Jeremiah 14-16

Jeremiah 14-16…False Prophets.

That God speaks is a privilege we dare not take for granted. Certainly, the Lord does not owe men and women a revelation of Himself, especially because in Adam we basically told our Creator to be silent when we refused to obey His word to our first parents (Gen. 2:15–17; 3:1–13). In His grace, however, the Lord continued revealing Himself to humanity in creation and through His prophets and Apostles (Ps. 19; 2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Because of this general revelation, we can never make an absolute claim in the presence of God that we did not know any better. Paul tells us as much in Romans 1:18–32 when he explains that all people suppress and deny what the Lord has said about His character and what He requires of us. True, the extent of our knowledge of God’s special revelation, and the circumstances of any given situation can mitigate the consequences of our actions (Ex. 21:28–32; Matt. 11:20–24). The more light one has, the more one is accountable for his actions. Nevertheless, even those who break God’s commandments unknowingly incur guilt (Lev. 5:14–19). In Adam we willingly chose not to know better, so the “I did not know any better” will never finally get us off the hook before the Lord.

Despite their obstinance, Jeremiah loved his fellow Judahites, as seen in his attempt to get God to reconsider His intent to send sword, famine, and pestilence against Judah (Jer. 14:1–12). The prophet tried to excuse the people by stating that false prophets had deceived them, but the Lord had none of it (vv. 13–18). If the plea “I did not know any better” cannot finally cover our sin, how much more will the Lord refuse to reconsider His judgments when we do, in fact, “know better”? The ancient Judahites had general revelation but also the Mosaic law, which told them how to discern false prophecy (Deut. 18:15–22). Moreover, Jeremiah ministered during Josiah’s recovery of the Mosaic law. Even if the people for a time did not “know better,” their claim had no merit post-Josiah (2 Kings 22:1–23:27). Matthew Henry comments, Jeremiah’s “excuse would have been of some weight if they had not had warning given them, before, of false prophets, and rules by which to distinguish them; … if they were deceived it was entirely their own fault.”

The old covenant community did not love the truth, rejecting it when false prophets gave them false comfort in their rejection. So, God gave them over to their love of the lie, as He is wont to do (Rom. 1:18–32). This would result in their destruction (Jer. 14:16).

 

Numbers 22-24

Numbers 22-24…Balak summons Balaam, and Balaam gives seven messages.

Out of fear for the safety of his kingdom, the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse the nation of Israel lest they overrun his country (Num. 22:1–6). We have some further explanation of this in 2 Peter, where he explains that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15). This is implicit in Numbers 22:7 as Balaam is given fees for divination, a practice clearly forbidden by God (Deut. 18:9–14).

That Balaam affirms his desire to obey God and goes with the king’s men when God commands him to do so (Num. 22:8–21) might make us question his greed. However, God’s anger towards Balaam even when he obeys (v. 22) shows us that indeed Balaam’s motivations were not godly. Like Balaam, false teachers may express a desire to obey God and, like Balaam, speak some theological truths on occasion (23:19, for example). However, the clear presence of greed will always be a warning to us that they are not sent by God.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day, or so the saying goes. False teaching is particularly dangerous because rarely will false teachers speak no truth at all. That truth is spoken on occasion, however, does not make one approved by God, for even the vilest of sinners have the capability to know and teach true things because they bear the image of the One who is Truth. Remember to take into account the motivations of your teachers as well as the words they speak.

Exodus 32-34

Exodus 32-34…The golden calf, the glory of the Lord is revealed to Moses, and the new stone tablets are given.

Three observations about these chapters in Exodus:

1) Exodus 32 – It is possible to be sincere in our worship of God, and be wrong.

Aaron led the people in an act that they thought would please God. However, they worshiped an idol, and not God. This angered the Lord. We know from Ecclesiastes, that there is nothing new under the sun, and this kind of false worship, veiled in “religiosity” is popular today. Worship of the idols of health and wealth, which is simply an obsession over self, has become popular in our day. Using the name of Christ as a way to get something else is deplorable, but the greed we see in the prosperity teachers today shouldn’t surprise us. God clearly has a harsh judgement for them, seen in 2 Peter 2:2-3:

“Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”

Do not be deceived by false teachers. They are dangerous because their teaching seems right and true. Be careful not to follow teachers who use singular verses as theological pillars. The context of each verse in light of the passage, book, testament, and scripture as a whole needs to be understood to avoid false teaching.

2) Exodus 33 – God’s wrath is against false worship.

False worship, or the love of idols, is deplorable to the Lord. In Exodus 33, He refuses to go with the people to the land flowing with milk and honey. In 33:5 He says, “Tell the Israelites, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you.” This is another reason why false teachers are dangerous. You can be so deceived that your faith may not be authentic, particularly if it’s misdirected. God is the object of our worship, and by grace alone through repentance and faith in Christ alone are we saved.

3) Exodus 34 – The riddle of the Old Testament points to Christ.

If Genesis 3:15 was the proto-gospel, Exodus 34:6-7 could be called the riddle of the Old Testament. Moses asks to see God glory, and He reveals Himself, and says:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

How can God do this? How can he forgive sin and still not leave the guilty unpunished? This is the great riddle, and the answer is Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling God’s law without blemish. This is the only way for God to love thousands, and preserve a people for Himself. Apart from Christ, God’s wrath is on those who are guilty. If we’re in Christ, the only way we’re not guilty is because He took on the punishment we deserve.