An Astonishing and Horrible Thing

by Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

God’s people were on the brink of a “great destruction” from the north (Jeremiah 6:1) brought upon them because of their spiritual decay. God, being a righteous God, said, “Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?” (Jeremiah 5:29). Judah was so corrupt that God could not any longer tolerate her. God, through Jeremiah, reminds her of her corruption and warns of its consequences in the first few chapters of this book.  

God will not indefinitely tolerate corruption among his chosen people. The fleshly Israelites are no more God’s chosen people – but Christians are. His nation is no longer an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual nation – the church. Spiritual Israel can profit from God’s dealing with fleshly Israel (cf. I Corinthians 10:1-13). Do you think that God would be any more tolerant of such corruption as described in Jeremiah if it is found in His church today? Is it any less astonishing and horrible for the thing to be committed in the church than for it to be committed in the land? What was this horrible thing? It was a two-fold problem: 

Political Preachers 

It was the duty of a prophet to bring God’s revelations to the people. It was the duty of the priest to teach the people concerning God’s will. They had other functions to be sure but these functions are emphasized by the text. They were the preachers in Israel. Instead of telling the people what God had revealed, the prophets prophesied falsely.

Instead of ruling (leading) by God’s power or authority the priests ruled by their own power. Why? A strong hint is given in the statement, “My people love to have it so.” 

The priests and prophets were acting more like politicians than prophets and priests. They put their finger to wind to see which way it was blowing before speaking. They were more concerned with what the people thought and wanted than what God said and willed. Like good politicians they spoke the will of the people and acted in harmony with the desires of the people rather than the will of God. 

I verily believe that this evil presents a grave threat to the people of God this very hour. How easy it is for those of us who preach to be more interested in pleasing or at least pacifying those who support us than declaring to them the whole counsel of God! How many of us formulate and express our convictions and/or govern our conduct by what the brethren will tolerate than what God will tolerate? It is much easier to privately tell brethren elsewhere of our disgust with corruption, ungodliness, worldliness, and general unfaithfulness among the brethren where we preach – much easier than “letting on” to the home brethren that we see any thing wrong. I have heard men privately label brethren as dangerous and unsound – but because of the popularity of these brethren, publicly act as if they were a rock of soundness. Why? They alone may know the answer. But, could it not be that “the people love to have it so”. God’s people are in trouble when public proclaimers of the word do not have the courage to form their convictions upon an investigation of God’s book and then have the courage to stand by those convictions – regardless of what the people want. They do themselves, their God and the people they are trying to serve and save a terrible injustice. 

Pampered People 

The people “just loved” those prophets and priests. Why? Because they told them what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear. The prophets and priests were to be blamed for Judah’s destruction because of their unfaithfulness – but the people were to be blamed because they wanted it that way. They should have demanded that prophets speak the truth without fear or favor – even if that truth hurts at times. 

Brethren need to be careful and examine themselves to determine what they want in preaching. They need to try to bring their conduct into harmony with strong, sound, and scriptural preaching rather than demanding that the work of preachers be reduced to an effort to pet and pamper them by “ratifying” their cherished conduct. Our conduct may fall far short of the standard set by such preaching – but the goal is kept before us by such faithful teaching. We will be better for the striving. But, demand a toned down standard and no one is provoked to strive for a higher level of maturity. 

Demand and support preachers who are committed to a study of the word of God and are committed to preaching the fruits of their study without fear or favor.

Demand and support preachers who demonstrate that they are more interested in your eternal salvation than they are in courting your favor. Demand and support preachers who will not only exhort and comfort you, but will reprove and rebuke you when they feel you are out of line. They will make mistakes, so will you. They may at times misjudge a situation and rebuke when it is not needed – but at least you know they are trying to save you rather than pamper you to their own advantage. You and the church will be the better for it all. 

But what will you do in the end?