The great prophet of the Old Testament, Jeremiah, known as “the weeping prophet”, spent his preaching years trying to convince the people of God of the great need to simply follow in the Lord’s way. They often failed to do so because of having wicked kings and compromising spiritual leaders, but ultimately they failed because they chose wrong over right. Every generation of God’s people from that time until now has faced the same choice. What was happening during the days of Jeremiah can be characterized through a warning given by him. Jeremiah wrote: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless. They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16). Exactly what was happening?
Though some twenty-five centuries or more have passed since Jeremiah wrote these words to the people of God these words are just alive and practical today. What was happening in Jeremiah’s time is what is happening more and more within the Lord’s church and it is that preachers and teachers are speaking their own words and not the Word of the Lord, and as this is happening more and more the hearers are becoming acclimated to that form of human doctrine. Examples of this can be seen as some congregations are beginning to incorporate a form of entertainment into their worship services. The entertainment may come by having a small group sing to the congregation, drama groups during worship, and even the preacher may preach as if he were a guest “Saturday Night Live” instead of imitating Peter, Paul, or Philip as they preached the Word of God. Some are incorporating women into leadership roles within the worship service, from serving at the Lord’s Table to even preaching with men present. In some cases the Lord’s Supper is no longer just the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine as Jesus established (Matthew 26:26-28), but other foods have been to the Lord’s Supper. At other times it is not simply a memorial unto Jesus and partaken in remembrance of him (Luke 22: 19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), but is more like a tail gate party on a football stadium parking lot. What is sometimes taking place in congregations of the Lord’s church today is the application of the principle that Jeremiah wrote about, “They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16).
There is becoming an increased knowledge of the doctrines of men rather than the Word of God. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “Preach the word…” (2 Timothy 4:2), it is the same preaching and teaching of the Word of God that Jeremiah called for centuries earlier, and what is needed in the twenty-first century also. In some places preachers and song leaders and others are acting like stand up comedians when what is need is the Word of God. Jeremiah also wrote: “Oh Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The challenge for our time is as it was in Jeremiah’s, and that is to simply walk in the Way of the Lord.
by Wayne Brewer