It’s kind of a “give your head a shake” type of word from the LORD.
After having indicted the shepherds of Israel for destroying and scattering the sheep of His pasture (Jeremiah 23:1-2), the LORD speaks additional judgment, through Jeremiah, to the prophets of Israel. Despite the coming storm of God’s wrath for generations of stiff-necked disobedience and unfaithful spiritual adultery, these self-proclaimed spokesmen for the LORD prophesy words of vain hope . . . speaking “visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” (23:16). To those who despise the word of the LORD, these fake prophets say, “It shall be well with you.” To those who are determined to set their own course according to the stubbornness of their own hearts, these make believe fortune tellers announce, “No disaster shall come upon you” (23:17). And to them, through Jeremiah, the LORD seems to say, “Give your head a shake!”
“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name . . .” (Jeremiah 23:23-25a ESV)
What were they thinking? Every time they declared, “Thus saith the LORD” did they not think the LORD could hear what they were thus saying? When they sat in their homes writing out their scripts, practicing their best prophet intonation, did it not once occur to them that if God was really God then He’d probably have an idea of the charade they were playing and the lies they were telling? Apparently not. So wrapped up in themselves, they had totally lost sight of the fact that our God is a God at hand.
There is no secret place from the One who fills all heaven and earth. David knew it when he penned Psalm 139. Hemmed in . . . that’s how David described it (139:5). His God a discerner of every thought and familiar with every path. There is nowhere to flee from the presence of His Spirit (139:2,3,7). David’s God was a God at hand. Such awareness, says the songwriter, is incomprehensible (139:6).
It certainly was for the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. Incomprehensible in that they were so spiritually dead they couldn’t even put two and two together and discern the danger of speaking on behalf of a God who was truly God. Oblivious to the implications of putting words in the mouth of the Creator who gives breath to all things. Dead to any thought of the consequences of saying, “All is good, maintain the status quo” when in fact, the Righteous Judge through His faithful servant, Jeremiah, was declaring, “All is not good, repent and return.” A God at hand can be pretty scary for those who blindly think they can operate in the secret places.
But what of those who have had the darkness of their sin exposed by the light of knowing God IS at hand? Those who have had their eyes opened to the Righteous Judge only to learn that He has also determined to be the Eternal Justifier? Those whose sin stains have been taken away by the God at hand who drew ever nearer and came to earth as the Lamb of God? Those who have been brought into, and can now experience daily, an abiding fellowship with this God who is ever present? For such as those, there is cause for great praise and thanksgiving for a God at hand.
No longer relying on our best thinking, or our self-serving desires . . . no longer declaring what seems right in our own eyes . . . we declare, not as prophets but as priests, “the excellencies of Him” who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Peter 2:9). Not in fear of a God who has hemmed us in, but drawing near in boldness of faith to a God who has provided free access to His throne of grace. Welcoming His presence as we pursue abiding in Him.
What praise is due a God at hand? A lot!
By His grace . . . for His glory.