I closed last week talking about how Jeremiah was confronted by another so called prophet who gave prophecies for the nation that conflicted with Jeremiah's prophecies. His name was Hananiah, and he had mixed his emotions and his desire for the nation with anything the Lord might have actually been giving him, which caused error. We can do the same thing and miss God, thinking He is leading us when He is not.
Mistaking the human spirit and emotion for God's Spirit and direction
Jeremiah lived in a time when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon threatened to destroy the kingdom of Judah. Hananiah thought himself a prophet and gave personal prophecies and also spoke victory for the nation, that God would fight for Judah as in the days of old. In fact however, God was saying something else through the real prophet, Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was telling King Zedekiah the Lord was saying to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. He used a yoke as an example, to be yoked with Nebuchadnezzar, partner with him, so the nation would be spared total destruction. The confrontation between Hananiah and Jeremiah before the king is recorded in Jeremiah 28.
Unfortunately the king listened to Hananiah instead of Jeremiah and the city was soon destroyed, and men like Daniel, 'The 3 Hebrew children', and Ezekiel were taken captive to Babylon. In Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10 the Lord told Jeremiah the nation would be captive in Babylon for 70 years before being released to return to their homeland.
Jeremiah saw the fall of the city and nation and wrote Lamentations about the destruction of Jerusalem.
What the Lord taught Jeremiah about false words and direction
Before the confrontation of Jeremiah 28, the Lord had taught Jeremiah about how and why people prophesy wrong things, and what direction or a word from one's own heart looks like. The Lord was especially upset with 'pastors' who did such things. Some things never change! That instruction from the Lord is found in Jeremiah 23, which is what we will look at in some detail.
In that chapter the instruction is about personal prophecy, spiritual dreams, visions people believe to be from the Lord, and so it involves decisions made based on what people believe God is leading in those leadings.
1st element of a false personal prophecy: Vanity and ego
The Lord tells Jeremiah in v16 that the words they speak: "..make you vain. They speak a vision of their own heart."
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 14:3 that a prophecy is first and foremost a word from God to a person that builds them up, encourages them, or comforts them. "The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy" as Revelation 19:10 states, which means a personal word won't be about you, but will glorify Him and about Him.
False prophecies often happen if a person mixes their own emotions, their own religious beliefs including erroneous teaching they believe, or their own immaturity in Christ, or immaturity of age or emotion. That sets the stage for a prophecy or revelation that exalts them, how amazing they are, or maybe what a great ministry they will have, and so on. When it becomes about the person rather than Jesus, it is false.
I had a woman get quite angry with me when she gave me 21 pages of hand transcribed writing, using front and back of the pages, that some so 'prophet' had spoken over her. She said she wanted to know if it was God, or not. I read through it, and the first 5 sentences may have been the Lord. They were words of edification, exhortation and comfort in line with I Corinthians 14:3.
The rest was 20 pages of repeating those 3 sentences in different ways, and were all about how wonderful she was, what gifts she had, what a big ministry she would have, and so on. I told her the first 5 sentences may have been of God, but the rest were in the flesh. She got angry with me and I haven't heard from her since. I thought how her action clothed in humility, was actually driven by her pride thinking I would say 'yea and amen' to the prophet's words over her. Her offense proved the point. It was all about her and her ego and pride all along.
Look at the affect Peter, Paul and the rest of the authors of the NT have had through some 20 centuries. In the gospels do we ever see the Lord talking in flowery language about how great they were and what impact their lives would have? He told Peter he would be a fisher of men, told Paul he was called to Gentiles - but nothing describing 2000 year of impact and being authors of what became our New Testament.
If these men are so great yet had so little told them of God's plans for their lives and the affect of their lives through centuries, why do people today think the Father or Lord would speak a word by the prophet to them that tells them what mighty things they will do in the Lord? Ego. Vanity. Pride.
A side note here
Look at prophecies like Jesus gave in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, or personal words He gave to Peter stating how he would die. The prophecies are rather short in duration, concise, doesn't repeat itself. Another sign something is off base and a mix of emotion and imagination is if it is long and flowing. Our Father and our Lord are skillful enough with words to say what they want to say concisely and succinctly.
A vision of their own heart, proceeding from vanity
In Jeremiah 23:16 above the Lord tells Jeremiah false words, visions, imaginations not only make people vain, but they "speak a vision of their own heart."
Here is an example. Let's say a person is looking for an apartment to rent. They have 2 choices before them. One is near work and shopping, but is smaller and the view out the windows is of the parking lot. But it is within the budget and convenient. Logically, it is perfect. It fits where they are in life, needing an affordable place to get their life in order for a year or two.
The other one is further away from work and shops, larger, and the view overlooks a park with a nice pond in it. They can see themselves walking in the park. Meeting friends there. It is more expensive, but they believe with God's help they can afford it.
This 2nd choice appeals to the person's emotions, their personal tastes and desires, and they think because it 'fits' with their tastes and the kind of place they can be proud of and have friends over, 'it bears witness'. It fits their soul - their tastes, how they can see them having friends over, and they mistakenly think that good feeling inside their soul is God's peace saying go for it. They mistake their soul to be of their spirit. It is a vision of their own heart.
They choose the appealing apartment, telling themselves if bears witness and God is leading them. Within 6 months they are behind in their rent, the commute to work is wearing them down, and they are wondering what God had in mind when He led them there. It wasn't Him, it was their vanity, their mixing of emotions and personal likes in their own heart that caused them to make the wrong choice.
People do things like this all the time; With selecting spouses, jobs, homes, pets, children, cars, hobbies, churches, schools - anything in life. They make decisions of the soul and then have to suffer the consequences of their actions. They think because something or someone fits their style, what they would like or dislike, it must be the Lord. Sometimes it is, but often they decide based on vanity and comfort of the soul and a vision of their own heart, rather than making the more difficult decision, which would require growth as a person in Christ. My experience has been the more difficult decision is often the Lord, and the easy one is often not Him.
My, this is getting down to the nitty gritty of life isn't it? We are just getting started with what the Lord taught Jeremiah about mixing personal things with the Spirit of God and the error that results. We will pick it up here next week. Until then, blessings,