Scribes and Those Who Read Them

Jeremiah 8:1-8 (ESV)

“At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. [2] And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. [3] Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the Lord of hosts.

[4] “You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord:

When men fall, do they not rise again?

If one turns away, does he not return?

[5] Why then has this people turned away

in perpetual backsliding?

They hold fast to deceit;

they refuse to return.

[6] I have paid attention and listened,

but they have not spoken rightly;

no man relents of his evil,

saying, ‘What have I done?’

Everyone turns to his own course,

like a horse plunging headlong into battle.

[7] Even the stork in the heavens

knows her times,

and the turtledove, swallow, and crane

keep the time of their coming,

but my people know not

the rules of the Lord.

[8] “How can you say, ‘We are wise,

and the law of the Lord is with us’?

But behold, the lying pen of the scribes

has made it into a lie.

Idolatry, deceit, perpetual backsliding, evil speaking, unrelenting in evil, everyone doing whatever he wants, ignorance of the Word of God. These are the sins that are enumerated in the first seven verses of Jeremiah 8. The shocking thing here is not that these sins are committed, as shocking as that may be. The really shocking thing is that they are committed by people who believe that they are keeping the Law of God and believe that God is pleased with them.

They would never be so godless as to desert the faith altogether, skip a festival or celebration. These people are not atheists or agnostics. They are not teaching their children that God does not exist. They simply do not have God in their hearts while they go through the motions. They pray and believe that God is hearing them. They teach their children about Moses and the Egyptian captivity. They talk about their father Abraham and his great faith. Their children build little arks in their playgrounds and re-enact the flood with the full assurance that since mommy and daddy have taught us such things we know that we would have been among the eight souls who were in safety there. And they are wrong on every count.

They are certain that Jeremiah is wrong when he says that he has a message from God. God would never send such a message to them. They are the people of God. They are faithful. They are not the ones that God is angry at.

There is no deceit worse than self deceit and the people of Judah have self deceit in spades. And part of the reason they are so confident in themselves is recorded in verse 8. “The lying pen of the scribes has made [the Law of God] into a lie.”

There you go.

The professional writers, those charged with the task of copying truth and recording the Word of God and preaching it, have turned it into a lie. They have said that it says what it does not say. They are not recording. They are revising.

“Jeremiah must be wrong” the people reason “see what the scribes have written.” Those whom the people must trust have betrayed the trust and they not only lead themselves to destruction, but those who have no choice but to follow their teachings. This is a heartbreaking tragedy. Jesus talks about it in Matthew 23:13-15 -

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

He mourned that such things were happening to people in His day

Matthew 9:35-36 – And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

And it still happens today. Pulpiteers, authors, pastors, seminary professors… . The list is long and sordid of men and women who twist the Scriptures, not only to their own destruction, but the destruction of all who swallow their teachings. There are more of them today than there were in Jeremiah’s day. Many more.

There is such a hodge podge of doctrines and ideas out there that get published and endorsed and promoted that one can be excused for being very confused. Who are we to believe? How can we tell which person is right? There are ways to answer that question but consider this. Despite the fact that the common people are ripe for the picking of dishonest and ignorant scribes, they are still responsible for what they believe. They do not have to believe everything they read. While the sins of the scribes is great, the people who believed everything they wrote will be held accountable for their beliefs and actions.

Pastors and teachers have a great responsibility to teach what is true, according to the Scriptures and those who teach will be judged with a harsher judgement than those who do not teach. Nevertheless, it is the duty of all believers to maintain a Berean spirit and search the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is true. (Acts 17:11). It is not just church leaders who are responsible to ensure that they do not fall for spiritual junk. Consider Colossians 2:8, Hebrews 13:9, I John 2:26, Ephesians 4:14, Philippians 3:2, II John 10, Jude 3, 4, Romans 16:17-18, Galatians 1:6-9, just to mention a few.

Know your God.Know your stuff. Rejoice in great truth and don’t allow yourself to be fooled by what seems an attractive alternative. You will be held accountable for how you listen and what you choose to learn.

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