In the book of Jeremiah, The LORD mentions three things which are “horrible.” From these we find warnings which are even applicable to us and our culture today.
- The people had itching ears. False prophets which proclaimed “peace, peace” abounded, and though it was false, the people loved it.
"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" [Jer 5:30-31]
Paul warns that in the last days,
"…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." [2 Tim 4:3-4]
This was the same problem the Israelites faced, or rather, were involved in; for they also turned their ears away from hearing God’s word through the prophets. Particularly, in Jeremiah, we read the response of the people, after hearing Jeremiah’s warnings from God:
"Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words." [Jer 18:18]
This sentiment is recalled in Zechariah, and the punishment was that The LORD would no longer hear them since they continually refused to listen to His words. We read in Chapter 7,
"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:" [Zech 7:11-13]
It is a fearful thing to ignore God. The LORD, says to those in Israel who cast off His words, and had gone after the vanity of idols and false prophets, “behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle…And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing…” Instead we ought to incline our ears to God’s words and wisdom,
"My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." [Prov 4:20-22] "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding…Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." [Prov 2:1-2; 5-6] "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." [Isa 55:3]
- The people lost hope, feeling that their sinful ways were incurable, and so used that as an excuse to walk after their own devices and evil hearts.
"And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up…" [Jer 18:12-15]
This is spoken of earlier as well, which adds some clarity. The LORD shows us that Israel would not cease from whoring after idols or thirsting after things other than Himself, the Fountain of Living Waters.
"Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." [Jer 2:25]
Instead of turning from their ways, Israel used the fact that they have been stuck in an idolatrous lifestyle for so long as an excuse to reamin in it even longer. They used apathy and their own weakness as a justification for sin. And because of this refusal, God would “make their land desolate” and “scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy.”
We should never think we are too far gone and that there is no hope. To say, in effect, ‘what’s the point in changing now’ is to reject the freedom offered to us in Jesus Christ. There is always hope and restoration in Jesus, no matter how long we have been stuck in a certain sin. The LORD tells the people of Israel in Jeremiah,
"Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD." [Jer 3:12-13]
The LORD is merciful and does not stay angry forever. He is willing to receive us! Again in Isaiah we see this; The LORD says, in context of Israel going after vain idols,
"Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." [Isa 44:21-22]
Jesus has set us free; we are redeemed by Him and are not in bondage to sin; we can experience victory in Jesus Christ and there is always hope in Him!
- The final thing, The LORD called a “horrible thing,” is relating to the false prophets, who commit adultery, walk in lies, and strengthen those who are sinning.
"I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah." [Jer 23:14]
Instead of being an example to the people, these false prophets corrupt the people. They practice sexual immoratliy, they follow after lies, and they encourage wickedness. These false prophets, instead of rebuking the people or admonishing them not to sin, strengthen them in wickedness. The LORD views this very negatively, saying “they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.”
In order for us to avoid these three areas which are “horrible things” according to The LORD, let us strive to have our ears inclined to God’s word, and not just those parts we like but the whole counsel of God; pursue victory in Jesus Christ always; and walk in truth, practicing righteousness and leading others to do the same.