The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston. Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.
Devotional Thought for Today
“Sexual Sin and False Prophecy”
Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. 22 Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23 because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’ ”
Ahab (the son of Kolajah) and Zedekiah (the son of Maaseiah) were members of the Jewish exilic community in Babylon who were thought to be prophets. While we don’t know exactly what they were prophesying, from the context, it seems as though they were prophesying that God’s judgment was over and that things were now going to be okay. Perhaps they were encouraging the exiles to rebel against the Babylonian authorities and to trust that God would bring them back to Jerusalem safely. Whatever the case, God not only rebukes them, He also sets them apart as an example of His judgment. Jeremiah prophesies that they will be burned in the fire by Nebuchadnezzar—a common punishment in those days (cf. Daniel 3:19-20)—and their names will be used as a curse: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire”!
We are given two reasons for this condemnation in verse 23. The first reason (mentioned second) has been a theme for the past two chapters of Jeremiah—namely, Ahab and Zedekiah have been falsely prophesying.
The other reason is startling and also so very tragically normal. We learn that Zedekiah and Ahab have also been committing adultery with their neighbors’ wives (v.23). What is it with people who are supposedly representing God and sexual sin? The revelation of their sin is startling because it comes out of the blue in the context of Jeremiah 29. Yet, in the world we find ourselves in, this revelation is tragically too common.
I do not believe it is a mere coincidence that these two sins are linked together. False prophecy and sexual sins are related symptoms of a deeper-rooted problem. One does not cause the other, and they do not always go together; however, both are symptomatic of a heart that no longer fears God. We could speculate at length as to why Ahab and Zedekiah prophesied what they did. Perhaps they sincerely believed that God would protect and guard Israel; in other words, their theology was more important than actually hearing from God. Perhaps they enjoyed the attention and appreciation they received from the exiles who no doubt were encouraged by their positive and yet false prophecies. Whatever the motivation, it seems they had lost their reverence and fear of God. I suggest they were now prophesying in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. And when leaders operate in the flesh, it shouldn’t surprise us then to see the same people acting in more overtly fleshly ways—namely sexual sin.
Jeremiah 29:23 is a warning to us all (not just leaders). Sexual sin brings the word of God into disrepute and those who commit this sin lose credibility. They may be seen as false prophets, even if they have actually been preaching the true gospel. For the credibility of the gospel, we need to run from sexual sin.
But if the root cause is a heart that no longer fears God, then the solution to sexual sin is not just more accountability or boundaries or self-control. Rather, the solution is to immerse ourselves into the gospel and develop a greater understanding of grace, which doesn’t just excuse our sins and leaves us in the flesh but moves us into the Spirit and a reverence and awe of God!
Prayer: Lord, we mourn for the disrepute sexual sin has brought to the church and also to Your name. We want to long for Your glory more and more. We ask that You help us to focus our righteous indignation not only upon Christian leaders but also upon our own hearts—that our hearts would be filled with mourning for the necessity of Your sacrifice on the cross, and also with joy at our newfound identity in You. Fill us with Your spirit that we may awe You and love You more and more. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Esther 7-8