Jeremiah 23:9-15 continues Jeremiah’s confrontation of the misuse of God’s name by religious leaders of his day. Jeremiah condemns those who claim to prophesy for God, yet speak words that lead others astray, words aimed at putting up the so-called prophets into comfort and ease.
This is not new, is it? We see today people who claim to speak as prophets of God in the world, in order to make a quick buck or get power. Just recently national news covered a preacher claiming God wanted him to have a private jet, who sought to use the name of God to manipulate others to give sacrificially from their want and need for him to have this one. Growing up there was a time my family attended a church where a leader did something similar, and I have seen firsthand the way the abuse and misuse of God’s name can be used to hurt the struggling to get by, to fleece God’s sheep.
Not too long ago one prominent preacher claimed God would strike him dead if he did not get so much raised from his supporters, only to have neither happen.
And in our day, many claim to speak for God proclaiming that because of others finally having their human rights recognized – such as people who identify as GLBT, racial minorities, or from other faiths and cultures – that the gauntlet of judgment will fall. They loudly use God’s name to justify mistreatment and prejudice.
Is it any wonder that Jeremiah becomes sick at this sight, reeling as if drunk at the sight?
I think Jeremiah’s words have value. When you have been apart of such spiritual abuse, you can learn to silence that voice within that says “this is not right, this is not holy, this hurts”, having heard “just believe”. You may have learned to silence that voice within, as if it is a temptation to evil. You may have feared your doubts and questions.
Yet Jeremiah identifies this disgust that makes him real with God’s Spirit speaking in his heart. Jeremiah’s disgust at the abuse of religion and God’s name is from God. His questions and doubts about these claiming to speak for God is God’s voice and word. This suggest to us that we need to realize that our own inner sense of doubting, questioning, resisting, and even feeling disgusted by the misuse of religion to use, abuse, and mistreat others is a gift of God. It can be God’s voice calling us to deliverance or salvation; or calling us to speak up.
God is not the One behind injustice. God does not co-sign onto the ripping off of people to buy fancy mansions or private jets. God is not blackmailing us for our money. And God does not call forth hate or discrimination.
Listening to the voice of truth deep within. And like Jeremiah, don’t go along with those misusing God’s name. Don’t feel bad to leave their abuse and mistreatment behind. And feel free to speak out against them and their mistreatment of others. It may be the holiest thing you can ever do.