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Sunday, August 21, 2011

profane prophets and priests

"Updates and upgrades." I get them all the time and I'm pretty sure that you do too. It just seems that about everything we have, product-wise, is always being "updated." Especially computers and their programs or our cell phones. I mean, you can buy the latest giz-whizzy on the market and within a short period of time, it needs updated or upgraded.

By now you're probably wondering what product updates have to with a spiritual lesson so, to relieve your wondering, the rest of this editorial will be my attempt at doing just that.

I'm going to use our commonly seen "product updates" in a parabolic way of showing how this phenomenon has influenced certain aspects of the Church and religion in general. We're going to consider the general topic of false doctrines and refresh our minds as to how God looks at man's efforts at, shall we say, "updating" His Word.

Let me just remind you that false doctrines run the gamut of being totally absurd to just being "a little bit different" from The Word. Or, maybe as a carpenter might say it: from being "completely out of whack" to being just "a half-a-bubble off plumb." Here's the problem with either of those categories, and it's not the degree of being "off" that's the problem. The problem is that both are unacceptable to God, regardless of the degree of separation.

In my feeble little brain, here's how I tie the "updates" parable to our topic of discussion. You see, when you get notice of an "update/upgrade" for whatever product you own, what that's telling you is that something better is now available. That product you bought was good at the time of purchase, but now it's been made better. Thus, it's been updated. Upgraded.

God provided mankind with His Word - The Bible. It is His wisdom, His program if you will, and it provides mankind with everything he needs for his soul to receive eternal salvation. So, think of it this way, if man comes along and says that he's designed something different he's, in effect, saying that he sees a better way. He's "upgrading" the original.

Sadly, we even see this phenomenon creeping into the Church, don't we? We see some advocating the joining with other denominations in some sort of unity movement. Or in the forming of specialized groups for worship service. It's almost as if those advocating the changing of Church doctrine in order to be more modern in matters of religion are, in effect, "updating" the system - the doctrine. It's like saying that God just doesn't understand our modern times and His doctrine needs "updating." His "program" needs to be "upgraded."

Many of you might not be old enough to remember something that occurred during the 1960's, but a professor in one of our southern universities once made the pronouncement that "God is dead!" Well, that caused somewhat of a hullabaloo for awhile, but then sort of passed on into being old news. My point in recalling this episode is that I think we're now to the point of saying that God isn't dead - He's just old-fashioned.

Someone once said that one of the things we can never understand is "the folly of man." Probably no truer words were ever spoken, not only regarding religion and God, but just about everything else. It just baffles me how seemingly intelligent people can think that they have the ability to change anything God has said in His Word. That they actually believe that they can "update" the Bible.

That they think that whatever changes they see as being "better" will be OK with Him. Perhaps they think that since "God is love" and they're doing something "religious," then it"ll be OK, He will "sign off"on their "updates." Perhaps we should look at some scripture (in the "original program") and see if we can determine how He feels about His Word being "updated."

In the legal justice system we have a thing called "case law." That's simply a record available to be looked at to see what was ruled on in past similar cases. I believe that "case law" also exists in the Bible that's available for us to look at and see just what God "ruled" in regards to a similar case of changing, or the advocating of something different from what He had set in place. I found this "case law" in the 23rd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet of God. Let's study it a moment.

In today's vernacular, those who want to "update" the doctrine of God are called things like "change agents" or "false teachers." In Jeremiah's day they were referred to as "profane prophets and priests." (23:11) We read in that chapter that they earned those titles by teaching (advocating) something different from what God had said for them to teach.

From His words in verses 9-11 I think we can safely say that He was not pleased with what His prophets and priests were teaching and how they were living. He says things like "My heart within me is broken because of the prophets: all my bones shake...." He goes on later (verses 16-17) to warn the people not to listen to their words because they will only "make them vain" which basically is saying that they are just "filling them with false hopes."

It's in verse 16 that we see the passage I cited at the beginning and shows us why the prophets/priest's teaching filled them with false hope: because they spoke "a vision (a doctrine) out of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord." He goes on to further say that the false and profane prophets were telling the people, "you'll have peace" and "no evil shall come upon you."

I ask you, isn't that the same thing the false teachers and "change agents" of today are saying? "Don't worry, everything will be okay." ("You'll have peace"). "God is love, He won't punish you." ("no evil shall come upon you"). You see, what's happening here is that our modern-day false teachers are doing the same thing Jeremiah's false prophets did: teaching a "vision from their own heart" and not the Word "out of the mouth of the Lord."

I would further opine that if Jeremiah's false prophets were, in the eyes of God, as the "inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah" (vs. 14) I don't think that He's going to see the purveyors of false doctrines today any different. At least that's what the "case law" tells me.

Let me just finish our lesson here with some final words of Jeremiah that I feel completes the thought of both false doctrinal teachers and those who follow them. Those who believe that their words, their "visions," their "updates" are safe and they'll have "peace." Read them with me as we close:

"Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them and cause my people to err by their lies and by their lightness: yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord."

Ron Covey

 

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