Thus says the Lord,
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the Lord.”
4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the Lord:
“What wrong did your fathers find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
6 They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?’
7 And I brought you into a plentiful land
to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit.
9 “Therefore I still contend with you,
declares the Lord,
and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Image for a moment sitting in the courtroom of heaven. This is what Jeremiah chapter 2 resembles. Jeremiah is preaching about the unfaithfulness of the God’s people. But we should remember he is stating the words of Yahweh. God is stating his case against his people and why their spiritual adultery must end in divorce. Yahweh starts by telling of the faithfulness of his people in the beginning. He speaks of love and devotion, of how his people followed even in the rough wilderness. Israel loved their God and wanted to be with him. And Israel was holy unto the Lord. He protected them from enemies and watched over them. God provided a good land for his people and his people loved the Lord. What Yahweh describes in the first few verses was what happened in the beginning of the covenant relationship with this people. Verse 4 tells us things dramatically changed as God accuses their father’s of idolatry, going after what is worthless. The literal translation is, “They went after The Nothing and became nothing.” (Lundbom) Since verse 4 is the pivotal point we must ask, who are the fathers of the people God refers to. The text actually tells us. Notice, to understand God’s complaint, you must start where he starts, and that is with the fathers of the people. This may seem like an oversimplication, but it is important we understand God’s process for dealing with his people. Verse 6 tells us, “They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord…'” And then in verse 8, “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’” Verse 7 says, “But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.” This is very important. The “they” in verse 6 is referring to the fathers of the people. The fathers defiled the land and they made God’s heritage an abomination. Heritage can mean land or people. In this case, it seems clear God is referring to people. To unpack this, God is saying the fathers of the land defiled it and made the people an abomination. And verse 8 gets very specific, “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.” As you would expect the fathers of the people refer to the leaders. It encompasses all leaders, the priest who taught the law of God, the shepherds, which means the kings or princes (governmental leaders), and the prophets. While today we would divide these into separate categories, civil and spiritual leaders, during Jeremiah’s time, all of these would be considered spiritual leaders.
Now as we move forward to verse 10-13, we see Yahweh continues to makes his case, asking for someone to go throughout the Greek Islands among the pagans and see if any nation has changed its gods. The point is very clear that no pagan nation ever changes its dead gods, yet the people of the living God exchanged glory for wood and stone (nothingness). We notice that now God begins to talk about the people. Verse 11, “But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.” and also verse 13, “for my people have committed two evils”. This is an important progression showing us how God sees the whole drama. He very explicitly accuses the fathers (priests, rulers, and prophets) of idolatry and for causing his heritage, his people, to turn away from him. Then, he moves to describing what the people have done. The people are accountable, but God always starts with the leaders because of the responsibility he has given them and because they have led others astray, away from God.
Let’s consider the priests. “Those who handle the law did not know me;” This almost seems impossible, but it isn’t. Anyone can attempt to handle the word of God, as if it is just literature. Academically discovering the law of God without ever actually knowing God himself at all. If we have no relational connection to God, then there really is no reason to obey him. Furthermore, God wants more than that, he wants our hearts.
The late Steve Hill wrote a book very close to the end of his life called Spiritual Avalanche. In this book Hill talks extensively about false teaching. Below are the ideas Hill believed are dangers.
1) Prosperity Message
2) Hyper-Grace (emphasizing grace to the point of excluding other Biblical doctrines such as sin and repentance)
3) Antinomianism (we do not have to follow any moral or ethical laws)
4) Deification of man
5) Challenging the authority of the Bible
6) There is no future punishment (eternal Hell)
7) Universal reconciliation (everyone will go to heaven)
These are the big ones and many more false teachings exist in the current climate. You may wonder how a “Bible” teacher can teach others what is blatant false teaching. This will be hard for some to accept, but I attribute it to exactly what Jeremiah says. Those who proclaim these false doctrines do not know God. They may know about him, but they do not know him.
The best explanation I have seen for false teachers is by Derek Kidner. In his book on Jeremiah, writing about Jeremiah 23(false prophets) he states, “God is speaking of the difference between conjecture and revelation. As an analogy in modern terms we could compare the speculations of journalists over some matter of government which is being decided behind closed doors”. In other words, false teachers are like people who know about God, but do not actually speak with God and do not have any kind of understanding of what he is really like. This is scary, but what the Bible teaches about false prophets/teachers. Both Elijah and Jeremiah were surrounded by false prophets. Why would we think this is not the case today? Take a long hard look at the list above and think about how many people are being taught the principles behind those 7 false doctrines.
If this is the case then what do we do? It is simple. You have the Bible. And if you don’t, you can get it for free. You are responsible for allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, and you are responsible to discern to between true and false teaching. When you know the Bible, false teaching can be spotted a mile away. All this may seem frustrating, but the truth is we must take responsibility for our faith, and we must hold teachers accountable. Even if teachers and preachers are divorced from God’s true revelation, that does not mean we have to be.
“they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11