Read Jeremiah 14.
The severe drought was taking its toll on Judah. No rain meant no water. No water meant a scarcity of food. God had warned the nation in Leviticus 26:18-20, for example, that His blessings would be withheld if they chose to ignore His word. The people prayed, but God did not answer. They made a pretense of confessing their sin (v.7), but the LORD knew their hearts were still clinging to idols. Going through the routines and rituals of worship without an exclusive allegiance to the LORD would prove to be totally ineffective (v.12).
Plenty of prophets were in the land. Why were the people unprepared? Where was the true repentance of sin and revival of sincere hearts? What was the problem? The answer is that many of the preachers were false prophets and many of the priests were false priests. What characterized them as being false? God identified 4 things about them in verse 14.
1. "I did not send them."
These men held a religious position but it had nothing to do with God. They pretended to represent God but He had not called them to do such a thing. More importantly, God had not spoken to them. In those days, the prophet received direct messages from the LORD as to what He wanted preached. Truly, then, they had nothing to say. But they spoke regularly anyway.
2. "They are prophesying...a lying vision."
In the Old Testament the vision of the prophet was referring to the word of God. These false prophets stood to speak but they had not heard or seen anything from the LORD. Their content was made up. What they said to the people was not true. In fact, it contradicted what they LORD had already revealed and what genuine prophets, like Jeremiah, were saying.
3. "They are prophesying...worthless divination."
Because their messages were lies, their insights and so-called determinations about God, spiritual life, and life in general had absolutely no real value for the people.
4. "They are prophesying...the deceit of their own minds."
The Hebrew word for "deceit" is fraud. It was malpractice. Those they pretended to minister to were harmed instead of helped. It was their thinking versus what God said. It was what the people wanted to hear versus the truth. They missed the singular key ingredient for serving God and enjoying His blessings. "For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land and have no knowledge." (v.18b)
Let's hold each other accountable for knowing, speaking, and living the truth of God's word. Anything less is a fraud.