GOD’S SOVEREIGN PLAN WILL PREVAIL WHEN FALSE PROPHETS OPPOSE TRUE PROPHETS
Parunak: Every old-time western, at some point or another, shows two gunslingers facing one another on the main street of town as they are about to “shoot it out” to settle some question or disagreement. The duel is an ancient form of trial, leaving the decision in the hands of God. This chapter in Jer reports such a duel, not between cowboys, but between two men who claim to be prophets: Jer and Hananiah. The question is, which of them actually represents the Lord? How can God’s people know which to believe?
There is a tremendous temptation for spiritual messengers to proclaim a message of peace and safety when the reality is that God’s judgment is coming. The Apostle Paul pointed to his commitment to proclaiming the whole counsel of God as one of the verifiable signs of his legitimate apostleship. We can never sugar-coat God’s message to try to make it more palatable or appealing. We must faithfully communicate what God has revealed.
GOD’S SOVEREIGN PLAN WILL PREVAIL WHEN FALSE PROPHETS OPPOSE TRUE PROPHETS
I. (:1-6) BREAKING THE YOKE OF BABYLON DOMINATION –
FALSE PROMISE ANNOUNCED
A. (:1) False Prophet Introduced
“Now in the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying,”
Constable: The following event took place in the same year as the preceding one, 594 or 593 B.C, in the fifth month. Another prophet, Hananiah ben Azzur from Gibeon in Benjamin (about 5 miles northwest of Jerusalem), spoke to Jeremiah in the temple courtyard, in the presence of the priests and the people who had assembled there (cf. Jeremiah 27:16). Ironically, the Gibeonites had deceived the Israelites in Joshua”s day (Joshua 9:1-15), and now a man from Gibeon would again try to deceive the Israelites.
B. (:2-4) False Promise Defined = Recovery From Babylon
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,”
Claiming to be a promise from God:
1. (:2) Resolution
“I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
2. (:3) Recovery of the Vessels
“Within two years I am going to bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’S house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.”
Constable: Jeremiah predicted that the captivity would last70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10), but Hananiah predicted it would last only two years.
3. (:4a) Recovery of the VIPs
“’I am also going to bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the LORD,”
Constable: This flatly contradicted Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jeconiah would die in Babylon (Jeremiah 22:24-27; cf. Jeremiah 52:31-34).
4. (:4b) Resolution Repeated
“for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
C. (:5-6) Facetious Response From God’s True Prophet
1. (:5) Public Show
“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD, and the prophet Jeremiah said,”
2. (:6) Personal Preference
“Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of the LORD’s house and all the exiles, from Babylon to this place.”
Parunak: Once again the compassion of Jer is an example for us. He longs for the well-being of his people even as he predicts their suffering. He would personally prefer the outcome presented by the false prophet; his message come, not from his own personal desires, but from the Lord. It is important for us to communicate this to those with whom we deal. It can help us to emphasize that we do not speak of our own initiative.
Ryken: Sometimes when people hear Christians peak about divine judgment they get the wrong idea. We Christians do speak about divine judgment – Hell and all the rest of it. We explain that every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God. We teach that sin leads to death. We testify that God has reserved a place of endless torment for everyone who refuses to repent of his sins. But Christians do not talk about God’s judgment because they enjoy it. The only reason we teach these things is because the Lord Jesus Christ himself teaches them in the Bible.
II. (:7-9) DISTINGUISHING THE TRUE PROPHET FROM THE FALSE PROPHET – LITMUS TEST
A. (:7) Litmus Test Introduced
“Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!”
B. (:8) Litmus Test Contextualized
“The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.”
Just because Jeremiah has spoken of calamity doesn’t brand him as wrong or in error.
C. (:9) Litmus Test Defined
“The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.”
“I will believe it when I see it”
Parunak: Speaking as a prophet of the Lord, he delivers a one-two punch.
1) 8, Precedent indicates that messages of judgment have a good prophetic pedigree. Human sin being what it is, most of the prophetic air-time is dedicated to warning of judgment. Even the good news, the gospel, only makes sense once we understand the bad news.
2) 9, The rules of Deut. 13, 18 permit Jer to adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude. He need not argue this through theoretically; Han’s prophecy is sufficiently precise that Jer is content to rest on the Lord’s decision.
III. (:10-11) BREAKING THE YOKE OF BABYLON DOMINATION –
FALSE PROMISE ACTED OUT
A. (:10) Visual Object Lesson From the False Prophet
“Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it.”
Constable: Hananiah proceeded to deliver a symbolic act of his own by vandalizing Jeremiah’s sign. He dramatically smashed the yoke that Jeremiah had been wearing on his neck (cf. Jeremiah 27:2). He claimed that, similarly, within two years Yahweh would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar off the neck of all the nations that he was oppressing.
B. (:11a) Verifiable Prophecy
“Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Even so will I break within two full years the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations.’”
This would be a popular message with the people – but Hananiah is digging his own grave with such a specific promise
C. (:11b) Violent Reaction Resisted – Vengeance Belongs to God
“Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.”
Jeremiah did not feel the need to lash out and attack Hananiah despite how he had taken the yoke off him and broken it. He left matters in the hands of the Lord. Nothing more to be said at this point. Let’s see how history unfolds
Ryken: This parting of the ways must have required great restraint on the part of Jeremiah. After all, Hananiah laid angry hands on him. Breaking the yoke was an act of aggression that could easily have led to further violence. . . There is spiritual wisdom in knowing when to walk away from a dispute.
Mackay: This is the action of a man who on meeting with implacable opposition realizes the futility of speaking further. Having made his case, Jeremiah was content to let events prove who was in reality the prophet of the Lord.
IV. (:12-17) REALITY OF BABYLON DOMINATION –
FALSE PROPHET DENOUNCED
A. (:12-14) Defining the Object Lesson on God’s Terms
1. (:12) Authentic Word from the Lord
“The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,”
2. (:13) Intensification/Strengthening of the Imagery
“Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.’”
Kidner: We only add to God’s chastening when we resist it – exchanging wood for iron.
3. (:14) Yoke of Babylon Domination Cannot Be Broken
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.’”
Longman: The reference to wild animals is best to be understood as prophetic hyperbole. Wild animals, after all, are wild and thus virtually impossible to subjugate. If he can control the wild animals, he will easily control the inhabitants of these nations, including Judah.
Feinberg: Whereas for Hezekiah to resist Assyria in 701 B.C. was an act of faith, for Judah to rebel against Babylon in Jeremiah’s time was an act of disobedience.
B. (:15-16) Denouncing Hananiah as a False Prophet
1. (:15) Hananiah Exposed
“Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie.’”
Adam Clarke: This was a bold speech in the presence of those priests and people who were prejudiced in favor of this false prophet, who prophesied to them smooth things. In such cases men wish to be deceived.
2. (:17) Hananiah Executed
“Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD. So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.”
Constable: The prophet who predicted deliverance in two years died in two months. God graciously gave him two months to repent before He put him to death. His death was another object lesson to the people on the importance of obeying God’s Word.
Mackay: One might wonder why it [the death] did not happen immediately. Would that not have given even greater authentication to Jeremiah and his message? Perhaps it is a sign of graciousness allowing Hananiah time to reflect and repent. Perhaps it allowed Hananiah’s death to occur in a way that showed it was from the Lord and not humanly contrived whether by Jeremiah or anyone else.