Photo by Magda Ehlers
Jeremiah 28 details Jeremiah being confronted by a false prophet Hananiah. Hananiah stands in the temple of the Lord, before the priests and all the people and prophesises a very different future to what Jeremiah had been saying.
In verse 2-3, we read Hananiah say “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.”
Observations on how and what Hananiah spoke:
- Hananiah begins with a time period – the yoke of Babylon will be broken in two years which is in sharp contrast to what Jeremiah had said (Jeremiah 25:11 “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”).
The drastic reduction in the duration of their difficulty would have surely perked up ears and compelled people to reason with the want to believe Hananiah against prior contrary prophecies.
- Hananiah claimed to speak in the name of the Lord, the wording is exact to what Jeremiah would say; “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says”
For us: Although Hananiah begins his prophecy in a manner similar to how Jeremiah would speak, his words were not from God. When we read Hananiah’s words it is easy for us to see them as false because we read them through the lens of prior knowledge that Hananiah was a false prophet.
But like the people listening to him then, when we listen to teaching/preaching now, we are yet to know if the words spoken are in alignment with scripture or not. There is a saying that false teaching is more often not between right and wrong teaching but rather between right and almost right teaching. And that small shift in the truth is often what can dull the natural tendency to be wary of what someone says as most of it would sound accurate. When something sounds almost right there is a greater chance for that false theology/teaching to be believed unless one is well versed with scripture or takes the time to test and see if what was said is in accordance with scripture.
- There was also a boldness with which Hananiah spoke, a confidence, which probably worked in his favour, convincing people that he was actually speaking a true prophecy. He confidently proclaimed these words in the temple of the Lord, in the presence of Jeremiah, the priests and all the people and claimed them to be from God.
That perceived boldness did not stem from the knowledge that he was doing the work of God but rather from a lack of fear of the Lord. For if Hananiah truly did believe what he said, that the Lord is almighty and is the God of Israel, he would not dare to speak out of his own accord and claim it to be from God.
For us: Often inaccurate teachings cloaked with boldness and confidence can be perceived subconsciously with a notion of correctness. The tone of the voice, the stance on the pulpit or the sheer number of people listening can be a snare, but it does not make one a truthful mouthpiece of God.
- What Hananiah did not speak within this prophecy also reveals a lot to the truth of its origin.
When we read through the earlier chapters of Jeremiah, there is no missing the clarity with which God mentions the reason why He intended to bring doom upon the nation. They were rebellious, had turned away from Him and were worshipping other gods (Jeremiah 2:13). And God sends word through Jeremiah again and again the need for repentance that is sincere and nor perfunctory (Jeremiah 4:1-2).
Hananiah prophesises a quick restoration to peace but there is no acknowledgement of the sins of the people and the need for genuine repentance and a change of their ways. Hananiah’s words catered to what the people probably found more appealing and easier to accept.
For us: Often when God convicts us to change a sinful habit or our wrong approach to something, it is not always easy. Our tendency can lean towards seeking help from God with minimal to no effort on self reflection and change from our end. But as I heard a speaker once say, “God seeks our conformation more than our comfort.”
God would never make compromises on our spiritual state, it is us who tend to look for compromises. We might not enjoy the pruning and refining process from God, but we have confidence in HIM that all He brings about, will always be good for us because He is a God who is perfect, good and holy.
Let’s finish with observing how Jeremiah responded to Hananiah:
Jeremiah was not motivated to dispel Hananiah’s wrong prophecy by
- His pride – as Hananiah makes him appear as a liar.
- By his anger – how dare Hananiah challenge his words which were indeed from God.
- By fear – of the consequences of what the people might do to him if they believed him to be prophesying incorrectly and always of doom.
Jeremiah responds by reminding people of previous prophecies and says that if what Hananiah said is truly from God, it will come to pass (Jeremiah 28:8-9).
For us: When our faith or differing theological views are challenged, let not our responses be driven by our own emotions or desire to be proved right. We do not reflect Christ when we do that. But with kindness, compassion and respect, point to the word and encourage to pore over scripture along with prayer for wisdom and discernment as 1 john 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
Lord, thank you for your word that we can rely on, for the promise of wisdom and discernment to know what is from you and what is not. May we acquaint ourselves with scripture and know that if we turn to you, you will shield us from taking steps that lead away from you.