For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 1
From Gospel Translations
Judges 15; Acts 19; Jeremiah 28; Mark 14
EVENTUALLY THE CLASH BETWEEN Jeremiah and the false prophets becomes concretized in one particular contest—that between Jeremiah and Hananiah (Jer. 28). The issue could not be clearer. Jeremiah insists that unless Judah repents, its capital city Jerusalem will be destroyed, most of its population will perish, and the remainder will be sent into captivity. Hananiah insists that within two years of his utterance, i.e., within two years of 594 B.C. (still seven years before the ultimate destruction took place), there would be a miraculous deliverance from God. The rightful king, Jehoiachin (who had already been in exile for three or four years), would be restored to his throne, and the treasures that had been taken from the temple would be returned. Both prophets speak in the name of the Lord. Whom should the people believe, and why?
In this case, there are two useful time markers by which to test things. First, Hananiah stipulates that his prophecy will be fulfilled within two years (28:3). When that does not occur, there are still about five years to the final catastrophe— plenty of time for the people to repent. Second, we are told that shortly after the dramatic confrontation between Jeremiah and Hananiah in the temple, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah regarding Hananiah’s impending death, imposed by God himself: “This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD” (28:16). Seven months later, Hananiah dies (28:17). Should not the entire nation take notice and turn to the Lord?
In fact, there is a more dramatic marker for those with eyes to see. Jeremiah insists: “From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true” (28:8-9). This is a remarkable insight. Jeremiah does not deny that a faithful and godly prophet, in a particular historical circumstance, might prophesy peace. But he treats the possibility as so improbable that implicitly he advocates a certain healthy skepticism until the predicted peace has actually come to pass. By contrast, the normal and expected themes of faithful prophets have to do with prophesying “war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms.” This is not because prophets are a dour and morbid lot. It is because faithful prophets deal with sin and its horrible consequences, and call people to flee from the wrath to come. Jeremiah insists that this lies at the heart of genuinely prophetic ministry. Does it lie at the heart of yours?