CLICK HERE to read Jeremiah 23.
The Lord warns the people that those who have been false priests will be punished and suffer the consequences of what they have chosen (verse 1). Those who have scattered and destroyed, through contention or false doctrine or neglect, will receive the consequences for their evil works (verse 2).
But the righteous, He says, He will gather together and provide for them true priests who will care for them well (verse 3). They will have bishops, and scriptures, and restored access to the power of the priesthood and temple ordinances (verse 4). The Lord will return and reign as King, delivering mercy to those who have claimed Him and allowing justice for those who have not (verse 5). Those who have trusted in Him shall be safe from the destruction that the evil have chosen (verse 6), and their deliverance from such complete destruction will be so powerful that people will not even remember what happened when He led the people out of the land of Egypt, that being so minor in comparison to what He is about to do (verse 7). But He is the same God who did that, and He will gather the people again this final time (verse 8).
Jeremiah is overwrought at the idea of this. How could Jeremiah imagine something greater than the Lord leading the Israelites out of Egypt? Yet the people refuse to listen, and it breaks his heart because he knows what consequences they are choosing (verse 9). They are breaking covenants of chastity and fidelity, and they are making false covenants with idols, and they are choosing priestcraft instead of priesthood, and they are without the correction of the Spirit because they have refused to listen, “and their course is evil, and their force is not right” (verse 10). The Lord knows they have corrupted even the temple, worshiping false idols and performing perverted ordinances (verse 11). This was the slippery slope of their destruction, how quickly and completely they fell from His grace, how sure their fall into their own pit of natural consequences (verse 12).
Jeremiah gets specific, citing Baal-worship in Samaria (verse 13), and priests in Jerusalem committing adultery (verse 14). Because they have not only failed to nourish the people in truth, but also fed them poison of false doctrines, they themselves will suffer the consequences of betraying their own covenants they themselves made (verse 15).
Jeremiah uses this to warn the people not to listen to the false priests who do not really prophesy, and who only leave the people in danger (verse 16). Jeremiah points out that they can know the words of the false prophets are not true because the false prophets have said that people can do whatever they want, live how they want, and do what they want without any consequences (verse 17). Jeremiah says that doesn’t even make sense, isn’t even good common sense, so they know it cannot be the word of the Lord. The people should instead study the words of the Lord, so they can compare to what is taught them and discern truth for themselves (verse 18). Those who do not will be swept away by what is popular, or current culture, or what anyone supposing authority might teach – instead of discerning truth by the Spirit and giving obedience only to those with proper priesthood authority (verse 19).
When the Lord really speaks, what He says come true (verse 20). The false prophets gave prophecies, but the Lord never spoke to them (verse 21). If they were really hearing the Lord, they would know that it was their own bad behavior that needed correcting (verse 22). That is what the Lord would say to them, because He cares even for them.
He is an ever-present God, not a far away God that doesn’t care about the people (verse 23). He does not hide from the people (verse 24). He knows what the people do, and He knows whether they choose good or evil (verse 25). He knows whether they have truth or deceit in their hearts (verse 26), and He knows which God they call out to in worship (verse 27).
Those who speak for the Lord will have the authority to do so, and their testimony will match the words we know from scriptures – not contradict it (verse 28). The true words of God will burn in our hearts like a fire, shatter our false traditions like a hammer breaking a rock, and soften the hard places in our heart (verse 29).
The Lord is against false prophets because they do not serve the people (verse 30) and do not speak for God (verse 31). The Lord says the false prophets know He is against what they are doing because He tells them, and warns them through true profits, and tells the people the consequences of following false prophets (verse 32). He tells the people that if they want messages from the Lord, they should ask Him for them and He will show them true prophets (verse 33) – but not to listen to the false prophets because they will be punished (verse 34). In this way, all the people will know when the Lord has truly spoken: they will discern it in their own hearts, and His words will come through His true prophet who has authority to speak to the people (verse 35).
But even then, the Lord still speaks directly to each of us, and we each should do the work to qualify for and receive our own personal revelation (verse 36). This personal revelation will be in tune with what the true prophet declares (verse 37), and no one else has authority to declare revelation for the people outside those bounds (verse 38). Those who do not receive their own personal revelation and who ignore the words of the prophets will not have the instruction for their own safety and happiness (verse 39), and so will be ashamed to receive their consequences that could have so easily been prevented (verse 40).