We closed last week with God's instructions about words that make people vain, from their own imaginations.
Who falls prey to being led of their own heart and imagination?
The Lord tells Jeremiah in 23:17 the kind of people who are susceptible to false words. By false words I mean in the context of this passage - people who are either being led by their own heart and emotions, or have mixed their emotions with what God is actually saying, resulting in error and poor decisions.
"They say to those who despise me....you will have peace, (they speak) to everyone who lives by the imagination of their own heart."
The Hebrew word 'naats' is here translated 'despise'. It first means 'to spurn' or 'turn away from'. So the Lord is teaching Jeremiah the people most susceptible to trusting their own imagination and thinking it is God, are those who have first turned away from the real thing God wants them to work on, or deal with. The most susceptible are those who have turned from the genuine because it is difficult, spurned it, in search of something easier, a better word.
In context, God was trying to get the people ready for the hardship coming on their nation, but they turned away from genuine words of impending doom in favor of words from 'prophets' that told them the nation wouldn't change.
Examples of people doing that
Last week I gave a hypothetical example of a person choosing between 2 apartments (flats), and choosing the one that appealed to their ego and soul rather than to their budget and need. What God was trying to get them to do was to get their life in order, get their finances disciplined and in order, and so on. But that would be the hard choice. So when they turned from that (spurned), they turned to confirmation from God based on the imagination of their own heart, and got a 'confirmation' of their own imagination.
Another example is the Christian living in difficult circumstances, with a hard life, desperately hoping the rapture will be at any moment. They search for videos and teachings that proclaim Jesus is coming say, in May. But another uses mathematics to calculate dates and says it will be this Passover, or maybe this Yom Kippur. They cling to the hope one of them will be right, to rescue them from this world. They may spiritualize it saying they just want to 'go home', but more often than not the truth is their life is and has been difficult. They don't want to grow up as they should, as Jesus is asking them to do within their circumstance.
I could describe marriages where the woman or man went into it with the thought God had said 'this was the one', only to realize the disastrous union was not put together by God. And they wonder; "Where did I miss it?"
They fell in love with each other's spirits perhaps, but were far apart in their souls. Yet because they had that witness of being on the same spiritual page, they thought God was telling them to get married. He wasn't, they just had a connection spiritually and took the relationship beyond what God intended. Attraction spirit to spirit is too often mistaken for love and the emotions it produces. Maintain the boundaries God intended.
I could describe less tragic life-events as well - like the choice between 2 jobs. One will truly be a job, a growth experience, entry level perhaps, but they feel the witness of God showing them this is what He intends and once hired, promotion will be quick . But the other offer is for more pay, nicer offices, bigger promises for advancement.
They take the 2nd job because the boss appealed to their ego, and their imagination latched onto that. The promises were greater, the office nicer. But within a year the company folded and they went through a difficult time wondering what God was doing - He wasn't doing anything because they had gone with their ego and imagination rather than the more difficult job He wanted them to take.
God didn't speak, yet they ran
In 23:18 the Lord asks, "Who marks (notices, makes note of) the Word of the Lord when it is given?" The Lord is searching for those who will know what He is actually doing in them, and grow in that.
There was a woman who traveled by air thousands of miles every 6 weeks for Bible seminars, staying a week in a hotel at great expense, plus the costs of each class which was nearly $400 each (x6 classes). She asked for advice about her husband who didn't know the Lord, and who was upset with her spending the money and being gone so often for so long. She also noted her teenage children weren't walking with the Lord and made fun of her. S,he wanted to know what spiritual key, what truth could I share with her, what word from the Lord might I have, so her family would get saved?
I told her to stop or at least cut back on leaving her family every 6 weeks for a week at a time, and go back and be the wife and mother God was asking her to be. She replied that she was bored, her life was boring, and in her classes God was showing her so much revelation. And besides, prophet so and so had said this and that about her. How could she be content with her boring life? She would not mark the word of the Lord because her ego, her vanity, her spirituality told her to keep having the spiritual fun and God would take care of her family. Wrong. She didn't mark God's words.
By contrast some years earlier
We had a woman in our church who was there every time the door opened, plus many volunteer hours in programs and general help. She too was praying for her husband and 2 children. She brought the children to church, but the husband wasn't interested. One day she confided that her husband told her he could not compete with God, though he resented all the time she spent at church.
I told her to stop all activities in the church except for Sunday morning, and spend all those other hours being a wife to her husband, a mother to her children. That was God's word for her. Within 3 weeks her husband walked through the door with her Sunday morning. He was born again and became a member of the worship team.
The key? The wife ignored her imagination and what she felt in the vanity of her spirituality. She laid aside her belief that her prayers and hard work around the church would move God to save her husband, and chose to go home and be that wife and mother God was actually asking her to be. She had marked the word of the Lord to her, and made a sound decision, which got her family saved.
The Lord told Jeremiah in 23:21: "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied."
That is the summary of the first part of Jeremiah 23 - people making decisions though God didn't send them, and saying God had said, or God was leading, though he was not doing so. They fell captive to the vanity of their hearts, their imagination, they ignored the true instructions the Lord had for them in favor of doing the easy thing.
Hundreds of years later Paul address some of this in the Corinthian church. In II Corinthians 11 he expresses fear for them because there were so called ministers preaching another Jesus, another gospel, and had another spirit. He told them while he was not impressive in speech nor appearance, what he shared was right and balanced. In v15-20 he says these people look like an angel of light in their presentation, they glory in the flesh (lifestyle of the rich and famous). He says they take advantage of them, take their money (enslave them), even insult them like a slap on the face, but the Corinthians still ran after them to catch the latest word they present - a different Jesus, a different gospel, a different spirit - but they accepted them all!
Does any of this sound familiar in our day? We will close out the series next week with more of what the Lord told Jeremiah...until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org