My head is reeling,
my limbs are limp,
I’m staggering like a drunk,
seeing double from too much wine—
And all because of God,
because of his holy words.
Now for what God says regarding the lying prophets:
“Can you believe it? A country teeming with adulterers!
faithless, promiscuous idolater-adulterers!
They’re a curse on the land.
The land’s a wasteland.
is turning the country into a cesspool,
Prophets and priests devoted to desecration.
They have nothing to do with me as their God.
My very own Temple, mind you—
mud-spattered with their crimes.” God’s Decree.
“But they won’t get by with it.
They’ll find themselves on a slippery slope,
Careening into the darkness,
somersaulting into the pitch-black dark.
I’ll make them pay for their crimes.
It will be the Year of Doom.” God’s Decree.
“Over in Samaria I saw prophets
acting like silly fools—shocking!
They preached using that no-god Baal for a text,
messing with the minds of my people.
And the Jerusalem prophets are even worse—horrible!—
sex-driven, living a lie,
Subsidizing a culture of wickedness,
and never giving it a second thought.
They’re as bad as those wretches in old Sodom,
the degenerates of old Gomorrah.”
So, here’s the Message to the prophets from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“I’ll cook them a supper of maggoty meat
with after-dinner drinks of strychnine.
The Jerusalem prophets are behind all this.
They’re the cause of the godlessness polluting this country.”
A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Don’t listen to the sermons of the prophets.
It’s all hot air. Lies, lies, and more lies.
They make it all up.
Not a word they speak comes from me.
They preach their ‘Everything Will Turn Out Fine’ sermon
to congregations with no taste for God,
Their ‘Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to You’ sermon
to people who are set in their own ways.
“Have any of these prophets bothered to meet with me, the true God?
bothered to take in what I have to say?
listened to and then lived out my Word?
Look out! God’s hurricane will be let loose—
my hurricane blast,
Spinning the heads of the wicked like tops!
God’s raging anger won’t let up
Until I’ve made a clean sweep,
completing the job I began.
When the job’s done,
you’ll see that it’s been well done.
“I never sent these prophets,
but they ran anyway.
I never spoke to them,
but they preached away.
If they’d have bothered to sit down and meet with me,
they’d have preached my Message to my people.
They’d have gotten them back on the right track,
gotten them out of their evil ruts. (The Message)
Jeremiah had a hard gig as a prophet of the Lord. And what made it especially difficult was the continual stream of false prophets, preaching their “everything will turn out just fine” sermons in the face of economic injustice, social unrighteousness, emotional denial, and spiritual adultery.
Methinks that Martin Luther King, Jr. must have felt a kinship with the prophet Jeremiah. After all, he was much like a modern-day prophet. In word and deed, he kept asking people to close the distance between the values they espoused and their actual behavior.
The terrible treatment King and his allies received during the civil rights movement through non-violent marches and demonstrations, brought-out the awful gap between espoused American values of freedom, fairness, and tolerance, and the reality that Blacks really did not possess these in any manner close to the white population.
Every prophetic ministry compels people to come face-to-face with the disparity between beliefs and behaviors.
Jeremiah knew all about the gulf between expressed values and actual conduct. And he faced a very large chasm between the two.
Like Reverend King, Jeremiah was imprisoned, had rocks thrown at him, and was jeered for his message of calling people to live up to God’s agenda for humanity.
White supremacy, or at least white privilege, was taken for granted in much of America before King. In the same way, Israelite privilege was taken for granted in Jerusalem, in Jeremiah’s day. Unfaithful prophets kept proclaiming Jewish supremacy and insisted that the Lord would be on their side of things.
But the Lord insisted that these supposed prophets have neither attended a meeting of any divine council in heaven nor ever heard God speak to them.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who create dissensions and hindrances, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. (Romans 16:17-18, NRSV)
The spirit of the age simply accepted power, privilege, and pedigree as the norm that ought to always endure. But God thinks differently about it. And so, the Lord sends prophets to call people back to justice, righteousness, and peace for the benefit of all persons.
The zeitgeist of our own age is one of turmoil, uncertainty – and even chaos, violence, and death. We have our own contemporary self-appointed prophets who proclaim peace where there is no peace; safety, at the expense of others’ protection; militant forms of xenophobia; and an American exceptionalism which places a thin veneer of respectability over the graves of dead people’s bones.
The Lord will not contend with this forever.
An exercise in healthy introspection would be to consider these questions:
- What are our most cherished values?
- Where did we get them? Who are we listening to?
- Are they God’s values?
- Who is really in control as the arbiter of values?
- How might godly values of justice, righteousness, and peace be expressed in our everyday actions and behaviors?
- Will we seek to engraft such values into our organizations, systems, faith communities, neighborhoods, and governments?
- Can we work together in humility?
- Do we have the courage to change, to share power, and to seek the common good of all persons?
Lord, have mercy, and grant us your peace.
All-Seeing God, you know the true state of every heart and every people group. Do your work of making me holy in all I do and say so that your values, and the words and ways of Jesus, might be expressed through me in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.