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Legends and Lessons

Legends and Lessons – How not to lead God’s people (Jeremiah 28:15-16)

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 26-28

Today’s Reflection: Jeremiah 28:15-16

15) And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16) Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.'”

Subject: Hananiah

istory:  The book of Jeremiah is a book concerning the coming destruction of Judah.  Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet because of his deep sorrow over the punishment the people of Judah were facing.  But facing the truth about their sins being the cause of their punishment was something the people of Judah were not willing to do.  Any voice that proclaimed what the people wanted to hear—that God was with them despite their disobedience, that they could rebel against the rise of other nations and powers and win, that their covenant with God would protect them even in spite of their disregard for the God of the covenant and His law—would gain the favour of the people.  This is where Hananiah came in.  Hananiah proclaimed that Babylon, the most powerful nation in that time which had already pillaged Jerusalem and taken many of its people as slaves, would be defeated and would return the Jewish exiles—a proclamation that directly contradicted Jeremiah’s previous prophecies in chapter 27, specifically an admonition not to resist the rule of Babylon and a warning not to listen to false prophets that spoke otherwise (vs. 14-16).

The dangers of the lying prophet: The first thing to note about Hananiah is that the Biblical record suggests he actually was a real prophet.  This being the case, at some point he received a calling from God.  Hananiah would have been aware of his responsibilities and he would have known whether the word he was speaking was God’s word or his own.  After his proclamation, Jeremiah tries to publicly yet subtly warn Hananiah of the perils of his false prophesy.  But instead of repenting, Hananiah makes an even bigger show of promoting his lie.  This seals his fate.  God later speaks through Jeremiah, informing Hananiah that he will die for his sin of misleading the people by misrepresenting God and promoting rebellion.

Lesson: Those called to speak on God’s behalf have no license to lie or misrepresent God’s words.  God’s word is the way to life.  When a trusted leader in God’s church lies, he promotes rebellion against God and His laws, usually to serve his own interests.  He muddies the waters between sin and righteousness.  But most disturbingly, he disguises a path to death as if it were the way to life.

There is no greater responsibility than speaking on God’s behalf, and no greater betrayal—to God or to man—than abusing that calling. The penalty for doing so is severe and for good reason.

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