How valuable is good news from a false prophet? Jeremiah 28 presents us with an intense conflict between Jeremiah and a man by the name of Hananiah. Hananiah was very bold to speak good news from the Lord, but the words that he spoke were a direct contradiction of God’s revelation through His true prophet. Jeremiah had indicated that there would be no quick release from the danger of the Babylonians. Hananiah said that all the people and property that were already in captivity would be returned to Judah within two years. They could not both be right.
Jeremiah wanted to hear good news, just as all the people of Judah wanted deliverance from God, the return of their families and friends, and a restoration of the sacred vessels from the temple that had been removed by the Babylonians. He was quick to add his “Amen” to the prophesy of Hananiah. “May the Lord do so!” But would the Lord do so?
Jeremiah indicated that the prophesy of Hananiah was inconsistent with the existing revelations of God from prior prophets. These earlier men had spoken of war, famine, and sickness, just as Jeremiah had also prophesied. Hananiah spoke of peace in their day and prosperity for the people of Judah. His word did not find a witness among the revered messengers of earlier days. If there was no peace within two years, then Hananiah was a false prophet who must be resisted.
Hananiah did not appreciate these words of challenge. Remember that Jeremiah was wearing a wooden yoke as a visual parable to the people regarding God’s chosen pathway of submission for them in surrender to the Babylonians. Hananiah responded to Jeremiah’s object lesson by removing this wooden yoke from his neck and breaking that yoke, claiming in this visual prophetic action that God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar within two years.
Jeremiah simply went away at the time that this happened, but he later confronted Hananiah concerning his brash presumption and his false words. It was easy enough to break a yoke of wood, but could the false prophet remove “an iron yoke?” What if God Himself had determined that Judah’s exile would not be quickly ended?
Finally Jeremiah had a message for Hananiah himself. He gave a new prophesy with a very short time horizon. Within one year Hananiah would die. Why? He had uttered rebellion against the Lord. Seven months later, Hananiah was dead.
When Jesus Christ came, He taught as one who had authority. He spoke of things from the past and of His present day. He was also bold to speak of the future. Some of His prophesies were of things that were far off from the time of His speaking, but some were very near. He told His disciples three times that He was going to meet His death soon in Jerusalem. He spoke of what would happen prior to His death, about how He would die, and most interestingly, He made what must have seemed like a wild prediction—that He would rise from the dead within a very short period of time.
It would have been very evident within just a few months or years if Jesus had been a false prophet. But our Redeemer did face mocking and scourging. Jesus was crucified. Especially important, the Messiah did rise from the dead. By the power of His resurrection He testified to the success of His saving work for us. Christ has now been perfectly vindicated as the greatest of all prophets. Why should we ever doubt His Word?
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, You spoke to Your children through prophets, yet not every man who claimed to speak for You was true. In Old Testament days there were many false prophets, as there are even to this day. Many seem to speak only what people wish to hear. The Word that You have for us is wonderful. Why would we ever reject Your blessings and insist on answers that are not good? Your plan of eternal salvation is far better than the instant gifts that we would demand from You or the man-centered answers to our questions that we would invent. Give us patient ears and submissive hearts. Stay near us, O Lord.