Among the prophets of Samaria I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that not one of them turns from their wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets: “I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land. – Jeremiah 23:13-15
God is very unhappy with the prophets in Jerusalem and the ways they are leading His people astray through their lies and evil. He compares them to the prophets of Samaria which, within the cultural context of the time, could not have been flattering. The prophets of Samaria and the prophets of Jerusalem are misleading God’s people.
The prophets in Jerusalem are not only leading the people astray but they are apparently living double lives of hypocrisy, “they commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.” So not only are they not helping the people of God to be better followers of God they are actually helping them to do more evil.
So the consequences of this epic failure on the part of the prophets is that God will “will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water”. This is not the first time in Jeremiah God has talked about offering people poisoned water. In Jeremiah 8:8-16 God was taking the scribes to task for handling His word falsely and leading people astray. I am pretty sure God would prefer to give them Living Water, but they are choosing the poison based on their actions.
God seems to reserve special punishment and scorn for those who say one thing and do another. People whose hearts are hard and act falsely in His name. Jesus when He came seemed to hold special scorn for the Scribes and Pharisees because they were saying one thing and doing another. They also were leading people astray from the love and relationship that God desired.
The key difference between an individual who is doing evil and failing to follow God and leaders who do so is the multiplier effect that this has on the people. One evil person in a leadership role can do far more harm in a short time than an individual can do in a lifetime of evil. The implication is that these prophets were entrusted with sacred gifts from God and they are not only misusing them, but they are using them for evil in God’s name.
God entrusts all of His followers with gifts that we can choose to use to lead others toward Him or away from Him. The consequences for choosing poorly would seem to be very bad. The prophets of Jerusalem, and modern day God-followers, who misuse their gifts are like someone standing on a highway giving incorrect directions. The result can be many lost people and a lot of wasted effort. It is better to say nothing at all than to give the wrong directions. At least if those who are misguided stay silent some will find the way on their own.
Prayer: God help us to use our gifts wisely so that we are helping others come closer to You rather than farther away.