Why am I guilty when I did not know? That is the question the people asked during the days of Jeremiah. Jeremiah took the people’s question and lament to the Lord: “Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place'” (Jeremiah 14:13, NKJV). The Lord, however, was going to hear none of this. “And the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart’” (Jeremiah 14:14).
How, then, were they to know what was right, exactly what to do? For a good while now, the Lord had been proclaiming to the people of Judah, through Jeremiah, a message that was contrary to what the false teachers were proclaiming. This resulted in confusion amongst the people. The confusion was more in facade than in reality. The people wanted to believe the words spoken by those the Lord identified as false teachers (5:31).
Those who are in positions of knowledge (preachers, elders, serious students of the Scriptures) understand the obligation placed upon them to teach that which they know (6:16). When messages spoken by various people are contrary to one another, the proper course of action is to search the Scriptures to see if those things spoken are so (cf. Acts 17:11). Isaiah spoke the sentiment exactly. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Even during the days of Moses, if the people inquired about how one could know, the Lord exhorted His people to be diligent in discernment (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:21-22). This is why the Lord was going to hear none of it.
There is an application for us in this regard. It may be that we ourselves become confused when we hear this message and that message from the variety of sources who speak. When we note these messages are contrary to one another, then the obligation falls on us individually to know what the truth is. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). Since Jesus said we can know, we might ask why some think they can’t? on the contrary, in the very next chapter of John’s gospel, the Lord said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Thus, we can see that the obligation is ours to know and then to abide in the teachings of the Lord. When we hear another with a message that is different than what we understand, John said, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
It is a serious matter and we do ourselves a disservice eternally if we dismiss it in application. RT