In Jeremiah 23, God confronts false prophets. We don’t know how many there were, but if 1 Kings 22 gives any clue, there were likely MANY more false ones than true ones.
I get the impression that false prophets always outnumber true ones (both from Scripture and experience). This includes (and maybe is even more prevalent?) at the present time.
In any case, the prevailing flaw of the false prophets of Jeremiah 23 was their insistence on something they called, “the burden of the LORD,” (23:33, 34, 36, 38).
In fact, God was so nauseated by this focus that He told Jeremiah that, when someone asks him for, “the burden of the LORD,” he is to tell them that they are God’s burden themselves, and will be cast off! (23:33)
What is the burden of the Lord?
In context, this “burden of the Lord,” seems to relate to inner feelings, “unctions,” etc. These are subjective, internal notions, as opposed to God’s objective, external, revealed word. In other words, they were fashioning their false prophecies and concepts of God based on what they felt within.
Thus, “they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD,” (Jer. 23:16), and, “the burden is every man’s own word,” (Jer. 23:36).
Unlike the false prophets, Jeremiah, “stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word,” (Jer. 23:18).
As a result, in contrast to deceptive inner thoughts and feelings, Jeremiah (like all true prophets) spoke according to God’s objective, external word, as the LORD revealed it to him.
In fact, God (through Jeremiah) imagined a day where his people would stop looking to internal feelings/senses, and instead look to God’s objective, revealed word (23:35-36).
What God is Saying to Us
Though Jeremiah was written roughly 500 years before Christ, it still is part of God’s, “living,” word (Heb. 4:12) that speaks to us today.
Consider, for instance, that Jesus could quote words God had spoken privately to Moses in 1500 B.C. as being words God was publicly speaking to the audience of Jesus’ day (Matt. 22:31-32), 1,500 years later.
And in the same way, are we willing to receive the true words of God from 2,500 years ago in Jeremiah 23 as words God is speaking to us today?
If so–if Jeremiah 23 is just as true today as it was then–then I believe we must grieve right now.
I say this because it seems there is a large emphasis on internal feelings, experiences, subjective understandings of things, etc., and such notions seem to dominate the discourse of the day. Even, God forbid, among the church!
Meanwhile, there seems so little emphasis on God’s objective, external, revealed word that all of our feelings, experiences, and thoughts must bow to.
I sincerely hope I’m reading things wrong. Either way, I plead with you to seriously consider with me what God is speaking to us through Jeremiah 23 (as well, of course, as the rest of Scripture–God’s external, objective, and revealed word for us).