Gracious Lord, let Your healing light shine on me today. Grant me wholeness; body, mind, and soul.
Read JEREMIAH 28:1-17
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“We are too familiar with alluring prophets. We have seen them crumble into fragments. We have seen them bring God into disrepute” (Karl Barth).
The question of true and false prophecy has been rumbling in the background of the last few days’ readings. Now it bursts into the open, and around the presenting issue of the day: how to respond to Babylon. Hananiah gives an optimistic message that is contrary to that conveyed by Jeremiah. We might imagine him speaking during a debate over whether or not to resist the Babylonian overlords.
Jeremiah responds cautiously at first. Presumably, the distinction between true and false proclamation was no easier to make then than it is now. History is the final arbiter on these things, but we often have to make judgments without the benefit of hindsight. Jeremiah prays that Hananiah may be right (6), while at the same time cautioning that even messages of peace may be false if they are not in tune with the mind of God (9). Then he holds his own counsel. We, too, do well, on hearing a troubling message, not to say too much when we are unsure of the mind of God, but to pray for the emergence of God’s words anyway.
Once Jeremiah sensed that he had a word from the Lord (12), however, he spoke. Once again, he sticks to the basics. The issue is not how long the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar will last; on another occasion, Hananiah’s prophecy could be correct. The issue is that Hananiah was not sent by the Lord: he “persuaded this nation to trust in lies” (15). The Church today still struggles to find the mind of God on the great social and political debates of our times. Still today we need the insight to discern where our words and actions become denials of the will of God for our societies. Still today it behooves us to speak cautiously, prayerfully and, occasionally, boldly.
Place before God somebody or some group whose message and commitments you find troubling. Ask for wisdom.
Lord, raise up prophets who speak Your Word to the church. Grant them discernment, wisdom, and courage. Empower me as well, Lord, to live prophetically for You.
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