Insights into Evil from Jeremiah 9:1-9 – Look out!

Many thanks to a reader who contacted me and pointed out this scripture passage. As she suggested, it gives us some excellent insights into the nature of evil – especially in the visible church – and how the Lord deals with evildoers. Not surprisingly, His ways of handling the wicked who claim to be His people are rather different than what we are so often taught by professing Christians.

Here it is:

Jer 9:1-9 Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! (2) Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.

(3) They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. (4) Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. (5) Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. (6) Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.

(7) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people? (8) Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. (9) Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?

What we have here are not just generic wicked people. No. These evil ones are people who call themselves the covenant people of God, in the Old Testament era. They are “church members” of that day you might say. The covenant they were under however was not one written on their hearts as is the New Covenant, but one written on tablets of stone. These are unconverted people, but they are Israelites – outwardly circumcised – recipients of great privilege, as Paul says:

Rom 9:4-5 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (5) To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

It would take several studies to draw out everything that is in this scripture, but here at least are the major points which, if we are wise, we will take careful heed of:

  • Jeremiah is weeping. Not for the wicked, but for the “slain of the daughter of my people.” His focus in on the victims of the evil that has come upon his fellow countrymen.
  • He wants to get away from these evildoers, even though they are his countrymen. He would rather live in a shack in the wilderness than have to continue in their presence.
  • And, I suppose, most significantly, Jeremiah confesses the sinfulness of sin and the wickedness of these people. They are all adulterers, treacherous men, liars.
  • And he says, they are not Christians! They do not know me, declares the Lord. In fact, he says “they refuse to know me.”
  • Jeremiah’s advice? Let everyone beware of his neighbor and put no trust in any “brother,” for every brother is a deceiver.
  • Of the wicked man’s “saintly” disguise, Jeremiah warns us – Their tongue…speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
  • And finally, the Lord says of these wicked ones, “Shall I not punish them for these things? Shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”

Think about this carefully. Hold Jeremiah’s words here, which are the Lord’s words, up against what we are typically being told today by “christian” pastors, church members, counselors, and so on. Quite the contrast, is there not? Where, for example, in Jeremiah’s words do you see him setting out to “fix and rehabilitate” these evil ones? Where to you hear him telling us that down deep in the heart of even these covenant traitors there is some spark of good to be found? Where does the prophet tell us that we must love these treacherous people because the Lord loves and forgives them? Nowhere. Nada. You aren’t going to find such things here.

You see many of the evil man’s tactics here. If you have known a “christian” domestic abuser, you have seen these things in him. I have seen it repeatedly in spiritual abusers who have crept into the church. Listen to it again-

Jer 9:8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.

If we are going to be wise about evil, then we MUST face up to the fact that there are indeed wicked people parading as Christians who will look us right in the eye and warmly speak “peace” to us, while at the very same time behind those apparent friendly eyes, they are planning an ambush for us. I am absolutely confounded by the number of people who claim to believe God’s Word but who consistently refuse to believe this. “We must believe the best about him.” Really? Where, in this passage from Jeremiah for instance, do you find such a universal thing taught to us? Does the Lord rebuke Jeremiah for describing these evildoers’ utter depravity? No way! Jeremiah in fact is speaking God’s own Words!!

Consider the bondage that you will remain in if you falter in confessing these things to be true? How many people continue to be enslaved to evildoers simply because they refuse to believe that anyone could actually be guilty of such duplicity? The Lord says here that not only do such people exist, they are very, very common. Especially in church pews!

This is why Jesus warns us not to make our discernment on the words of a person only. He tells us to look at the fruits of their lives. I will close with an example for you:

I knew a lady once who grew up in a pastor’s home. She seemed to live and breath the Christian faith. She worked and worked tirelessly in “ministry” and could look at you with great warmness and apparent affection. Everyone praised her as just the greatest example of a Christian.

But she was mean. Very, very, mean.

If she perceived that you were not bending to her will, look out. What was really going on inside of her? Exactly what Jeremiah speaks of here. She was, in order to use people for the promotion of her own self-glory, speaking “peace” to them. Flattering them. But it was all a sham. As soon as she was finished with them and they were of no more use to her “program,” the were discarded. And the quickest way to see through all of this disguise was to spot the signs of a loveless, mean, sharp-tongued heart that quite consistently evidenced itself.

Even to this day if I were to tell the masses of people who praised her that she was really not serving the Lord and from all evidences did not even know the Lord, they would angrily protest!  “How dare you say such a thing!”

But it is true. And the sooner we come to recognize that evil craftily disguises itself in such ways, the sooner we will get free of it.

 

There are Many False Sheep and Shepherds and we Need to Say So

John 10:1-5 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

I was raised in my earliest years in Bible churches and Baptist churches. Churches where the Bible was said to be central, where sinners were called upon to repent and believe the gospel and where you underlined your Bible as the pastor preached.

And where sin was generally, but not specifically addressed.

What I mean by “generally” but not “specifically,” is that “sinners” were called upon to turn to Christ and be saved. “Sin” was preached against. And yet church members, professing Christians, who were walking in sin habitually, showing no fruit of regeneration in their lives, were never called out. In fact many of them held positions of leadership. This is why the constant infighting and divisions kept happening in those churches. Pastors would come and go, but very few people really knew why. This was the condition of the church I have pastored now for some 26 years when I first came.

The underlying assumption in such “churches” is that everyone who claims to be a Christian must be believed. In fact, as many of you know, even the most wicked domestic abuser (usually operating in secret of course), when exposed, is still assumed to be a real Christian and treated as such by the church. Woe to the victim of such an abuse if she balks at doing the same.

Jesus and the Apostles, as clearly recorded for us in Scripture, make it very plain that not all sheep are sheep. Not all shepherds are really shepherds. That is what Jesus was saying here in the tenth chapter of John. Here are His points:

  • There are counterfeit shepherds who are in fact thieves and robbers, not sent by Christ
  • Christ’s true sheep hear (recognize and obey) His voice and follow Him
  • Christ’s true sheep will not follow a false shepherd – they are able to discern that he is a counterfeit. In fact they will flee from him
  • The false shepherd’s purpose is to use the sheep to feed his own lust for self-glory. He kills and destroys rather than leading and feeding.
  • Christ the true Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, standing against the wolf. The false shepherd, in contrast, runs away and abandons the sheep when threatened, leaving the sheep to fend for themselves.

There is reality. That is the condition of the visible church (in contrast to the IN-visible church which consists of all true Christians in heaven and on earth). The visible church has false sheep and false shepherds in it. In fact it is generally true that there are far more counterfeits than real sheep – thus the Bible calls the true church the “remnant.”

I suggest to you that these are truths that are currently out of vogue in most local churches and this is the reason that so many of Christ’s true people are being so sorely oppressed and rejected by those “churches.” That is to say, congregations are being taught for the most part that everyone in their church, with maybe a very few exceptions, are objects of God’s mercy, adopted children in His household, certain shoe-ins to heaven on the Day of Judgment. And no one must ever, ever say otherwise.

Therefore, evil abounds in the churches. Evil is people. Evil people. People who are of the darkness rather than the light. People who therefore oppose the Light lest they be revealed for what they really are.

The solution? God’s Word! This is the mission of Christ’s true pastors and people. “Preach the Word!” Paul told Timothy. His Word is light. It cleanses His body. It exposes evil and the wicked flee from it. His Word is powerful – it restores the soul of the downcast and calls those who hear to repentance and faith and life. Tweak it, even a little bit, and the lights go out, the power is unplugged, and darkness returns.

Jesus’ truth is plain. There are many false sheep. There are many false shepherds. False sheep hear the voice of the false shepherd and refuse to hear Christ’s voice. Not so His real sheep. They hear Him. They follow Him. This is His truth. And we need to proclaim it loudly and clearly.

Many Churches Teach a Roman Catholic View of Pastoral Authority

Mat 7:15-16 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

In this passage, the Lord Jesus was exposing the hypocrites. Specifically, the hypocrites who were the “clergy” of the day. Scribes. Pharisees. That crowd.

Are we to understand that Jesus would have us submit to the authority of false prophets? Of course not. He is teaching the very opposite here. Even when He said:

Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

…He cannot mean that we are to submit to the evil commands and teachings of false shepherds. Yes, do what they “say” because what they “said” was the Law of Moses which they read. But as to the application of that Law? Nope. They preach but they do not practice. Don’t do as they do.

And yet very commonly in today’s churches we are being told by pastors and other teachers that we must obey them. Without qualification being added in their teaching. Let me show you their favorite verse to pervert:

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

What I mean “without qualification” is that they commonly emphasize the “obey and submit” part of this text while ignoring the qualifier – “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” In other words, TRUE pastors of Christ’s flock are genuine. They are not false shepherds. They really do watch over our souls and they do so with the constant awareness that the Chief Shepherd is the one who has appointed them and therefore to Whom they must give an accounting.

False shepherds do not watch over our souls. No. They devour the sheep. They use the flock for their own glory and gain. We are not to obey and submit to such men, but rather we are to expose them and put them out of the church.

Now, as you probably know, Rome teaches that no matter how corrupt a pope or priest might be, their office as dispenser of sacraments and so on is still genuine. The pope is the pope. The priest is the priest. So really, in the end, it’s all good.

And this is the same kind of thing I think that we see in Protestant churches so often. He is the pastor. Submit to him. They are the elders. Obey them. But the necessary qualifier is ignored – IF they are true shepherds. IF they are truly watching over the souls of the flock.

When an oppressed and downtrodden person comes to their pastor or other church leaders for help and is told, essentially, “suck it up and trust God,” then that so-called shepherd is not speaking for Christ. He is not watching out for and caring for the soul of the poor widow or abuse victim or the target of the sexual predator. He is giving false counsel and at least in that realm is a false shepherd.

I think that one of the most common ways to identify a false shepherd is by holding them up to this standard:

1Pe 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

False shepherds always, always, always “lord it over” the people. Oh they may put on some pretty convincing shows of “humility” at times, acting the “nice, kind” role and “washing the saints feet” while having trumpets blown, but in reality, when the mask is off, they are bullies. False shepherds are always bullies. Watch for it and you will see the bully make an appearance when the guise goes down in unguarded moments.

The Lord is in the business of taking bullies down. Stop fearing them. Pick up your sling and let fly at Goliath. But do not think that the Lord requires you to obey and submit to such an evil. He does not.