Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, is found in the twenty-first chapter of the book. What we find when we read this passage of Scripture is something that is not uncommon in most Christian circles in this generation. When we begin reading this passage of Scripture, we find the word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah, yet the word came in response to something very specific taking place. In the first verse we read “The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest” (Jeremiah 21:1). This chapter opens with the king of Judah—Zedekiah—sending two specific individuals unto Jeremiah to inquire of him concerning that which the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah faced. In the previous chapter we find Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was chief governor in the house of the Lord hearing Jeremiah speaking the word of the Lord in the midst of the land. This same Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and then put him in the stocks which were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord. I have to pause for a moment right here and point something out that is absolutely astounding. It is safe to say that the prophet Jeremiah represents both the word of God and the word of the Lord being spoken and manifested in the land. When the twentieth chapter opens we find Pashur not only smiting [striking] Jeremiah, but we also find him putting him in the stocks which were in the high gate of Benjamin, WHICH WAS BY THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! Please don’t miss the significance and importance of what is being stated here, for the word of the Lord was first struck, and then bound in the stocks which were by the house of the Lord. Notice how close the word of the Lord was to the house of the Lord, yet the word of the Lord wasn’t permitted to enter into it. Consider how close the word of the Lord was to the house of the Lord, yet that word was kept in stocks near the house of the Lord. I wonder how many churches can be described using this very same reality—they not only strike the word of the Lord, but they also make every attempt to keep it bound outside the house of the Lord. Pashur the son of Immer not only struck Jeremiah because of the word(s) which he had spoken, but he also secured Jeremiah in the stocks which were in the high gate of Benjamin. I can’t help but wonder if Jeremiah could see the house of the Lord from where he was bound. I can’t help but wonder if the place where the prophet was bound was also the place where the prophet could see the house of the Lord. Jeremiah was put in the stocks which were in the high gate of Benjamin—put in stocks in a place which was by the house of the Lord. I can’t help but find this to be incredibly significant, for Pashur struck the word of the Lord outside the house of the Lord, and then prevented the word of the Lord from entering into the house of the Lord. Pashur secured Jeremiah in the stocks outside the house of the Lord, for Pashur was trying to control that which was proclaimed and spoken in the house of the Lord. I wonder how many men and women in this generation are just like Pashur, for they do everything in their power and strength to prevent the word of the Lord from entering the house of the Lord. What’s more, is that I would dare say that Pashur took no offense and had no issue with those prophets who prophesied smooth and easy things in the hearing of the people. What Pashur had a difficult time with was when that word seemed to contradict their way of life, and seemed to contradict and go against the grain of everything they believed. Jeremiah didn’t prophesy smooth and easy things in the hearing of the people, for Jeremiah saw something coming that would dramatically shake the entire kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began with a word of warning, a word of caution, a word of repentance, and a call to return to the Lord, yet very quickly you will notice that that message transitioned and shifted from caution and warning to judgment and devastation. Eventually Jeremiah was instructed to transition his message from calling the people to repent, to warning the people of impending judgment, destruction and devastation. Eventually Jeremiah reached the place where that which he saw was no longer over the horizon, but was actually approaching the very wall and gates of the city. Jeremiah watched and witnessed as the judgment of the Lord was no longer a distant reality, but was actually quickly approaching. Jeremiah saw the adversary and enemy outside the walls and gates of the city, and saw the city of Jerusalem falling before and falling into the hands of the adversary. In the twentieth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah we find Pashur striking Jeremiah and putting him in the stocks as some form of punishment against him for prophesying according to the word of the Lord. Pashur smote Jeremiah and put him in the stocks which were in the high gate in an attempt to silence the word which he spoke. Undoubtedly, Pashur thought and believed within his own heart and mind that if he struck Jeremiah, and then put him in stocks, the word of the Lord would cease, and Jeremiah would alter his message.
When you come to the twenty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, you will find Jeremiah not speaking of an invasion from the north as somewhat of a possibility, but as an absolute certainty. After an extensive period of time where he warned Jerusalem and Judah of the threat and danger that would come as a result of their rebellion, transgression and iniquity, they had finally reached the point where this danger could no longer be averted. The city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah had spent a considerable amount of time neglecting, ignoring, rejecting and despising the word of the Lord which flowed through Jeremiah, and now the time had come when that word would spring forth within their midst. The twenty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah opens up with Zedekiah king of Judah sending Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Masseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah to inquire of him. It must be noted that Zedekiah sent these two individual into the presence of Jeremiah—not because there was a sincerity within his heart toward the Lord. This Zedekiah would be the same king who we would later read would take a pen knife to the words which Baruch, scribe of Jeremiah brought unto him, and casting them into the fire. If there is one thing the prophetic book of Jeremiah reveals concerning Zedekiah—and quite possible concerning all of Jerusalem and Judah—it’s that there was very little regard for the word of the Lord. Jeremiah had spent years rising early and proclaiming the word of the Lord to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, yet they closed their ears and hardened their hearts toward the word of the Lord. What we read within this passage is not a true, authentic and genuine turn to the word of the Lord, or even to the Lord Himself. If you read this passage, you will undoubtedly uncover the truth that the only reason Zedekiah sent these two to Jeremiah was because the enemy and adversary was no longer over the horizon, but was actually outside the walls and at the gate. WHEN THE ADVERSARY MOVES FROM THE HORIZON TO THE WALLS! WHEN THE ADVERSARY MOVES FROM THE HORIZON TO THE GATES! Notice if you will the words which Zedekiah sent these two men to speak in the hearing of Jeremiah—“Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all His wondrous works, that he may go up from us” (Jeremiah 21:2).
If there is one thing we must recognize and understand about this particular verse, it’s that Zedekiah did not send these men because he was genuine in his desire and pursuit of the word of the Lord. Notice that Zedekiah sent these two men unto Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord FOR THEM, which is actually quite interesting when you think about it. Zedekiah was one who showed absolutely no regard for the word of the Lord, nor had he responded to the word when Jeremiah had previously prophesied in the midst of Jerusalem. Now, when the enemy was outside the walls and at the gates, Zedekiah sent to inquire of the Lord through His servant, the prophet Jeremiah. Isn’t it amazing how we seem to completely disregard the word and presence of the Lord until the enemy is outside the walls of our lives? Isn’t it interesting that we seem to completely disregard and show absolutely no concern for the word of the Lord until the enemy is at the gates of our home, or at the gates of our lives, or at the gates of our marriage, or at the gates of our place of employment, at the gates of our churches, and the like? We are content despising, neglecting, rejecting and ignoring the word of the Lord while the enemy and adversary is just over the horizon, for we either believe we have a space of time to live as we choose, and then at the last moment, we will repent before the Lord and turn our hearts back toward Him. We are content ignoring the word of the Lord while the adversary is over the horizon for we may not even believe the report the adversary can move beyond the horizon and make its way outside the walls and before the gates. There is not a doubt in my mind that Zedekiah—and perhaps much, if not all of Jerusalem—believed the threat of an invasion from the north was nothing more than the ramblings of a mad prophet from Anathoth. What’s more, is that during these days Jeremiah’s wasn’t the only voice that was speaking in their hearing and in their presence. If you ready and study the book of Jeremiah, you will find that there were several “prophetic” voices that rose up during that time which declared that peace, safety and security would be experienced in their midst. There was a large “prophetic” voice that was present in that generation. That worked completely contrary to that which Jeremiah spoke in their midst. In essence, that generation lived in a place of conflicting and competing voices, as the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah found themselves caught between the true word of the. Lord, and the vain imaginations and inspirations of self-proclaimed “prophets.”
ARE YOU WILLING TO TURN DOWN THE NOISE? ARE YOU WILLING TO SILENCE EVERY VOICE IN YOUR LIFE BUT THE VOICE OF THE LORD? ARE YOU WILLING TO RISE UP AND DISCERN THE TRUE VOICE OF THE LORD FROM THE FALSE PROCLAMATIONS OF SELF-PROCLAIMED MAD-MEN? The more I read this particular passage of Scripture—and quite honestly, the entire prophetic book of Jeremiah—the more I find myself being confronted with the tremendous need within our hearts and lives to discern the true word and voice of the Lord. What we read concerning Jeremiah’s generation is and was not exclusive to that generation alone, for we are living in a generation of competing and conflicting voices. We are right now living in the midst of a generation of competing and conflicting voices as there is absolutely no shortage of voices that have been raised up among us in our midst. You need not look very far to see the overwhelming number of voices that are present all around us and within our midst. In this technological age there isn’t just one mean to encounter the various voices that are present all around us. The internet is such an incredibly powerful tool, and one that is being used by countless individuals to spread the message(s) they are proclaiming in this generation. In a generation of podcasts, YouTube channels, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, and the like, it is clear to see that the words and voices of a number of individuals are not only readily accessible, but are also in abundance. Consider how easy it us to download iTunes, set up an account, and then immediately go to the podcasts section and search for any voice, word or message you desire to listen to. Consider how even in this generation you can sample the various words and messages of ministers and preachers—sampling in order to see if theirs is one that you are willing to accept and include within your life. What’s more, is that there is even a chart system within iTunes revealing which podcasts are ranked and rated the highest in this generation. iTunes has a system in place that will actually show you what men and women are listening to, and what men and women want to listen to in this generation. One of the single greatest realities this system reveals is that it is not only incredibly easy to sample the different voices within our generation, but also what men and women in our generation are choosing to listen to.
SAMPLING THE VOICES OF A GENERATION! SUBSCRIBING TO THE VOICES OF A GENERATION! While I have never even looked at iTunes or the Podcast section like this before, I have to admit that I am completely and totally gripped this concept. I can’t escape the concept that iTunes has made it possible to sample the different voices and messages spoken by those within our generation. Consider how incredibly easy it is to sample the voice, the word(s) and message(s) of all those who are listed on the charts within iTunes and how easy it is to stop the podcast if we don’t like what we are hearing. SAMPLING THE VOICES! STOPPING THE MESSAGE! SUBSCRIBING TO THE VOICE! The more I pause and consider this reality, the more I can’t help but be completely gripped by this entire system that has been developed in our generation. iTunes has not only made it possible to sample the different voices and messages of this generation, but it has also made it possible to stop and turn off any voice or message we have no desire to listen to. iTunes has made it incredibly easy to shut off and stop that podcast, or those podcasts we aren’t willing, and perhaps even have no desire to hear or listen to. We have the ultimate ability to sample the different words and messages of preachers and ministers across the globe, and if we don’t like what they are preaching, we need only hit a button and the preaching stops, the teaching stops. iTunes has made it easy to sample the words and voices of this generation, but also to stop the voices and messages if we are unwilling to hear or listen to them. Now, I have to admit that I have an iTunes account, and I have listened to a number of podcasts throughout the years. I have found myself scouring the charts in the “Religion & Spirituality” section of the podcasts in search of different voices, words and messages of individuals. I have found myself examining this “chart system” which has been developed by iTunes—a system which not only reveals what men and women are listening to in this generation, but what men and women want to hear and listen to. If there is one thing this chart system reveals, it’s what men and women in this generation want to listen to, and the type of word(s) and message(s) they gravitate toward. The charts section of the podcasts portions of iTunes—while it is not the only gauge—is nonetheless a powerful gauge into what men and women in our generation are gravitating toward, and what they desire to listen to.
I feel the need to pause at this moment and declare that just because a particular voice, or a particular ministry is ranked and rated at the top of the charts, or even among the top five, or top ten, or even top twenty-five, that doesn’t mean it’s a voice or ministry we should give ourselves to. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women determine what voices and what messages they will listen to simply because of their rank and rating on the iTunes podcast chart. How far have we come that we actually make our decisions concerning who we listen to based on a ranking system in the podcast section of the iTunes Charts? We allow the charts in this section of iTunes to determine which voices and which messages we listen to, and conclude within ourselves that if they are at this particular place among the rankings, then they must be worth listening to. I must pause for a moment right now and declare that just because a voice or ministry is popular among the charts doesn’t mean it’s popular in heaven. To illustrate this point even further, I feel the need to convey the words of Jesus which are recorded in His famous Sermon on the Mount. “Exeter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth uinto life, and few there be that find it. Beward of false prophets, w high come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thrown stones, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23). LORD, LORD, WASN’T I AT THE TOP OF THE ITUNES CHARTS? LORD, LORD, WEREN’T THEIR THOUSANDS, IF NOT MILLIONS WHO LISTENED TO MY MESSAGE? LORD, LORD, WEREN’T THERE COUNTLESS THOUSANDS, IF NOT MILLIONS WHO SUBSCRIBED TO MY PODCAST, OR PURCHASED MY BOOKS, OR BOUGHT MY MATERIALS?
I hear within my spirit right now a very pointed and powerful question that is being asked of countless men and women in this generation—Why are you allowing a rating system developed by men to determine what voice you should allow yourself to listen to? Why are you allowing charts developed by men to determine what word(s) and message(s) are permitted to speak into your life? Why are you basing your decision on what you see on the screen of your iPhone, or the screen of your iPad, or the screen of your iMac or MacBook? Why are you allowing the ratings of men to determine the quality of the voice which could and should speak into your life? One of the most interesting realities concerning podcasts in the iTunes section is that this rating system can actually be used by those who choose to search and listen for podcasts, but it can also be used by those who themselves are at the center of those rankings. I can’t help but wonder how many ministers and preachers look at the iTunes chart and see where they are ranked among others. How many ministers and preachers allow themselves to get caught up in this chart and ranking system, and even allow it to determine their own opinion of success. In other words, ministers and preachers conclude that because they are ranked among the top five, or the top ten, or even the top twenty-five or fifty in the charts, their ministry and message must be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord. Such ministers conclude that because their podcast is among the tops on the charts, they must be successful in the eyes of the Lord. THERE IS NO PODCAST RATING SYSTEM IN HEAVEN! GOD DOESN’T SUBSCRIBE TO PODCASTS! THERE WILL BE NO IPHONES, IPADS, IMCAS OR MACBOOKS IN HEAVEN! POPULARITY ON EARTH DOESN’T. AUTOMATICALLY EQUATE TO POPULARITY IN HEAVEN! It is possible to be known, and perhaps even well-known in earth, and yet heaven neither knows your name, nor your message. Just because your message or ministry is among the top on the iTunes podcast charts doesn’t mean that the Lord approves of, and/or has even anointed your ministry or message. What this chart system reveals is that men and women in this generation gravitate toward, and what types of message and ministries they desire to listen to. I really can’t escape the thought of how men and women allow ranks and ratings to determine what they listen to, and what voices are permitted to speak into their hearts and lives. What’s more, is that we are living in a generation where we can take these voices and messages with us on the go as we need do nothing more than select the podcast, select the message, plug the headphones into our ears, and hit play. We don’t even need to limit this to the comfort and convenience of our home(s), for we can bring these voices and messages with us on the go.
SUBSCRIBE OR STOP! These words might not seem like they have any significance whatsoever—especially in this generation, and in light of this passage in the prophetic book of Jeremiah—however, I would strongly suggest otherwise. I have written concerning how easy it is to sample the various voices of this generation simply by selecting a podcast from the list and pressing play. [JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN PRESS PLAY DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD! JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN PRESS PLAY DOESN’T MEAN YOU NEED TO]. As I began looking over the Podcast section of iTunes I couldn’t help but notice several things that struck me as highly unusual—things which I have viewed and seen before, yet never looked at in this light. If you view the podcast section of iTunes you will notice that if you want to get to the podcasts of preachers and ministers in this generation, you need to go to the “Religion and Spirituality” section. It’s worth noting and pointing out that iTunes doesn’t even distinguish or differentiate between Christian podcasts and religious podcasts, for they are all under one central label–“Religion and Spirituality.” In other words, we see before us the combination of all religious podcasts—regardless and despite whether or not they are Christian in nature or not. iTunes provides absolutely no information concerning which ministries and which speaker is Christian and which is not. In other words, within the top charts, all religious podcasts are joined together and then systematically arranged based on ranking. This is quite interesting, for it reveals the possibility that podcasts from other religions might find themselves present among Christian podcasts, thus providing a tremendous danger for any who would choose to review this section of iTunes. What’s more, is that if you view the charts section of the podcasts, you will first notice the name of the podcast, with the overall ranking to the left of the podcast picture, and even a star system which reveals how many stars that particular podcast has received. That star system isn’t understood until you open the actual podcast itself, for you will quickly discover that that star system is actually the “review” section, which allows men and women to “rate” and “review” the podcast itself. This is another tremendous danger, for men and women can not only get caught up on the number that particular podcast holds in the rankings, but men and women can also get caught up in the reviews others have given that particular podcast. I feel the tremendous need to pause for a moment right here and declare that rankings and reviews here on earth mean absolutely nothing in heaven, for more often than not heaven’s ranking and review doesn’t align, and isn’t in alignment with that of the earth.
When you select a podcast from the charts, you will first notice the overall rank of the Podcast, the name of the podcast, and then the number of stars that podcast has received, as is determined not only be the number of reviews, but also the actual review itself. When you open the podcast you will see the list of all the different messages and podcasts within that particular podcast, as well as other key elements. When you select on a particular podcast, you will notice a description section, a review section, and even a related section. What’s more, is that there are three other key features that are located in this particular section of the podcast—“download,” “subscribe,” and “share.” At the top right hand corner of your screen you will see a small square with an arrow coming out of it, which allows you to share the podcast with others. Directly to the right of the picture associated with the podcasts, you will see the “subscribe” button, which enables you to subscribe to all the previous material associated with that podcast, as well as any and all new material pushed from that podcast. You will also notice a cloud with a downward arrow proceeding from it which allows users to download a given podcast to their device. While on the surface these might not seem significant to you, they present us with a very powerful truth concerning the voices and messages we allow ourselves to listen to in this generation. Not only can we base our decision on who and what we listen to based on a rating and review, but we can also choose to “share,” “subscribe” or “download” a podcast based on our personal preference. If we truly enjoy what we are hearing, we have the opportunity to subscribe to that particular podcast, and if we are really enjoying what we are listening to, we can share it with others. SAMPLE, SHARE, SUBSCRIBE OR STOP! These are four distinct realities which I find to be directly connected to the podcast section of iTunes, and the chart system that is associated with it. Technology has made it easy to sample the various voices of our generation, and if we don’t like what we are hearing, we can simply stop it and choose not to listen to it again. If—on the other hand—we enjoy what we are listening to, we can choose to move beyond sampling, and actually subscribe t that podcast and share it with others. I am sure there haven’t been many who have even thought about this concept of “SAMPLE, STOP, SHARE AND SUBSCRIBE,” yet it is one that must be considered in this generation. Technology has made it far too easy to sample the various voices of this generations and to determine who and what we listen to based on a ranking and review system, and even based on our own experience listening to it.
What a tremendous place we are in within this generation, for we are completely saturated and immersed in a plethora of voices and ministries that are in existence among us in our midst. The more I consider this reality, the more I am confronted with the tremendous need for discernment to be present within our hearts and spirits concerning the voices and ministries we allow ourselves to listen to. It is far too easy in this generation to become overwhelmed with the myriad of voices that are present among us, and it is far too easy to get caught up in listening to the wrong voices. The reason I believe the iTunes chart system is so significant is because it reveals to us the voices men and women are gravitating toward in this generation. The iTunes podcast chart section reveals how easy it is for us to sample the various voices and messages present within our generation, and based on our opinion of that ministry and message, we can either subscribe, share, or stop it altogether. There are those voices and messages we have sampled, yet almost immediately after we have sampled it, we have chosen to stop it. There are those voices and messages we have sampled, and while we have chosen to subscribe to it, we have not elected to share it. There are those voices and messages we have sampled, and while we have not chosen to subscribe to it, we have chosen to share it with others. Still, there are others we have sampled, and not only have we subscribed to it, but we have also shared it. I must pause here and ask this question of you, and even of me: Those voices you listen to which you have based on rating, review and sampling—what is their rating and review in heaven? How many of us are allowing ourselves to become consumed with voices that have high ratings on earth, yet have poor and very low ratings in heaven? How many times do we treat the Word of God as a podcast—we sample it, and perhaps even several parts of it, and those parts we enjoy and like we may subscribe and even share, but those parts we don’t enjoy, or which are too difficult for us, we stop? How many times do we sample the word of God within our lives and based on what we experience and encounter with it, we choose whether or not we want to download it into our hearts, our minds, our souls and our spirits? How many times do we treat the Word of God like a podcast on iTunes which we can sample and either decide to stop listening to, or if we enjoy what we are reading, we can subscribe to it, or even share or download? The words of Jesus reveal to us that there might be those whose voices are considered popular here on earth, yet will get to heaven and find out they were unknown in heaven. Oh that we would take a good, long, hard look at how we are treating and what we are doing with the Word of God. THE WORD OF GOD: SAMPLED AND STOPPED, OR SAMPLED, SHARED AND SUBSCRIBED TO?