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Jeremiah 23 The Voice (VOICE)

23 Eternal One: Woe to the shepherds who slaughter and scatter the sheep of My pasture! This is what I, the Eternal God of Israel, have to say about the shepherds tending My people:

You have scattered My flock, driven them far away, and failed miserably at being their caregivers. So look! I will punish you for your negligence, for the careless evil you’ve done. I will personally gather the remnant of My sheep from the lands where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their home pasture where they will be fruitful and multiply. I will appoint new, responsible shepherds to take care of them, and My sheep will no longer have to be afraid. These new, responsible shepherds will make sure that none of My sheep go missing.

Watch! The days are coming when I will raise up a righteous Branch of David—an heir of his royal line—who will rule justly, act wisely and make things right again in the land. During His reign, Judah will be redeemed and Israel will be a safe place again. The name he is called will tell the story: The Eternal Is Our Righteousness!

So be ready and watch carefully. The days are coming when no one will say any longer, “As the Eternal lives, who brought the people of Israel out of slavery in the land of Egypt.” Instead, they will say, “As the Eternal lives, who brought the people of Israel out of exile in the lands of the north and out of all other countries where He had scattered them.” Then the Israelites will live securely in their own land.

The shepherd-leaders and shepherd-teachers of God’s people have misled them, and the results have been disastrous. Now God intervenes. God Himself, personally, gathers His exiles from wherever He scattered them and places them under the guidance and tutelage of new shepherds, responsible leaders who will bring them home once again safe and secure. As if that is not enough, God will fulfill the covenant He made with King David hundreds of years earlier and establish a righteous branch of David to reign from Jerusalem. This king will be everything the earlier kings of Judah were not: just, fair, and wise. The restoration of God’s exiles and the installation of this new king—God’s anointed—will be so glorious, so momentous that it will change the course of history. It will surpass God’s rescue of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.

Jeremiah’s prophecy of this coming king inspires many to look and long for God’s Anointed One, His Messiah, from among the sons of David. Indeed, some of the earliest followers of Jesus will find in Him the fulfillment of these hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

As for the false prophets:
    Deep in my chest, my heart is broken.
I am shaken to the core, like a man who is drunk,
    overcome by too much wine
All because of the Eternal,
    all because of His holy words.

10 Eternal One: The land is full of adulterers;
        surely the curse is in effect and the land mourns.
    The pastures in the wilderness are all dried up,
        for they have set an evil course,
        and their might is not right.
11     For even the prophets and priests are ungodly;
        I have witnessed them perform wicked acts in My temple.
12     Now this path they are on will become treacherous, and they will slip and slide;
        they will stumble and fall into the darkness, driven into the gloom.
    For in the year of their punishment,
        I will bring them to ruin.

13     I saw something repulsive
        among the prophets of Samaria:
    They prophesied in the name of Baal
        and led My people, Israel, away from Me.
14     I have seen something horrible among the prophets of Jerusalem:
        worship that is adulterous and deceitful.
    They inspire and encourage people to even more evil;
        now no one turns back from his sin.
    The citizens of Jerusalem remind Me of the wicked people
        who once lived in Sodom and Gomorrah.

15 So this is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, has to say about those prophets:

Eternal One: Watch, I will give them bitter food to eat and poisoned water to drink,
        because the prophets of Jerusalem have released their ungodliness
    And it has spread into all the land.

16 These are the words of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies.

Eternal One: When these prophets “prophesy” to you, filling you with empty hopes, do not listen to one word! They do not speak for Me. They speak of visions they have only imagined. 17 They keep saying to those who openly reject My word, “Don’t worry, the Eternal has promised you peace.” And to those stubborn souls who go their own way, they say, “Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen to you.”

18 Which one of these false prophets has stood in the presence of the Eternal
    and heard His voice or seen His plan?
Who of them has paid attention to His word and truly listened?

19 Behold, the storm of the Eternal’s wrath will now break open,
    swirling down out of the sky like a whirlwind onto the heads of the wicked.
20 The Eternal’s anger will not relent until He has carried out His most fervent plans.
    You will understand all of this in the days to come.

21 Eternal One: I did not send these so-called prophets,
        but they have run to you with their empty words.
    I did not speak to them,
        but they claim to speak for Me.
22     If only they had stood in My presence and heard My voice,
        then they would have spoken My words to My people!
    They would have turned this nation back from its evil ways and evil deeds.

23 Am I only a God who is close by, and not a God of the farthest reaches? 24 Am I a God anyone can hide from? Do I not see what happens in secret? Am I not everywhere, filling heaven and earth? 25 I have heard these prophets who speak lies in My name. They say, “I had a dream, I had a dream,” and claim it was Me speaking to them! 26 How long will this go on? Will the hearts of these lying prophets ever change? How long will they deceive themselves and all who listen to them? 27 They think they can make My people forget My name with all this talk of dreams—just as their ancestors forgot My name as they worshiped Baal. 28 If a prophet has a dream, he should tell others of that dream. But the one who has My word should speak it with unshakable faith. For what is straw worth, when compared to grain? 29 Does not My word burn like fire? Does it not shatter rock like a strong hammer? 30 Look, this is why I oppose the prophets who steal My word from others and offer it as their own. 31 I oppose the prophets whose tongues “declare” something, as if I, the Eternal, have declared it. 32 I oppose the prophets who prophesy with lying dreams. They lead My people astray with their reckless lies. But I did not send these prophets or direct them to speak in My name, so they are of no use to My people.

This is what the Eternal declares.

Prophets stretch the meanings of words in order to instruct and challenge their audiences. Although it’s difficult to appreciate in translation, in the following passage Jeremiah uses an important Hebrew word that has a double meaning. It means “message,” as in the message from God that he is about to declare, but it also means “burden”; therefore, the “message” he receives from God—the “message” he must now declare—is a “burden” both to hear and deliver. As the message goes out of Jeremiah, others use this word to ridicule him and minimize what God is saying. In this passage, God makes it quite clear what He thinks of these mocking and sinful people.

Eternal One (to Jeremiah): 33 When someone, some prophet or some priest, asks, “What is the message the Eternal burdened you with today, Jeremiah?” Simply answer, “[You are the burden, and][a] the Eternal declares, ‘I will cast you aside.’” 34 If a prophet or priest or any of these people claim, “This is the burden of the Eternal,” let them be warned, I will punish that person and his family.

(to the people) 35 Instead of making light of My declarations, from now on you should say to your friends and family, “What is the Eternal’s answer to you?” or “What is the Eternal saying to us?” 36 Do not use the phrase “the burden of the Eternal” again. It means nothing to you. All people say they have a message from Me when they don’t. You are twisting the words of the living God, our God, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies. 37 You should say to the prophet, “What answer is the Eternal giving to you?” or “What is the Eternal saying to us?” 38 But if you keep saying, “This is the burden of the Eternal,” expect Me to declare this: “You continued to use the phrase ‘the burden of the Eternal,’ even though I warned you not to use it. 39 That is why I will forget you and cast you out of My presence, both you and the city I gave you and your ancestors. 40 I will bring endless disgrace upon you—an enduring shame that no one will forget.”

Footnotes:

  1. 23:33 Hebrew manuscripts read, “What burden?”
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Jeremiah 23 New International Version (NIV)

The Righteous Branch

23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

“So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”

Lying Prophets

Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me;
    all my bones tremble.
I am like a drunken man,
    like a strong man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
    and his holy words.
10 The land is full of adulterers;
    because of the curse[b] the land lies parched
    and the pastures in the wilderness are withered.
The prophets follow an evil course
    and use their power unjustly.

11 “Both prophet and priest are godless;
    even in my temple I find their wickedness,”
declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore their path will become slippery;
    they will be banished to darkness
    and there they will fall.
I will bring disaster on them
    in the year they are punished,
declares the Lord.

13 “Among the prophets of Samaria
    I saw this repulsive thing:
They prophesied by Baal
    and led my people Israel astray.
14 And among the prophets of Jerusalem
    I have seen something horrible:
    They commit adultery and live a lie.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
    so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
    the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”

15 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets:

“I will make them eat bitter food
    and drink poisoned water,
because from the prophets of Jerusalem
    ungodliness has spread throughout the land.”

16 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 They keep saying to those who despise me,
    ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
    they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
    to see or to hear his word?
    Who has listened and heard his word?
19 See, the storm of the Lord
    will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
    on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he fully accomplishes
    the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
    you will understand it clearly.
21 I did not send these prophets,
    yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they have prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
    they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
    and from their evil deeds.

23 “Am I only a God nearby,
declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.

25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

30 “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord.

False Prophecy

33 “When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, ‘What is the message from the Lord?’ say to them, ‘What message? I will forsake you, declares the Lord.’ 34 If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ I will punish them and their household. 35 This is what each of you keeps saying to your friends and other Israelites: ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But you must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God. 37 This is what you keep saying to a prophet: ‘What is the Lord’s answer to you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ this is what the Lord says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord.’ 39 Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. 40 I will bring on you everlasting disgrace—everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 23:5 Or up from David’s line
  2. Jeremiah 23:10 Or because of these things
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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