Whom Should I Believe?
Tim Temple

Introduction

I think it is very likely that the historians will someday characterize this day in which we are living as the age of communication . That is the hallmark of our times, I think—communication and the media that promotes that communication. We have had radio for almost a hundred years now and television for half that long, to say nothing of the rapid advancements of the technology of the print media since even before that time. Especially in the last four or five years, we have had more and more access to the internet which, although the internet itself has been there for a long time, the average person has not had the access to it that we have now. Through the proliferation of home computers and software, any of us who care enough to learn how to do it can access this worldwide web of information.

I suppose a good debate could take place, and maybe it needs to, about whether these things are for the good or for the bad of our society. A case could be made for either side of that. There is a lot of evidence on both sides of whether this is good or bad, but the fact is that this proliferation of our ability to communicate is with us.

All of that communication is actually a demonstration of the fact that human beings are made in the image of God because God is the great communicator. The fact that He has communicated Himself to us is the greatest communication in all the history of the world. Have you ever thought about the fact that God could be there and could have never let us know about it? Thank God, what a great blessing it is that, as the title of one of Francis Schaeffer's books says, “He is there and He is not silent.” He is there and has revealed Himself to us. Praise God for that!

Of course, the most important way in which He has communicated to us is through His Word, the Bible. The Bible records that He communicated to us in person, in the person of Jesus Christ, and the record of that is in history books and Scripture. As we have seen, one of the special ways that He communicates with us within the Bible is through the ministry of the prophets, those Old Testament men, and some women, of God to whom God gave the ability to transmit His message directly to other human beings.

We have been studying the messages of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. Today we pick up that study here in chapter 27. Jeremiah's ministry was to warn the nation of Judah that judgment was coming if they did not return to God and to the standards that He had revealed to them, but the people refused to listen. By the time we come to this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had taken over the nation of Judah and he had taken some four thousand captives back to Babylon. He had made Zedekiah, the king of Judah, his servant. He was simply ruling on the throne of Israel in Jerusalem at the whim of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. It was a dark, black period in the history of God's chosen people.

After seven or eight years of that vassal rulership of Zedekiah in Jerusalem, some of the other nations surrounding Judah had sent emissaries to Jerusalem to Zedekiah to suggest that they get together and rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. God sent Jeremiah to Zedekiah, the king, to give him and those other nations the message not to rebel. The message was given in the form of an object lesson. We saw in the first part of chapter 27, Jeremiah was to take a yoke like they used to yoke oxen together or other animals that were put together in a team. He was to take that yoke and wear it around his neck. He was to send yokes just like it to the other kings of those other surrounding nations. These yokes were made out of wood, and they were to be sent to those kings. Jeremiah was to wear it as a message to Judah that they should not rebel; they should remain under the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar.

There was one big complication in that whole situation, and that was that there were several false prophets who were encouraging the people of Judah and who were encouraging those kings to go ahead with the rebellion. So the people faced this very real problem. Who were they supposed to believe? Were they to believe this oddball, Jeremiah, who went around doing things like wearing a yoke around his neck and wearing a pair of linen underwear for several years and then hiding it in a rock, all these weird things that God had him doing? Who would they listen to—these people who gave them the message that they really wanted to hear or this man who claimed to be from God and who did seem to have the power of God on him?

False Teachers to Bring Conflict

This is a very important situation for us to look at because we, too, face situations where we don't know whom to believe, personally as well as nationally. There are some principles in this chapter and the next couple of chapters that are going to be very helpful to us in understanding how to listen for God's voice in the midst of all this. We pick up the narrative with verse 9, of chapter 27. The point of this object lesson is given beginning in verse 9:

Jeremiah 27:

9 Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
10 For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.

Stop there with verse 10. This is the key to this whole section. God is saying that in the days when a nation begins to disintegrate, false prophets will be a part of the picture. False teachers will arise and people will become confused because those messages will conflict with one another and with the Word of God. The conflict will be with the Word of God primarily, but the false teachers will also conflict with each other. Tied in with that, there will be a rise of the occult. If you look back at verse 9, the operative words in Jeremiah's day were diviners, dreamers, soothsayers, and sorcerers , but today the operative words are words like self actualization and the god within you and crystals and Ouija boards , public opinion polls , and all kinds of things on which the false teachers base their statement. So we, like those citizens of Judah and those other nations, don't know whom to believe in many cases. I say that all of this is significant because it indicates the tendency in times of crisis and the times of the decline of a nation's power for these false prophets to arise. The fact that we are hearing so many voices today would underscore the fact that we as a nation are in very tenuous times, perhaps near the time that God is going to take His hand of blessing away from us as a nation.

Jesus said that in the last days of the earth there would arise false teachers and prophets who would predict events that would not come to pass, which were not true and for which we should be on the alert. In this day we are beginning to see this kind of phenomenon occurring again, very largely through the advent of the media that we were talking about a few minutes ago, but in other ways, too. That in itself should be a warning to us of where we are in our national history.

Hananiah's Challenge to Jeremiah

In chapter 28, we have a very clear picture of the power and effectiveness of these false prophets. In this chapter one of the false prohets is singled out, a man by the name of Hananiah. In this chapter we find his attempt to intimidate Jeremiah. First, in verses 1-4, we find the challenge that he makes to Jeremiah. Notice especially the tone of that challenge in verse 1:

Jeremiah 28:

1 And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying,
2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Notice how he speaks there: “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel….”—the same formula that Jeremiah has been using. Then in the middle of verses 2-4, the text of his challenge just adds to the confusion. Going back to verse 2:

Jeremiah 28:

2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
3 Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:
4 And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Can't you just imagine the confusion which must have spread among the people when they heard both of these prophets, Jeremiah and Hananiah, saying that they spoke by the power of God? “Thus says the LORD”—the formula that Jeremiah had been using all those years. This prophet comes along who has an exactly opposite message using that same formula. Each of these men were claiming that the Lord had given him this message and yet, they were delivering two completely contradictory messages. Jeremiah was saying that this captivity was going to last for seventy years, and Hananiah comes along and says that they will only be there for two years. Which one are they to believe?

Challenge from Jeremiah

Notice how Jeremiah replies to the challenge in verse 5. We saw the challenge to Jeremiah; now beginning in verse 5, we see the challenge from Jeremiah. Notice the tone of his challenge in verse 5:

Jeremiah 28:

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the LORD,
6 Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD's house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place.

How does Jeremiah respond? He says, “There is nothing I would like better. Amen! I wish it were true. I wish you were right.” Now go to verse 7, where we read:

Jeremiah 28:

7 Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people;
8 The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence.
9 The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.

Here is the test. The only way that you can know that a man is a true prophet of God is that his prophesies must be one-hundred percent true. That is quite a test, isn't it? Deuteronomy, chapter 18, verses 21-22, specifies that specifically. Here Jeremiah, even though he doesn't quote word for word from Deuteronomy, chapter 18, is just reminding them of something they could have known if they were familiar with the Scripture, and many of them were. The test of the prophet is, does what he prophesies come true every time? There is no margin for error, no guesswork. If a prophet's predictions are ever mistaken, if they are ever erroneous, then he is marked out as not being a prophet of God.

Think about what that standard does to some of the people who claim to be prophets of God today, and keep that standard in mind when you hear someone saying, even if he is just predicting something without saying he is a prophet, if it is a message from God, it will come true. If it doesn't come true, then it wasn't a message from God. This is a very important fact to learn from this situation because it is still in effect today. God has never rescinded that standard for prophets.

There are many of us who believe and teach, and my dad taught from this pulpit before me, that the gift of prophecy, in the sense that we are talking about here in the Old Testament, is no longer being given today. That is not just because we are narrow minded and don't like the idea that some people would claim themselves to be prophets. The reason that we say that is that the Word of God is complete. The Old and the New Testament message from God now has been completed and there is no longer a need for prophets.

There is some teaching that prophets in these days are people who can stir people up to needs, etc., but in the terms that the Bible uses, the term prophets , one who foretells the future as well as forth-telling the Word of God, that kind of gift of prophecy is no longer being given today. I think personally that it is a mistake to attach that term that is described so fully in the Old Testament to some other kind of spiritual gift today, although there are many prominent Bible teachers who do that. They say that the prophet is one who can awaken people to national and international needs and those kinds of things. There are people whom God does enable and use in that way, but I think it is best not to use the term prophet for those people. The prophets who are described in the Old Testament and even in the first part of the New Testament are people who were forth-telling the Word of God before all of the Word of God had been written down in what we now have as our Bible. But the test of a prophet is that everything that he said would come true.

Notice what Jeremiah says about this. In verse 9, he says in so many words, “All right, Hananiah, I wish what you are saying were true. God has given me a different message, but we will wait and see. You say that the imprisonment, the captivity, is only going to last two years. Well, two years isn't too long to wait. We will just wait and see if that comes true, and then we will know whether this message comes from God or not, whether you are a true prophet of God or not.” But notice the arrogance of this man, Hananiah. In verse 10 we read:

Jeremiah 28:

10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it.
11 And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Hananiah was so committed to his false teaching that he emphasized his false message by this dramatic action of taking this wooden yoke off Jeremiah's neck and breaking it in two, and saying, “This is what God is going to do to Babylon.”

This is always one of the marks of a false teacher. We don't have the time to look into all of the various things that the Bible says about false teachers, and that is a very interesting study and an important study; but it is beyond the scope of what we are talking about over all, but one of the marks of a false teacher is that he is always out of line with the Word of God and very often, maybe not always, but very often, arrogant about it and makes fun of those who don't agree with him and finds ways to downplay and to embarrass those who don't agree with him. Be very cautious about the person who is arrogant and who is critical of other teachers and what they are teaching. That is a possible mark of a false teacher.

Here is this man with the arrogance to tamper with the thing that God has told Jeremiah to do. What did Jeremiah do about that? Look at the last line of verse 11, and we find his attitude there:

Jeremiah 28:

11… And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

It wasn't his problem, you know. It was God's problem. God was the one who had told Jeremiah what to say. All he had done was deliver the message. He didn't get upset about it; he just went his way. It was up to God to defend his own message and to defend his prophet. If God didn't do it, well then, he had lost that battle, but it was all in God's hands as far as Jeremiah was concerned. Jeremiah just waits patiently. He doesn't try to solve the problem; he doesn't chew Hananiah out; he just goes his way.

God's Announcement to Hananiah

How did it work out? Well, it isn't pretty, but it sure is interesting. In verses 12-17, we find some announcements that he made to Hananiah. First, in verses 12-13, there is an announcement to Hananiah from God. Look at verse 12:

Jeremiah 28:

12 Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
13 Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.

God says to Hananiah, “I'm going to make bars of iron if you break the wooden ones, Hananiah. Do you think that you can maneuver and manipulate things, work it all out and evade what God has said? Do you think you can change God's message, Hananiah? There is no way, and if you try it, things are just going to get worse for you.”

Have you ever tried to change up what God has said, to try to take some course of action that God has said will only bring you trouble and pain, disobeyed God's Word and inserted your own word. You know, if you have tried that, or you will know if you don't know it yet, that when we take matters into our own hands, things just get worse. When we go against the principles that God has so clearly outlined for us, we may think we have a yoke when we take matters into our own hands, but it will become a yoke of iron if we continue to try to make things go our way, if we try to continue to be in control of our lives. That was the announcement from God.

Jeremiah's Announcement to Hananiah

In verses 15-16 there is an announcement to Hananiah from Jeremiah. Notice:

Jeremiah 28:

15 Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.
16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.

“Here is a prophecy you can check out very quickly. Is Jeremiah telling the truth? He says, ‘Within a year you are going to die.' That is not too long to wait.” Look at verse 17:

Jeremiah 28:

17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

You see, Jeremiah left the matter in God's hands and God honored the prophet and sustained him in the midst of this test. He demonstrated clearly who the true prophet was. God may not vindicate you within the year. He may vindicate you tomorrow, but if you are in one of those situations where you are being mistrusted and where you are being questioned and where people are wondering whether you really represent God or not, you just leave the matter in God's hands. He has a way of vindicating Himself perfectly. There was no way that Jeremiah could have manipulated this for himself. God took care of it and vindicated and demonstrated who the true prophet was.

Jeremiah Writes to the Babylonian Captives

In chapter 29, we have there a letter which Jeremiah wrote to the people who had been exiled to Babylon. It takes the form of an interruption of the activity of some of the false prophets in Babylon. The problem was that there were false prophets in Babylon where these captives from Judah had gone just as there were false prophets back home in Judah in Jerusalem. Verses 1-3 remind us of the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had taken four thousand citizens of Judah to Babylon as captives. When they got there, they discovered that the false prophets were active there, too. Just as the false prophets in Judah said, they were saying that this captivity was not going to last very long. God was going to restore them. God was going to send them back to Judah. So Jeremiah, hearing about this, wrote this letter repeating and elaborating on God's prophecy about the captivity. Look at verse 4. Here is the message that God gave Jeremiah to write to them:

Jeremiah 29:

4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

God said, “You are going to be there a long time. Settle down and accept it. Make the best of the situation. Enjoy yourself there to the fullest extent that you can because God said, “Remember, this is what I have chosen for you. It is what I know is best for you. It is My judgment upon you, but it doesn't have to be a terrible thing for you. Being there and in making the best of the situation, you are responding to My discipline.” He says, “While you are there, pray for the prosperity of Babylon because if there is peace there, you will have peace.”

There may be someone today who is in that same situation. Because of your resistance to the will of God, your disobedience of the Word of God in the past, you have been put into a situation now that you don't like very much. There are all kinds of ways that could have taken place, but you know whether you are in that kind of situation or not. There are many believers in Jesus Christ who are living today in circumstances that are less than what God would have had them live in because they had disobeyed God and they have refused to do things the way God wanted them done. Maybe you have recognized that and you have come to the Lord in repentance and you have confessed that sin. What does God say to you? God says, “Accept the situation where you are. Accept what I am doing in your life and wait for what I am going to accomplish during this time in your life.”

You know, when we confess our sins and acknowledge our rebellion to the Lord, He forgives that sin immediately but He doesn't always remove the consequences of the sin immediately. Sometimes, in His grace, He does do that, and sometimes in His mercy, He does remove even the consequences of the sin, but normally, we have to live out the results of what we have gotten ourselves into through our rebellion against God. God says, “You just stay in that situation. You trust Me in that situation. I will work this out for you. I will get you through this time. I have My purposes in letting you live out the consequences of what you have done.”

Probably most of us have heard of cases where God may not have lifted the burden immediately, but He lifted it much sooner than He would have otherwise. I heard the testimony of a man at a Gideon's pastors' appreciation banquet who testified that he accepted Christ when he was in a county jail. He was facing federal charges of embezzlement and bank fraud. When he trusted Christ as Savior, he stayed in jail for many more months. God didn't let him out of jail just because he became a believer, but over the course of time, as he prayed and trusted God and had other friends praying about it, the potential forty-two year federal sentence that he was facing was reduced to just a few years and ultimately he wound up spending only about four months in jail.

On the one hand, he had to be in those difficult circumstances because of the consequences of what he had chosen to do, disobedience that he had chosen to pursue, and yet, God in His grace, even though God made him go through the consequences, shortened the consequences. God sometimes does that. Regardless of whether God is going to shorten your consequences, or maybe even remove the consequences or even make you live through the consequences until they bear themselves out, God's message to you is, “Stay there. Don't try to squirm out of what I am doing to you. Pray for the people around you. Befriend the people around you. Make the best of that situation and trust Me to be at work even in that kind of situation.” That is what God said to these captives and that is what God says to people who are in those kinds of situations even today.

Look at the promise that He makes down in verse 10:

Jeremiah 29:

10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

Here is a beautiful verse of Scripture. Notice beginning in verse 11:

Jeremiah 29:

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

You know, an interesting thing is that in the book of Daniel, chapter 9, we find that Daniel, fifty or sixty years after these words were written, found a copy of what Jeremiah had written. Daniel had grown to be an old man during that captivity. He was one of those first four thousand or so who were taken captives into Babylon. He read these very words from Jeremiah and he realized that God had almost fulfilled those seventy years of captivity that Jeremiah speaks of here, and the time for deliverance had almost come.

Daniel did exactly what verse 12 said to do. He began to pray about that deliverance, and as he prayed about that deliverance, God gave him a great vision that stretched from Daniel's day even down to the day in which we live and even beyond that. That vision described in great detail the various kings and world kingdoms that would come along during those years. You know, that vision in Daniel, chapter 9, was so amazingly accurate historically, it fit in so completely with history that the critics of the Bible have insisted that it couldn't have been written until the second century after Christ because it was just exactly the way history unfolded. Yet, there is tremendous textual evidence that it was written exactly when Bible scholars claim it was written, thousands of years before it all took place. God did begin to move the people of Israel back into their homeland after seventy years. That is where the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah come into the picture.

God Will Complete His Plan for You

The most important thing I want to say to you today is that He will complete His plan for you, too. God is the God of completion. God is the God of the long-range plan. So often we ask God to do something and we want Him to do it this afternoon or even this hour if possible. Sometimes He does, but God is the God of the long range plan, and it was seventy years before those first of the captives were allowed to go back. It would be 490 years before the whole plan was fulfilled, and within that 490 year plan, there was a two thousand year parenthesis in which we are living right now. You see, God doesn't just plan for tomorrow or next week or even next month. He plans for thousands of years in advance. He knows exactly what He is going to do and how He is going to weave these things together, and God will complete His plans for you, too. If you will sit still and let Him do it, He will accomplish great things in your life, even if you are in a time of discipline, as we were talking about a few moments ago.

Prophecies Against False Prophets

The closing words of chapter 29, verses 15-32, are very probing prophecies against those false prophets who were there among the exiles in Babylon. Their names were Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiah. We don't have time to read all of those verses, but I do want to pick out just one sentence out of that passage. In verse 23, God said to them:

Jeremiah 29:

23 Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.

As we have been saying, this was a terrible uncertainty among God's people in Babylon. They didn't know who to believe. They were torn between who to listen to, but God said, “I am the One Who knows. I know who is telling the truth and I will bring it out. I will make it evident.” Even in our times of confusion today, God's voice is the only voice you can trust. If somebody says, “Well, how do I know that? How is He going to do it? How does He show us who to believe and what to believe?” I believe that God shows us what to do and who to believe in three ways in the Scripture. First, in biblical past history. We have a wealth of a record of history in the Word of God. It is amazing how those Old Testament sections of history record all of the errors that humans can make and errors that we still see people making today, errors that we still make ourselves today.

The best part is that the solutions are also recorded. We can know the kinds of things that God will do in our day by reading the record in His Word of what He has done in the past, just as we have been doing and studying in the book of Jeremiah. If we take the Old Testament record into account, there is nothing new being introduced today that hasn't already been introduced in the past. Satan just uses the same old tricks over and over again.

The second way He reveals Himself is in current events; that is, God is always bringing biblical truth to life. I believe that is why we as a nation are going through the convulsions that we are going through. If you want to know how our past president got into the mess he got into, read I Samuel, beginning in about chapter 15, where Saul flatly rejected God's instructions and substituted His own plans. It is an absolute blueprint of how the leaders of our nation, not only the past president, but others, too, have gotten themselves into the terrible messes that they have gotten themselves into, and us with them.

Follow the narrative of Saul's life for the next ten or fifteen chapters and you will see exactly what happens when a national leader decides to take matters into his own hands instead of the plans that God has elaborated on. These passages in the Scripture demonstrate over and over again how the things that the most powerful men in a nation can do to try to make things go their way and keep those things hidden so nobody will know what they have done, are brought to light over and over again. God is the One Who knows and He says here, “I will bring it out.” In His own time and in His own way is the way God always works in the affairs of men.

Third, God makes the truth known through the teaching of His Word. God, through the years, has always had His teachers of His Word. I think that is a very important thing to keep in mind because it is coming to be less and less important in the days in which we live. More and more—and the Scripture told us this would be true—in the end times people would heap to themselves teachers. They would not be satisfied with the truth but would turn away and seek to be entertained. They would have itching ears. In other words, they like to have their ears tickled. They like to be entertained. They like to be told what they want to hear. But God has always made His truth known through the teaching of His Word. He had his prophets, as we were talking about a few minutes ago, before the text of the Scripture was completed, and since that time He has had teachers and pastor/teachers who are expected to open the Word of God.

Turn to the Word

Timothy, Paul's young disciple to whom he wrote the letters of I and II Timothy, lived in a political time that was very much like ours. If anything, it was worse than ours, but as Paul wrote to Timothy, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he talked about the difficulties that Timothy and others like him would face. He was writing to Timothy as a pastor. In the midst of all of those difficulties and all of the tumult and all of the chaos that Paul was warning Timothy that he and other Christians would face, his instruction to Timothy was, “Preach the Word. Be faithful in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, resort with all long-suffering and faithfulness.”

God's answer to our tumultuous day is not psychology. It is not to editorialize. It is not to look at the polls and see what the best decision would be, how we can please the most people. God's message to us as His people is, “Turn to My Word.” His message to me as a pastor and to other pastors is, “Preach the Word.”

People say, “Oh, but the times we are living in are not conducive to the teaching of the Word. People can't sit still that long. People can't keep their attention on something like that that long.” Isn't it amazing that God didn't seem to know that? What a mistake God made to tell Timothy and to have it written down in Scripture, “Preach the Word in times of tumult, times of indecision, in times when people don't know who to listen to. Preach the Word.”

Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the inspired Word of God, which says the Word of God is the source of our comfort and direction in a time like this? Or are you going to believe those who are experts on church growth, and experts on the way people ought to be treated? In fact, the record would seem to bear them out. We do live in an age in which people have been trained to think in fifteen, ten, twelve minute segments between commercials. But God knew that, and God said, “Your hope is in MY Word. Your hope is partly in the teaching of My Word by the men whom I have gifted and appointed to do that.” That is not the only way you can take in the Word of God, but it is God's plan for His people in a time of tumult.

There is a single theme that runs through these three chapters that we have talked about today; that is, listen to the Lord. If these Israelites had listened to the Lord as He spoke through the prophets for the previous four hundred years, they would not have been in the situation they were in. They would never have been taken into captivity.

Interestingly enough, when the captivity actually came, the ones who listened to the Lord's voice and submitted to His discipline and went to Babylon as He told them that they would have to, were the ones who actually lived and flourished and got back to their land. The people who refused to obey God and tried to resist God's instruction were slaughtered by the incoming armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The ones who did listen to his voice after they got into captivity had an easier time of that captivity once they got into it because they listened to the voice of God, regardless of what human reasoning would have told them.

That same thing is just as real for us. What can be done? What must be done to bring our nation back to God and His ways if it is not already too late? What is it that will bring peace and satisfaction into our personal lives? Listening to His voice in these various ways that we have been talking about. The voices of the world around us tell us that happiness and satisfaction is found in fun and fame and fortune. The false prophets of our day tell us that given enough time and enough money, we can solve any problems that we humans may face. The voices of intellectualism tell us that things are not the way the Bible says they are, that it is not gloom and doom and negativity. Which voice will you listen to? Whom will you follow? Whom will you believe? What will the guideline be for your actions?

Conclusion

The message of Jeremiah is, God rules in the affairs of men and in the affairs of nations. If you want to know who to believe, listen to God. He is the One Who knows and the One Who makes it known.

In the little book of James, we have this poignant statement. You are probably familiar with it. James says, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For anyone who is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But, he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the Word, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

We have an abundance of truth available for us in God's Word. In fact, II Peter, chapter 1, verse 4, says that we have all things that pertain to life and godliness. The person who hears it but doesn't do anything about it is just as foolish as the man, and I am always fascinated that it talks abut the man who looks in a mirror, a woman would never do this, but is just as foolish as the man who looks at his face in the mirror and sees shaving cream all over his face and doesn't do anything about it, and just walks on out of the house. How ridiculous.

Whom are you going to listen to? Whom are you going to believe?


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