Lamentations 2:14 - Exposing Sin, Saving from Death
The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin or ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.Lamentations 2:14
It is easy to say what people want to hear. It becomes a lot more difficult when you point out someone’s faults. Anyone who has been concerned about wrong words or actions of a brother or sister and tried to warn them, knows how difficult it is. Admonition, of course, should always take place in love. However, it is not always appreciated. At least not at first. It is hard to humble oneself before the will of God.
However, persistent sin needs to be talked about with the other for their good. We may not leave them in their sin. It is not right to think that it is their own business and they have to answer for themselves anyway. We are all responsible for each other in the communion of saints. This is how our God wants us to ward off each other’s decline and destruction.
This is what the text shows. Jeremiah was lamenting the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. The covenant people had been led into exile. And why? Largely because their prophets had not warned about sin. They had given false and misleading words. They had spoken what the people wanted to hear.
Think of what the prophet Hananiah said just before the final destruction of Jerusalem. He knew what the people wanted to hear – that there would be no destruction and captivity anymore. They wanted to hear about restoration without repentance. He declared,
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years, I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’Jeremiah 28:2-4
Who didn’t want to believe those words? Jeremiah himself says, “Amen! May the LORD do so!” (Jeremiah 28:6). But he saw through this. He realized this was false. There had been no repentance, and so further punishment would surely come. The vision of Hananiah was false, his prophecy misleading. God had threatened judgment on Jerusalem unless there was repentance from sin. Hananiah neglected to point out those sins. And so he simply speeded the city on to its destruction.
Today’s prophets can learn from this. Ministers are not ordained to say what the people want to hear. They are to expose sin – not to put people down, but to show their need for the Saviour. That’s the point: to call to Christ. That alone can ward off condemnation. God’s people do not need interesting speeches. They need sermons that call to repentance and to faith in God’s grace.
And that is what the people need to accept too, for their own salvation. We constantly need to be called to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. In Lord’s Day 44 of the Heidelberg Catechism, we confess that God wants his law preached strictly so that we become more and more aware of our sin and so seek more eagerly the forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ. Preaching has to point out sin, not because people have to earn their own righteousness, but to bring them to Christ the only Saviour. That’s prophecy from the pulpit.
After Pentecost, however, we are all prophets. Christ poured the Holy Spirit on the church so that we all might speak and confess the truth uprightly. Therefore, in a very real sense, the words of the text above apply to all of us now. We are called to expose one another’s sins in the church, and so to ward off disaster for each other. That is why the Lord Jesus gave the rule of Matthew 18 in the New Testament. We are all to speak the truth in love to each other, for,
Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins.James 5:20
I think Lamentations says something we need to remember in our age of freedom and individualism. As prophets, we are called to expose one another’s sins. Not in self-righteousness, but to call to Christ and to his righteousness. That may not be a pleasant thing to do. It is a lot easier to say nice things, and to avoid the issue. But where sin is not exposed, destruction is not warded off, and forgiveness is not sought. God wants us prophetically to point out sin in order to point to Jesus Christ. Then we are the living church of Christ.