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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 23

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-40

Now in chapter 23 God speaks out against those

Pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 23:1 ).

God said, "They're My sheep, but these pastors are scattering them and destroying them."

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 ( Jeremiah 23:2 ).

Those wicked pastors who were not really feeding the flock of God, but rather seeking only to fleece the flock of God. A true shepherd seeks to feed His flock. A hireling always seeks to fleece the flock of God.

If these evangelists are writing to you and in every letter they send to you there is a direct or insinuated appeal for funds, know that they're not really writing unto you because they love you and care for you. Though they may say it, "Oh, I've been thinking about you this week. And God laid a heavy burden upon my heart for you. Is everything all right, brother? Please write and tell me what's wrong with you so I can pray for you. And I'm going to go and I'm going to fast and I'm going to pray and I'm going to bring your requests before God. Now make sure that you send your request in to me immediately and please mark off how much you can send in at this time, you know." That's all a bunch of goobledygook to get to the bottom line for you to send your bucks in. There's no real concern for the flock of God. There's no real attempt. You read the letter. There's nothing there to feed your spirit. The whole thing is designed to fleece you. The whole purpose is to fleece the flock of God. That's not a true shepherd and God speaks out, "Woe unto you, shepherds, not really feeding the flock. Scattering the flock. You're destroying the flock."

Well, I'll tell you, I don't want to stand in their shoes when they have to stand before the Lord and give an account.

God said,

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. And I will set up shepherds over them which will feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 23:3-4 ).

God says, "The day will come I'll bring them back. My flock that's been scattered, I'll bring them back. And I'll give them shepherds in those days who will really feed them. They'll be fruitful. They'll increase."

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 eaRuth ( Jeremiah 23:5 ).

There will come a day I'll raise up from David a righteous Branch, and He will reign in righteousness, in justice and in truth.

In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called [Jehovah Tsidkenu] THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS ( Jeremiah 23:6 ).

Who is that righteous Branch that God shall raise up from David? Who is that One who is coming and will reign in righteousness over the earth? None other than Jehovah Shua who will then be called Jehovah Tsidkenu. Jehovah Shua is another name for Jesus, Yashua.

This is a scripture that sort of boggles the Jehovah Witnesses, because in the context you have to realize and acknowledge that surely it is talking about Jesus Christ. But His name shall be called then that name that they use exclusively for the Father. His name shall be called Jehovah Tsidkenu. That's one they haven't been able to successfully explain.

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD lives, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD lives, 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 ( Jeremiah 23:7-8 ).

And so God is speaking of that day of future restoration that shall come to pass when Jesus comes again. And then shall the angels be sent to the four corners of the earth to gather God's elect, the Jews, from all of the areas to which they have been scattered and God will bring them back in that day and in that day all Israel shall be saved. For God shall bring the deliverer out of Zion who will have turned the hearts of the children to the fathers. So the glorious day of God's redemptive work for the nation Israel when Jesus comes again, the righteous Branch out of David to establish the throne of God and His kingdom upon the earth and to fulfill God's promise to these people.

Now God declares,

Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets ( Jeremiah 23:9 );

Actually, this is Jeremiah speaking. "My heart within me is broken." You remember he's the weeping prophet. "My heart within me is broken because of the prophets."

all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man, I'm like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness. 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. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD. 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 ( Jeremiah 23:9-12 ).

So God speaks of these wicked prophets and priests who have profaned their ministries and all and God said they're on a slippery plank in the dark. Boy, I mean, that's in a bad way. Can't see where you're going and you're walking on ice. Surely they shall fall.

And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, they walk in lies: they strengthen the hands of evildoers, that none does return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants of Gomorrah ( Jeremiah 23:13-14 ).

They're just irredeemable.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you ( Jeremiah 23:15-17 ).

The prophets were prophesying lies. "It doesn't matter how you live. You're all right. God will accept you. God really doesn't care that you live after your flesh, that you disregard His law. Doesn't really matter. Peace. No evil is going to come upon you."

There are many churches today where there is really no strong preaching of the Word. The people go and are comforted. No matter, though they are walking after their own imagination, after their own lust, they go to church and they can come out feeling very comforted, very good, because there is no real conviction of sin. There's no real preaching of righteousness or holiness before God. And the tragic thing is that people are being comforted in their evil ways, being lulled into a false sense of security. A lot of ministers today will tell you there is no hell. All the hell you're ever going to get is right here on earth. All the heaven you're ever going to get is right here on earth. There is no future judgment. And there are ministers that make fun of and scoff at the idea of hell. "Peace in this place. Surely God won't visit you for the evil that you have done. No evil will come upon you."

For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? ( Jeremiah 23:18 )

These guys are speaking for the Lord but He said, "They never sat in My council. They don't know the things that I have determined. Yet they're speaking for Me, but they don't even know what they're talking about. They haven't been in My council. They haven't heard My word."

Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he has executed, and till he has performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly ( Jeremiah 23:19-20 ).

You'll understand it completely. Hindsight is always better than foresight. When it's happened you'll look back and then you'll understand that you were being deceived by those false prophets. You'll understand that it was a lie, that they were speaking in the name of the Lord, that you were duped. God is saying the day will come. You'll look back when the calamity is fallen, when the judgment is come, then you'll realize these men were lying to you the whole while who said no evil is going to come to this place. It's going to be peace and all.

For I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? ( Jeremiah 23:21-23 )

Aren't I not right present? I'm not far off someplace where you can't reach Me or where I don't know what's going on. God doesn't dwell in some remote corner of the universe. Paul said to those Epicurean philosophers there in Athens, "This is the God I want to talk to you about, for in Him we live, we move, we have our being" ( Acts 17:28 ). It's the God who pervades all of space. You can't escape His presence.

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? ( Jeremiah 23:24 )

There is no secret sin. There is no hidden sin. God sees everything we do. You think you're hiding yourself from God or your actions from God. You're only deceiving yourself.

Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that are prophesying lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal ( Jeremiah 23:24-27 ).

So these men are telling their fancy dreams and turning people away from God.

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 23:28 ).

There is a certain danger in our seeking after spiritual phenomena today whereby God might speak through a, say through, a man that is calling himself a prophet. And that you go to him and he lays his hand upon your head and begins to prophesy over you. Revealing to you things of your past. Revealing to you the things that nobody else knows until your heart is really confirmed. "Wow, this guy must really know what he's talking about."

There is in this area a few years back a lady who was doing just such a thing. She had a very uncanny ability to prophesy over people. And in her prophecy reveal secrets of their past. And many people were attracted to her and drawn to her because one of the large charismatic churches in the county featured her as the Sunday school teacher for a time. I had a young man, a minister, who had tremendous potential. I had worked with him in several summer camping programs. We had spent a lot of time together in the Word, in prayer. This young man was searching after God, seeking after God. And so he went and he heard this woman and he was attracted to her uncanny ability to be able to prophesy and to say so many things. And so he made an appointment and he went over to her house. And there she began to reveal to him all kinds of things about his past, about his beautiful, godly mother. And as she was relating these things to him he was captivated by her ability to be able to see so clearly and she began to prophesy directions and guidance for his life. She began to direct him into the contacting his mother through séances and into spiritism. And this young man who had such a tremendous potential and was used in such a glorious way by God in ministering to young people is today totally out of it. Led astray. He wouldn't listen to the counsel from the Word. This woman had really bewitched him by her gift that she possessed. But the gift really wasn't from God.

There is a danger in seeking to the supernatural phenomena for guidance or for direction rather than to God and to the Word of God. A person comes up and says, "Oh, I've had a dream. I want to tell you my dream. What does my dream mean?" Oh, I don't know. "He that has a dream let him tell his dream." To someone else. "But he that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully." And yet there are those that talk about revelations from angels. Angels that visit them and sit on their beds and direct them. And people get all excited. "Oh, have you read Angels on Assignment? My!"

"He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord." We have the Word of God. Nothing can be added to it or should be taken away from it. This is the wheat. This will produce spiritual growth. This will cause you to be strong in the Lord. This will build up your spiritual man. You may be running around looking for spiritual excitement. It's always a dangerous thing, looking for spiritual phenomena, because it's easy to be led astray. The Word of God will keep you on the path. You cannot grow by supernatural phenomena.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not opposed to the gifts and the working of the Holy Spirit. The true manifestation of the works of the Spirit are marvelous and I seek them. But all that comes must be measured and judged by the Word of God. We cannot allow experiences to become the basis for doctrinal truth. We cannot establish doctrine upon experiences. We can only establish doctrine on the sound Word of God and not upon any kind of supernatural phenomena.

A while back we had this plague of "demon, demon, who's got the demons?" And the groups were gathering together all over the United States to deliver one another from the burps or the lethargy or gluttonous demons. Tragic. Sad. People guiding each other by experiences and not by the Word of God.

But I read some of the books, and this one pastor who was heavy into this deliverance ministry was teaching the doctrine of demonology. And in the book, in the doctrine of demonology that he was teaching, he was teaching that we have the power to bind the demons and cast them into hell, into the pit. And that we should always bind the demons and cast them into the pit. Now how did he know we had that power? Because when he was exorcising a demon, the demon told him, "Don't cast me into the pit." And he said, "Oh, do I have that power?" The demon said, "Yes, you have that power to cast me in the pit. Please don't do it." So you have a doctrine that is based upon the word of a demon. Now Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. Surely the demons are liars, too. How can you base a doctrine upon what is said by a demon whose basic character is that of lying? But you see how easily you can be swayed to look to something else for the truth. "What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."

Is not my word like a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house. Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken? And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken? ( Jeremiah 23:29-37 )

Rather than saying, "What's the burden of the Lord, brother?" Just say, "What's the Lord answered you or what hath the Lord spoken?" Because this thing of the burden of the Lord, they were all the false prophets were using that.

But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD ( Jeremiah 23:38 );

A lot of people going around today saying, "Oh, the Lord lays such a heavy burden on me, man. I don't know if I'm going to be able to make it. God laid this heavy burden on me." Are you sure? Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, My burden is light" ( Matthew 11:30 ). I think the people can lay heavy burdens on us. Many times the church lays heavy burdens on people. Many times we take heavy burdens on ourselves. Now let's not blame the Lord for it. God's not going to lay such a burden on you that it's going to drive you to a nervous breakdown. God's not going to lay such a burden on you that you can't really function with your family because you're so upset and so nervous and so uptight over this pressure that is on you. "But if I don't do it, you know, they're going to be calling me. And oh, I don't know what I'm going to do. This burden of the Lord, the burden of the Lord." No, no, no, it's not the burden of the Lord. It's something that man has laid on you, the church has laid on you. You take it on yourself, but God didn't lay it on you because Jesus said, "My burden is light, My yoke is easy."

Some people say to me, "I don't know how you can pastor a church with that many people." I say, "Well, I don't either." But it's really not difficult. It's not a heavy burden. I don't go around just, you know, pressed down and just groaning and just, "Hope I can make it another day." I don't feel it. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. There's no big pressure. There is no big deal because His yoke is easy, His burden is light. I've oftentimes told people it was much harder to pastor a little church of twenty-five people in Prescott than it is to pastor Calvary Chapel. I had many heavier burdens there than I have here. This is a piece of cake.

But God says, "Forget that burden of the Lord stuff. I'm tired of hearing that. I don't want to hear it anymore. Just say, 'What did the Lord say?' Or, 'How has the Lord answered you?' But don't, don't, don't use that burden of the Lord bit."

Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence ( Jeremiah 23:39 ):

If you use this term any more.

And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten ( Jeremiah 23:40 ).

So that's one phrase I'd sure stay away from if I were you.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-23.html. 2014.
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