as compared to a hearty grain (true messenger), that can be used as food to nourish your body.  False teachers have only one purpose:  to lead you astray!
The people were to understand all of this in the days to come, when Jerusalem is destroyed.
In opposition to what the false prophets were teaching, God is quite capable of being active in our lives, and present among people to save and protect them.  We should never doubt that God knows and cares about each and every situation we experience, and He is able to handle situations that we feel are out of our control.

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troubled times

Troubled times affect everyone.  How we look at those times is what is important.  Some may look upon troubles as punishment from God for something we feel we have done wrong, while others may view it as simply ‘part of life’.  When we begin to see our troubles as a blessing is when we begin to grow in our faith.  Experiencing troubles makes us stronger, and more compassionate.  We may not see this result in our life for some time, but eventually we come to realize what we gained from the troubled times in our life.

Jeremiah 24:1-10Jeremiah 24:1-10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 1 The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. 2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. they...: Heb. for badness 3 Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. 4 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. them...: Heb. the captivity 6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. 8 And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: 9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. to be removed: Heb. for removing, or, vexation 10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.  

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1 After King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon exiled Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon along with the officials of Judah and all the craftsmen and artisans, the LORD gave me this vision.  I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the LORD’S Temple in Jerusalem. 2 One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs, while the other was filled with bad figs that were too rotten to eat.
3 Then the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.”
4 Then the LORD gave me this message:  5 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:  The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians.  6 I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again.  I will build them up and not tear them down.  I will plant them and not uproot them.  7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.
8 “But the bad figs,” the LORD said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt.  I will treat them like bad figs, too rotten to eat.  9 I will make them an object of horror and a symbol of evil to every nation on earth.  They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I scatter them.  10 And I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.”

Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon in 597 BC, and Zedekiah became king.  Royal officials were often taken into captivity to prevent them from starting a rebellion.  Anyone who possessed a valuable skill was taken for Babylon’s building programs.

Jeremiah prophesied this happening in chapter 22:24-28. Remember the ‘signet ring’?

figs

Jeremiah now sees a new vision:  a basket of good and bad figs.  The good figs represented those who were exiled to Babylon.  God would restore them because their hearts were responsive to God.  He would preserve them and bring them back to their land.  The bad figs represented those who stayed in Judah, or fled to Egypt.  This group of people may have believed they would be safer where they were than in captivity, but God was using the exile to refine and restore.  The reference ‘too rotten to eat’, indicates that for some people, even being held captive and imprisoned would not return them to God.  Those people would eventually be destroyed.

Have you ever felt that the path you were heading down was so troubled that there was no way that you could turn to God and ask for His help?  Hebrews 13:5Hebrews 13:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  

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tells us that God will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He is always there! But God will not force Himself upon us.  We have to call out His name!  He will knock on the door of our heart ever so gently and then stand in waiting for YOU to open that door [Revelation 3:20Revelation 3:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  

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].  Do not let your heart become hardened to God.  Open that door and welcome Him into your life.  Let His grace and mercy fill your heart with a joy and peace that can only be received from God.

Written by Mary Hudak-Collins

Mary Hudak-Collins

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