A Tale of Three Cities
A Tale of Three Cities
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.
Jeremiah 23:14 (ESV)
What is more dangerous—the tyrannical persecution of Christians, the perversity of the cults, or the heresy taught in many pulpits? It cannot be the first, since “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Neither is it the second, for alien religions are often repellent curiosities. The real threat is the third—false teaching in the house of God.
In a land where God’s people were harshly ruled (vv. 1-4), false teachers, and not cruel despots, broke Jeremiah’s heart (v. 9). He knew that error, not injustice, was the primary cause of Israel’s decline and downfall. Jeremiah had only to recall his history lessons at school. He knew that idolatry had ruined the prophets of the Northern Kingdom (v. 13), and he was alarmed to see that the prophets of the Southern Kingdom’s Jerusalem were worse (v. 14).
These prophets were not only apostate (vv. 10-11), they were morally wayward. Whether or not the adultery they committed was, like Samaria’s idolatry, spiritual in nature (v. 13), they had become as wicked as the notorious, homosexual adulterers in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).
The ripple effect of these prophets’ infidelities was considerable. The people had little encouragement to turn from idolatry when those tasked with exposing it were jumping on its bandwagon. Worse than Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned, the false prophets left Jerusalem as ripe for judgment fires as Sodom and Gomorrah. By repeating, “It shall be well with you,” and, “No disaster shall come upon you” (v. 17), they lulled the people into spiritual sleep. Rendered vulnerable, the people were then easy prey for the evil doers whose hands the prophets had strengthened (v. 14).
God, though, is faithful to provide His people with Jeremiahs—and Peters and Pauls. As Christ’s true ambassadors, they are consistent in lip and life—consistent, that is, with God’s revealed truth. These are not the wayward guides of Jerusalem, Sodom, and Gomorrah. They are more nearly the prophets of Philadelphia, Antioch, and Philippi. These churches were respectively known for their faithfulness to the word and patient endurance (Rev. 3:10), their distinctly Christian manner (Acts 11:26), and their dedicated service to the Lord (Phil. 4:15; 2 Cor. 8:5).
For better or worse, pastors are the spiritual leaders of their churches. No church can rise above the spiritual level of its pastor, for he has the power to hold it down by weak preaching, numbing administration, and lifeless example. When he is more treacherous than inept, then his people are in even greater spiritual peril. If, however, he is cheerfully obedient to God in Christ, his people will rejoice in the Lord’s favour upon them. They may find themselves breathless as they try to keep up with his zealous walk, but they will cherish the spiritual fitness that comes with it.
GracePointe Baptist Church
2209 N Post Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73141
Phone: (405) 769-5050