Do you teach a Bible study? How about a Sunday School class? Maybe you’re a teacher, a pastor, even a missionary? Or do you just teach your children, or occasionally speak truth to a coworker or neighbor or friend? Regardless of whom you influence, do you proclaim God’s eternal message to humankind–our need to repent and trust in Christ? Do you warn them about God’s “wrath [against unrepentant sin] that is to come?” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) Or do you say just what they want to hear, because you don’t want them to stop liking you, or because you’re afraid?
“They don’t warn the people about coming trouble or tell them how dangerous it is to sin against Me. Those prophets lie by claiming they speak for Me, but I have not even chosen them to be My prophets. And they still think their words will come true. They say they’re preaching My messages, but they are full of lies—I did not speak to them!” (Ezekiel 13:5-7 CEV)
I wonder how many of us still read the Old Testament–not just Genesis and Exodus, or Psalms or Proverbs, but all of it? Remember what Paul taught? “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…” (Romans 15:4 NCV) Those accounts of others who came before us were recorded to warn us to not act as they did, so we don’t have to suffer like they did!
Take a look at today’s verse. This is God’s condemnation of Israel’s “false” prophets–individuals who presented themselves to the people as declarers of God’s truth, who failed to declare God’s truth. That’s why they were false! And how did they fail to declare it? Because they did not “warn the people about coming trouble;” because they did not “tell them how dangerous it is to sin against Me [God].”
It IS dangerous to sin against God, to live our lives doing “what…[is] right in…[our] own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 NKJV) because our judgment is flawed; because “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT)
You see, the problem is that our decision-making ability is flawed where holiness–issues of right and wrong–is concerned. Even if we do what seems right–what we genuinely believe the right thing to do–we can end up horribly wrong if we’ve not lined up our opinion of right with what God says is right.
God doesn’t have that problem. He’s not affected by sin, so His decision making ability isn’t skewed, like ours is–and that’s why we can trust Him when He says, “this is wrong; don’t do it.”
That’s the message we need to pass on to those around us, those with whom we interact. God’s condemnation of those prophets was that they told the people what they wanted to hear, instead of what they needed to hear. Do we tell people what they need to hear–that it is dangerous to sin against God?
Another prophet to the Israelites, Jeremiah, got dumped in a well by a mob enraged by this message; many others have been killed because of it. You may certainly become less popular; it’s no fun to be someone’s constant reminder that they aren’t living the way they should.
The disciples must have thought about this too, because Jesus warned them what to expect:
“A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect? Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” (Matthew 10:24-28 MSG)
This is what God asks of us; what He expects and demands of His people. It’s the sacrifice we make when we choose to follow Christ–the cross we pick up and carry. Remember that carrying the cross wasn’t a pleasant road for Jesus; it was a path of insult and injury and shame. Dare we expect any less?
Help me not be afraid or ashamed to tell people what they need to hear. Amen.