Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Love Is Not A Burden

Jeremiah 23:23-40

“Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.  I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.” (Jeremiah 23:23-25)

The world pictures a god as some kind of being with some kind of magical powers who is so caught up in his own affairs that only notices man’s problems when they are brought to his attention, much like most political leaders.  In fact many political leaders throughout history have been cast as gods or demigods, isolating themselves from the people.   Unlike those political leaders, God is not off somewhere else worrying about his own affairs, He is right here, where He sees and is affected by what is happening.   In fact he knows every detail of every person’s life because he is omnipresent.   He knows what the prophets and preachers are saying who say they have dreamed a dream. 

“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 neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.” (Jeremiah 23:26-27)

How long do these prophets and preachers think they can get by with their lying?  They have been deceived themselves and now hope to cause people to forget who God is and what he expects by telling their dreams and imaginings as revelations from God, just as their ancestors replaced God with Baal.  II Corinthians 11:13-15 says , “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”  Satan deliberately passes himself off as God to deceive people, and it should not surprise anyone that his servants try to pass themselves off as messengers from God in their attempts to serve the devil. 

“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.  Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:28-29)

Throughout history Satan has gotten men to try to pervert God’s word and it is still true today.  Galatians 1:7 warns, “…there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”  Jeremiah says these speakers should be honest about what they say.  If they are just telling a dream. They should make sure people know it is just a dream, and may or may not have come from God.  If they are using the word of God, they should be sure they are interpreting it properly.   In Second Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul describes the attitude the preacher or prophet should have.  “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” 

The Word of God doesn’t need anything added to make it better.  It is powerful enough to accomplish its purpose like a fire or a hammer breaking up a rock.    Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Isaiah 55:11 declares, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” 

“Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.  Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.  Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:30-32)

God himself opposes every teacher that causes people to be confused or forget what He has commanded, replacing it with man’s teachings or traditions.  He is against every teacher or prophet that make up their own story and claim it came from god and everyone who proclaims his dreams to come from God and cause His people to go against what God has said, claiming to be from God when He did not send them.    Their teaching will not help the people, but will hurt them. 

“And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.  And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.  Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?  And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.  Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken? ” (Jeremiah 23:33-37)

Both the Old and New Testaments stress the idea of serving God because we love him rather than because we have too or to get something from him.  When we view service to him it becomes a drudgery rather than a pleasure.  When asked about the burden of serving the Lord they were to ask what burden.  When done out of love it isn’t a burden, but a joy.  God said he will punish those who make serving the Lord a burden.  Instead of talking about what God demanded, they were to focus on what God had said.  They were perverting the Lord’s word by setting their own standards and demands.  Their own teachings were what made it such a burden.  

In Luke 11:46, Jesus accused the Pharisee Law teachers, the lawyers, of that very thing.  “And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.”   Rather than a guideline for how we should treat God and other people they made the law a set of mechanical rules that had to be followed exactly to avoid punishment.   By comparison, Christ’s demands are easy to meet.  Matthew 11:29-30 says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

“But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD;  Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 23:38-40)

About three hundred years after Jeremiah gave this prophecy, Malachi said the same thing in Malachi 1:13.  “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.”  They said it was too much trouble to offer the sacrifices and obey God and were only half-heartedly doing what He asked.  Both times God warned that he was going to turn away from them, allowing them to be shamed for their sin.  He said something very similar to the Church in Ephesus, in Revelation 2:4-5. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.   Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”  When we are doing things because we have to, rather than because we love Him, we are no longer pleasing God.

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