The Cambridge Dictionary has recently added a new entry: Fake News. Fake news is defined as: “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.”
President Trump can probably be given a lot of credit for making this term a part of our everyday lexicon. But fake news is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around since the days of Adam and Eve and the serpent. When the serpent told Eve, “You shall not surely die” if she ate from the forbidden fruit, the serpent was spreading fake news.
During the time of Jeremiah there was a lot of Fake News going around Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. The fake news was being spread by people who claimed to be speaking God’s truth. They were prophets and priests and other religious leaders who were telling everyone, “Everything is going to be okay, nothing to worry about, the king has everything under control.” The problem was, everything was not going to be okay, there was plenty to worry about and there was absolutely nothing that their king could do to stop it. Those messengers of fake new were peddling a false hope to the people of God, and they were doing a lot of harm. God said that they were actually strengthening the evildoers so that they don’t repent. They were doing the exact opposite of what God wanted.
Against the backdrop of fake news that was being spread by false prophets, God called Jeremiah to be a voice of truth with a clear message from God. Amidst all the claims of “everything is going to be okay”, Jeremiah said to the king and other political leaders as well as the priests and religious leaders, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord.” Woe, is a word of warning, it is a word of condemnation, it is a word of judgment. God is declaring judgment against the civil and religious leaders in Jerusalem who are allowing God’s people to practice idolatry and all kinds of evil. God is declaring judgment against the kings who are entering into alliances with the surrounding empires, hoping that Egypt or Assyria will protect them against their enemies.
God had been extremely patient with His people. Psalm 103 reminds us that God is “slow to anger.” God had sent a steady succession of prophets to speak truth and warn His people to stop worshipping idols and stop looking to their neighbors to be their protectors. God sent prophet after prophet to call his people to repent. Jeremiah alone had been prophesying for 23 years, warning people to repent. Yet they still failed to listen. They chose instead to listen to the fake news that was being spread by the false prophets who were saying everything is going to be all right. God said that they actually “prophecy the delusions of their own minds” (23:26) and that they are spreading “reckless lies.” “Each ones words are their own message.”
Truth is very important to God. He wants His people to speak the truth. Jesus would later say, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.” Paul reminds us that we are to practice speaking the truth in love. Telling the truth whenever everyone else is spreading fake news is an act of love. For Jeremiah to courageously stand up year after year in the midst of false prophets telling lies should inspire us today to not be afraid to stand up and speak the truth. Of course, to speak the truth we must make sure that we are hearing it from God. We must keep our eyes in God’s word and our heart tuned in to God’s spirit and we should filter everything we hear and think through the filter of God’s revealed truth. That takes both courage and dedication, and time. Are you willing to invest the time into hearing and discerning God’s truth? Do you have your fake news detector fully operational? Are you willing to speak God’s truth in love, even if it feels like you are a lone voice and nobody is listening?
Pastor Jeff Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 23-25, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+23-25&version=NIV
Tomorrow we will read chapters 26-29 of Jeremiah as we continue through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan