Discerning the False Sound of Competing Voices










Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, is found in verses fourteen through thirty-one. I am convinced that in order to truly understand this particular portion of Scripture we must begin at the end before starting with verse fourteen. In the final two verses of this passage we read these words—“A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof” (Jeremiah 5:30-31). If there is one thing we must understand about the prophet Jereamiah, it’s that his very existence touches both the prophetic, as well as the priestly perspective, as Jeremiah was called and taken from the priests of Anathoth and ordained to be a prophet of the Lord unto the nations. One of the most unique realities surrounding the ministry of Jeremiah is that he was not only known as “the weeping prophet,” and not only was he essentially a prophet of judgment, but Jeremiah was also a prophet of the Lord in the midst of crooked priests and perverse prophets. A diligent and faithful study of the prophetic writing of Jeremiah will reveal that he did more than just contend with the backslidings of the house of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but he also had to deal with and contend the false prophetic movement that was so pervasive during those days. The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah was one that was set against and in direct opposition to the false prophetic movement that had arisen during that generation. In all reality, I would dare say that the false prophetic movement is never more pervasive and prevalent in the land than in the days leading up to judgment. In fact, I would most certainly say that one of the most opportune times for the adversary to raise up a false prophetic movement in the earth is in the days leading up to judgment. What’s more, is that there were essentially two distinct characteristics of the false prophetic movement that existed in his generation. The first was that the false prophetic movement prophesied only that which the house of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem wanted to hear. The second was that this false prophetic movement prophesied peace and prosperity in the midst of judgment and calamity. There stood Jeremiah as the antithesis to the prophetic movement that was alive and well during those days as he prophesied judgment, calamity, disaster, chaos and the like.

 The fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah concludes with the declaration that the prophets prophesied falsely—words which would be witnessed and found throughout the remaining portion of Jeremiah’s writing. If one wishes to truly understand the days of the prophet Jeremiah, one must understand that Jeremiah spent virtually his entire existence as prophet of the Lord proclaiming a message that was contrary to that which the prophets were proclaiming. Jeremiah’s message stood in stark contrast between the message(s) which were being proclaimed during that generation. In all reality, one of the greatest needs facing that generation was the need for discernment—discernment of the true voice, message and word of the Lord. What is the one safeguard in the midst of a generation saturated with a counter active and false prophetic movement? The answer to this question is found in the tenth chapter of the apostle’s John account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Beginning with the very first verse we find one of the single greatest answers—if not the greatest answer—to what is needed in such a generation. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; AND THE SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: FOR THEY KNOW HIS VOICE. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: FOR THEY KNOW NOT THE VOICE OF STRANGERS…Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own sheep are not, seeing the world coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and care the not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, AND THEY SHALL HEAR MY VOICE” (John 10:1-16).

 Please pay close attention to this passage of Scripture, for within we find the ultimate key to discernment in a generation that is saturated by a false prophetic movement. Jesus spoke of the sheep not only hearing the voice, but knowing the voice. Oh that we would recognize—not only the direct connection between the two, but also the clear distinction between the two. There is a fundamental connection between hearing and knowing the voice of the Shepherd, for both are absolutely necessary and required of us in this generation. The distinction and difference between hearing and knowing the voice of the Shepherd is that hearing simply is not enough. It is not enough merely to hear the voice of the Shepherd, for we must also know the voice of the Shepherd. I am convinced that knowing the voice of the Shepherd is the prerequistie for hearing the voice of the Shepherd, for how can you hear the voice of the shepherd unless you first know the voice of the shepherd. Unless you know the voice of the Shepherd—know it intimately, know it deeply, know it personally—the voice of the shepherd will be nothing more than just another voice in the midst of a generation of voices. DISCERNING THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD IN A GENERATION OF VOICES! KNOWING THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD IN A CULTURE OF COMPETING VOICES! Oh dear brother, dear sister—do you truly recognize and understand the competition that exists between the many voices in this generation? Do you understand that voices are not only audible in our ears, but voices can also be heard through our eyes and within our minds? One need only look at Times Square and the countless signs, billboards, lights, and the like, in order to understand the powerful competition that exists between voices in this generation. Turn on your television, and do so for no more than ten minutes and you will be completely saturated with competing voices as different companies are in competition with each other—competition for your attention, competition for your affection, and most importantly, competition for your finances, your income, your wallet, your purse and your money. Every competing voice within this generation desires something, and there are oftentimes multiple voices that desire the same thing within and the same thing from us. DISCERNING THE COMPETING VOICES! SILENCING THE COMPETING VOICES!

 Do you know that there are even churches, denominations, ministries and organizations that are competing with each other? One of the most fundamental realities one must understand and recognize when attempting to find a body to call home is finding that place where the voice of the Shepherd is present. Oh, there are many churches scattered across this great nation of ours, yet in how many of those churches is the voice of the Shepherd truly found? There are countless ministries saturating radio, saturating television, saturating podcasts, saturating blogs, saturating media outlets, saturating bookstores, yet how many of those avenues truly contain the voice of the Shepherd. There are countless organizations scattered throughout this great land, yet how many of those organizations are truly home to the voice of the Shepherd? DISCERNING THE VOICE OF STRANGERS! What we must deduce from this particular passage of Scripture found within the New Testament gospel of John is the clear distinction between the voice of the Shepherd and the voice of the stranger. Within this passage Jesus clearly demonstrates and reveals the presence of two distinct voices—the voice(s) of stranger(s) and the voice of the Shepherd. Please don’t miss the significance of the use of the letter “S” when speaking of both “voice” and even “stranger.” The use of “S” is actually quite powerful and quite necessary, for while there are many voices, there is only one true voice. While there are many, while there are countless strangers, there is only one Shepherd. HEARING THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD AMIDST THE VOICES OF STRANGERS! DISCERNING THE PRESENCE OF THE SHEPHERD IN THE MIDST OF STRANGERS! STRANGERS AND COMPETING VOICES! While there are multiple voices in the midst of this generation, there is only one voice we need listen for. While there most certainly countless transfers in the midst of this generation, there is indeed and in fact only one Shepherd. When I read the words of the prophet of Jeremiah, I can’t help but see this reality played out in the Old Testament as Jeremiah represented the singular voice that not only needed to be discerned, but also heard and listened to. STANDING AS PROPHET OF THE LORD IN A SEA OF STRANGERS! SERVING AS THE PROPHET OF GOD IN A WORLD OF STRANGERS! Jeremiah was indeed the prophet of the Lord who stood alone in the midst of the competing voices of strangers. WHEN PROPHETS STAND ALONE IN THE MIDST OF THE COMPETING VOICES OF STRANGERS!

It’s worth noting that Jeremiah didn’t merely contend with a single prophet or stranger in the midst of his generation—although there are specific accounts of those individuals who stood to oppose Jeremiah more vehemently and blatantly. Jeremiah contended with an overwhelming number of strangers in his generation—strangers which not only served and stood in the courts of the Lord, but strangers who also screamed and spoke in the streets. WHEN STRANGERS STAND AND SERVE IN THE COURTS OF THE LORD! WHEN STRANGERS SCREAM AND SPEAK IN THE STREETS. The fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah concludes with this reality revealed to us—the reality that strangers not only stood and served in the courts of the Lord (the priests), but strangers also screamed and spoke in the streets (the prophets). We dare not, we cannot, we must not consider that the voice and sound of strangers is only present, and can only be heard outside the courts of the Lord. In Jeremiah’s generation, the sound and voice of strangers was not only found in the courts of the Lord—the Temple of the Lord—but the voice and sound of strangers was found in the streets and squares. The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah is quite remarkable, for he stood alone in the midst of a sea of competing voices—voices that would even compete with and steal from each other. DISCERNING THE FALSE SOUND OF COMPETING VOICES! DISCERNING THE FALSE SOUND OF THE VOICE OF STRANGERS! Jeremiah’s generation is and should be of great concern to us, for the prophetic voice, the prophetic word, the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah was set against the backdrop of the competing voices of strangers, as undoubtedly men and women seem to gravitate to the voice of strangers more than the voice of the prophet. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul as recorded in his second letter to his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy—“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In the days of Jeremiah it was false prophets and corrupt priests, while in the days of the apostles it was false teachers, false prophets, false apostles, and even false Messiahs. THE COMPETING SOUND OF FALSE PROPHETS! THE COMPETING SOUND OF FALSE TEACHERS! THE COMPETING SOUND OF FALSE APOSTLES!

I am convinced there is one singular truth—one singular reality—we must adhere to when considering the fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah. That truth is simply that we are being called back to divine word of God. We are being called back to the word of God which “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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” (Hebrew 4:12). I’m also reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in the second epistle to his spiritual son Timothy—“All S rupture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 4:16-17). The surest safeguard and defense in this generation—in this generation of competing voices—is to spend time in and spend time with the Word. Even more than this, we must not merely interact with the Word of God in terms of reading, studying, spending time with, and spending time in it. There is a lot of talk and conversation regarding spending time “in” the Word of God, yet there is very little talk about the word of God getting “in” you. One can spend countless hours “in the word of God,” yet that same individual can live their life absent the Word of God getting “in” them. Consider the words of the psalmist in the longest chapter—not only in the book of the Psalms, but in all of Scripture. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Please don’t miss the significance and importance of these words, for the psalmist didn’t merely speak of hiding himself in the word of God, but of hiding the word of God within him. Oh beloved, there is a vast difference between hiding yourself in the word of God and hiding the word of God in you. There are countless men and women who hide themselves “in” the word of God, and who do so as a means of escape, and even isolating themselves. There are men and women who spend countless hours “hiding themselves in the word of God”—reading, studying and directing the Word of God—yet they spend absolutely no time hiding the word of God within themselves. Notice the psalmist didn’t say of the Lord “thy word have you hidden in my heart,” but rather “thy word have I hidden in my heart.” Notice the responsibility of hiding the word of God within one’s heart! The responsibility of hiding the word of God within one’s heart does not, has never and will never fallen on the Lord Himself. The Lord will never hide His word within your heart, for that is your responsibility, and your responsibility alone. The psalmist didn’t place the responsibility for hiding the word of God within his heart, nor did he place the blame on the Lord if the word of God was somehow not hidden in his heart.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HIDDEN WORD! Do you understand the significance, the importance, the necessity of the hidden word of God. What are you doing to ensure that the word of God is hidden within your heart? The psalmist proclaimed and declared concerning the word of God that they themselves hid it within their own heart. Notice the purpose for hiding the word of God within one’s heart—“that I might not sin against thee.” Notice in this passage that there is not only the responsibility of hiding the word of God within our heart, but also the responsibility of not sinning against the Lord. What’s more, is that this verse seems to suggest that attempting to not sin against the Lord is impossible without first hiding His word within his heart. How many men and women attempt to cease sinning against the Lord without first taking the time to hide the word of God within their heart? Remember the words which Jesus spoke concerning the heart? “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:16-20). Do not attempt to change or alter you speech without first attempting to change the condition of your heart, and do not attempt to change the condition of your heart without accepting and assuming the responsibility of hiding the word of God within your heart. Oh that we would not only understand, but would also accept the responsibility of hiding the word of God within our hearts, for it is only in proportion to the word of God being hidden in our heart that we cease sinning against the Lord. If you want to alter your habit(s) and pattern(s) of sinning against the Lord, you must diligently seek and strive to hide the word of God within your heart. The more you fill up and consume your heart with the word of God, the less likely you will be able to sin. The more of your heart that is exposed and open because of the absence of the word of God, the more susceptible you are to sin against the Lord. The psalmist declared that they hid the word of God within their heart that they might not sin against the Lord. In other words, they didn’t declare that they would not sin, but that they wanted to decrease the likeliness and susceptibility to sin against the Lord. Only to the degree you are willing to hide the word of God within your heart will you be able to keep yourself from sinning.

Please don’t miss the extreme importance of the fact that there was not only the responsibility to hide the word of God within one’s heart, but there was also the responsibility of not sinning against the Lord. The psalmist neither declared the Lord would hide His word within their heart, nor that the Lord would keep them from sinning. Hiding the word of God within our heart and abstaining from sinning against the Lord are both a responsibility which we bear within our own hearts and lives. The house of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were guilty of great sin before the Lord because they had neglected, and abandoned the word of God which was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. It was precisely because they did not hide the word of the Lord within their hearts that they forsook the Lord and served strange gods within their land. It was precisely because they did not hide the word of the Lord within their hearts that they had both a revolting and rebellious heart, and had revolted and gone. In that generation there were wicked men who lie wait to set a trap and catch men. Their houses were full of deceit, and they had become great and waxen rich, not realizing that they were wicked. “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so.” What is the greater tragedy—that the prophets prophesied falsely and the priests bore rule by their means, or that the people loved to have it so? WHEN SHEEP PREFER THE SOUND OF STRANGERS! WHEN SHEEP PREFER THE VOICE OF STRANGERS! Those in Jeremiah’s generation would have rather, and preferred the voice, the noise and the sound of strangers rather than the true word of the Lord and the divine word of God found within His Law. Let us pay attention to this passage and have ears to hear what the Spirit is speaking to us. Oh that we would hide the word of God within our heart and that we would listen for and know the voice of the Shepherd within our hearts and lives.

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