JEREMIAH - CHAPTER 23 JUDGMENT OF SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP
JEREMIAH – CHAPTER 23
Judgment of Spiritual Leadership
The Branch of Righteousness
After the judgment of the kings and civil leaders, Jeremiah turns next to pastors and prophets. He approximates their contribution to national decline to be equal to that of kings. Their reluctance to speak truth, their reticence in speaking to authorities as well as the public, make them more responsible than the civil leaders.
Only the Spirit of God in Jeremiah could give him the courage to speak what God was saying in the face of the exact opposite of what the mainline prophets were saying. He was publicly rebuked by other prophets and was challenged to say he had made a mistake. Does that sound familiar? It seems that Habakkuk was the only prophet who came along side and affirmed His words. Habakkuk preached near the end of Zedekiah’s reign.
I am very much aware that I must stand in this Word as well as preach it.
Jeremiah was sent to expose the causes of national captivity.
23:1-4: Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture! Declares the LORD. Therefore, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people. Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done, declares the LORD. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing, declares the LORD. (NIV)
God is speaking! His words are not a threat. They are a promise. There would be no codling. There is no call for repentance. Pastors are offered no recourse. Because they didn’t “attend” his flock, He would “attend” to them. Pastors who have been chosen and ordained by Jesus, carry an anointing. They control who speaks in their pulpits, who is employed on their staff. They set the tone and attitude for the whole congregation. They release the freedom for praise and worship as well as freedom for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate. When we make mistakes, we are held accountable by God Himself. The people may leave because they don’t get their way, but it is the Pastors who must take responsibility and make the choice for feeding meat or milk to their flock, or perhaps an alternate diet of neither. The Lord who is now judging kings and civil leaders is the same Lord who will also bring judgment against His pastors as He did in Jeremiah’s day. I am very much aware of this and tremble before the Lord in all that I do, or don’t do.
This chapter brings to a close the polemic against the kings; but Jeremiah will continue with judgment of the prophets here and in Chapter 28.
Jeremiah interrupts his message of judgment on the failure of the current Davidic dynasty. Instead, God will raise up his own Davidic man to restore the nation.
Jeremiah 23: 5-6: Behold, the days come, says 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 earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (KJV).
In 2008, I preached one sermon on, “The Branch of Righteousness.” It was glorious to speak about.
The Righteous Branch: Vision of the Night given to Carolyn Sissom, April 1989:
“I was on a wooded mountainside near the top of the mountain in a tree with a view of a beautiful forest. I was facing a tree from which a gentle wind (not a storm) blew a BRANCH OF THE TREE many miles into a valley, never breaking from the tree. (The branch was stretched to an incredible length). The leaves of the branch were gold in color and gloriously beautiful with the Glory of God. The branch then returned in place.
Then I was on the ground watching the gentle wind blow through the trees. Out of the wind came the top of a cedar tree. It was shaped like a Christmas tree, but blue-violet in color. It was loaded with blue-violet pomegranates. I grabbed the tree and took it to a place where a banquet was being served to a large number of people. I spoke to the man-at-the-head of the table announcing to him that we should have a banquet of thanksgiving because of the cedar tree. He agreed and instructed me to open up this immense banquet room.
I believe the mountain is the Mountain of the Lord where there is fullness of blessing. Heb. 12:22: For you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.
The forest is usually metaphorical of people. Isaiah 7:2b: His heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
We know “The Righteous Branch” is our Lord Jesus Christ and His grafted-on branches is the gospel church. John 15:5: I am the vine, you are the branches; he that abides in me and I him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing. (KJV)
The branch parallels the Joseph principle of a fruitful bough.
Psalm 80:10: The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.
Psalm 80: 14-15: Return, we beseech you, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine. And the vineyard which you right hand has planted, and the branch you made strong for yourself.
Jeremiah was given a vision of the Restoration of the David dynasty under King Jesus. The righteousness of a New Testament King-Priest Ministry is revealed to Jeremiah by metaphor.
Isa. 11:1: There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears (KJV).
The rod is Jesus and the stem is David, and the Branch is the Body of Christ with Jesus as the vine and we are the grafted branches. The glorious branch of Isaiah 4:2 is Jesus and His glorious church of Ephesians 5:27: In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for they that are escaped of Israel. Eph. 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be Holy and without blemish (KJV).
The Davidic Covenant (11 Sam 7; 1 Chr. 17) has to do with ruler-ship, government and the Throne of God, which is the authority of God invested in the Name or the Nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Branch of the Lord is linked with the Seven Spirits of God.
The cedar tree in the vision given to me was Blue-Violet with Blue-Violet Pomegranates. This is the color of royalty…kingly anointing of Jesus. The royalty of the government of God. The Pomegranates represent the Fruit of righteousness… (The Branch of Righteousness) …fragrant, sweet savor of the Lord.
The whole earth shall be governed in righteousness by the Branch Man, and those seven spirits of God (the fullness of the anointing) shall rest upon Him, and upon His Body (The Overcomer). Rom 8:29: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (KJV). The Lord shall rule in the glory and order of the Kingdom. These seven spirits are living and not inanimate spirits.
11 Cor. 3:2-6: For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. Who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament not of the letter, but of the Spirit and the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (KJV)?
33: 15-16: In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell safely, and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness (KJV).
From Psalms to Revelation, this covenant of the Branch is repeated over and over.
This is because the Lord wants us to comprehend the height, depth, width and breadth of His Love and Provision for us.
Jeremiah 23:7-8: So then, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer say, as surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, but they will say, as surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of the countries where He had banished them, then they will live in their own land (NIV).
This covers four dispersions of the Jews:
1. Their return from Egypt.
2. Their exile to Babylon (the north), and their return under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra.
3. “Our of the countries” would refer to the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948 after twenty centuries of being decimated as a nation.
4. An eschatological dimension of fulfillment (Jer. 30: 7-10).
Jeremiah’s joyful litany of praise doesn’t last too long before the reality of the task at hand again surfaces.
23:9-10: Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words. The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the desert are withered. The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly (NIV).
Attention is now directed to the prophets and their liability for the national calamity. Jeremiah’s heart is broken. Where are the broken-hearted pastors and prophets today? Where is the sorrow and weeping for the sad state of affairs in our nation today? Sunday while I was preaching, a spirit of weeping came upon when I was preaching. As I think about it, it was not just this past Sunday, but for several Sundays now, tears have been falling from my eyes as I preach. This is the Holy Spirit weeping in me.
“The land is full of adulterers.” The land mourns and the high places continue to die of dehydration (no spiritual water) for “the course of life is evil” and the land and the high places have no hope without that awesome word, ‘REPENT.” No one goes to the high place to kneel and survey the soon-to-be ruins of what should have been a glorious people, but instead is a misled, misanthropic, mass of those running toward a hope that has no foundation” (Dr. C. R. Oliver).
Now the hammer falls:
23: 11-14: Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness, declares the LORD. Therefore, their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. I will bring disaster on them in the year they are punished. Among the prophets of Samaria, I saw this repulsive thing. They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. Among the prophets of Jerusalem, I have seen something horrible. They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me. The people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah (NIV).
Jeremiah stands in history before the captivity to Babylon. His was a nation preparing for captivity. The news on every side was bad news. Ezekiel, on the other hand, was on the “other side” of the captivity. He was able to see how Jeremiah was correct, and as he wrote Ezekiel 44, he addressed the casual issue of, “How did we wind up here?” He saw clearly the road to captivity was paved with the sin and error of religious leadership and their followers.
There are two groups of prophets:
1. Prophets to Israel’s ten tribes to the North that prophesied by Baal, not the LORD, and caused the people to be led astray.
2. Prophets in Judah who were corrupt and gave excuse to the wicked.
23:15-16: Therefore, this is what the LORD ALMIGHTY says concerning the prophets: I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem profaneness has spread throughout the land. Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you. They fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord (NIV).
Profaneness has spread throughout the land.
Profaneness: That which is not sacred or biblical; secular; disrespectful, irreverent.
Profaneness = debates on ordaining homosexuals with subsequent acquiescence. Pulpits silent on issues of personal and national sexual perversion. Political correctness, while the likes of Patrick Henry lie silent in history. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?’ y
The prophets claimed divine authority:
23:17: They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord has said, you shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, no evil shall come upon you. (KJV).
“They make you worthless.” The church is part of the problem creating the “woke” generation. “They create a creature who is socialized into submission and minimalized into sameness.” Heretic is the label for those who stand for righteousness and demand holiness.
These prophets have no first-hand commission or experience of that commission. Their lives do not produce the fruit of repentance which match the message and the source of his inspiration was himself and not God.
23:18-20: Who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, and has perceived and heard his word? Who has marked his word and heard it? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. (KJV)
Yes, we do understand it perfectly. We understand that the nation of Israel did to into captivity. Yes, we know that God changes not. God did carry out every detail of His judgment, and He will do so again. This promise for the latter days is real to us, for we live in it.
23: 21-22: I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message. I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. If they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds (NIV).
True prophets neither have a will of their own nor a message of their own. Thus, they must be sent. The Lord spoke to me on my first trip to Israel, “Carolyn, never come to Israel as a tourist. You are only to come as my minister and as I send you.”
If they had proclaimed God’s word, the people would have repented. The “back to God” message is the foundational calling of the prophets. We are sent often at the midnight hour to call the people “back to God.”
When there is a corruption of the word and message; when compared with the Lord’s word this leads to inevitable judgment for claiming falsely to be the bearer of God’s word.
23: 23-29: Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do not I fill heaven and earth, declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name, they say, I had a dream, I had a dream. (NIV) 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, s their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Says the Lord (KJV). Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
The Lord is not condemning dreams as one of the ways He communicates with prophets. He is condemning the heart of deception, manipulation and control.
Self-originated ideas are condemned. The false prophet is absent from God’s council. 1 Kings 22:19 describes this consultative assembly of the court of Heaven.
He said, hear you the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
This speaks of intimate conversation and fellowship. (Psa. 55:14) “We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”
These false prophets ran without being sent.
Spoke without having heard.
Prophesied by deceit.
Claimed divine authority
Prophesied words that were of no profit at all.<