As I hover over Jeremiah this morning I’m thinking that what can be such bad news for some can be such amazing, good news for others. Case in point, the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day.
Not the false prophets of Baal, though bad enough, but those who falsely prophesied as oracles of God. Filling God’s people with vain hopes that all would be well, they spoke “visions of their own minds” (Jer. 23:16). Choosing to stubbornly follow their own hearts, they ended up despising the heart of God by offering groundless assurances, “It shall be well with you” (23:17). Declaring Jeremiah’s warning to be “fake news”, they downplayed the marauding Chaldeans and promoted their own brand of prosperity wisdom in the name of the LORD.
But God makes clear they weren’t His prophets. Though they prophesied in His name, He didn’t provide the script. For, had they actually stood in the council of the Almighty, they would have spoken the words of the Almighty, and would have proclaimed the urgent need for God’s people to turn from their evil ways (23:21-22).
And here’s the kicker. They were so wrapped up in their deception that they didn’t even consider that if the God whose name they invoked as their authority was, in fact, God, then wouldn’t He know they were making their stuff up?
“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? 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, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!'”
(Jeremiah 23:23-25 ESV)
“Am I a God at hand and not a God far away?” Bad news for the prophets. Did they think God wasn’t aware of their message? That He couldn’t see their self-serving duplicity? That the God who fills heaven and earth was somehow unable to peek also into their hearts and minds? Our God is a God at hand. Bad news for those who would play fast and loose with the things of God.
But, what can be such bad news for some, can be such amazing, good news for others. For our God truly is a God at hand and not a God far away?
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:8 ESV)
For fake prophets who confess their fake-ness; for sinners who flee to the cross to be cleansed of their defiling iniquity; for those whose hearts have been purified through the washing of the Word, who have renounced their duplicity, a God at hand is very, very good news. The God we can draw near to in sincere faith is the God who will be near, ready to sanctify fully.
Yes, God knows my heart. No, it’s the not the heart I want to have, but it’s also not the heart I used to have. It’s a new heart — having been made new, even today it is being made new. A heart that God fully knows. A heart God has promised to fully redeem. And that, by being a God at hand.
Good news, I’m thinkin’ . . .
By His grace. For His glory.