Read Jeremiah 28
Focus on verse 15
It would seem that the world has never been short of people claiming to have an inside track on what the future holds. Some are more obviously occultist using tarot cards and crystal balls to predict future events, most of which tend to be so vague that it is nearly impossible for them not to come to pass. Others use an even more deceptive route by claiming they have “messages from God” for other people. Then there are the rare cases of people whom God actually uses to declare His word to people. This presents those of us who hear these messages with the obligation of discerning truth from deception.
In today’s chapter, we find a description of what we might call a prophetic showdown between Jeremiah and a prophet named Hananiah. I find it interesting that in this case Jeremiah does not publically confront the false message of Hananiah. In fact, one could nearly construe Jeremiah’s initial response as an endorsement of the prediction. (v. 6) It is not until sometime later when the Lord gives Jeremiah a clear message for Hananiah that Jeremiah confronts him. It is in this confrontation and the reported result of that confrontation that the validity of Jeremiah’s message is confirmed. Jeremiah’s words are very clear and concise; “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made the people trust in a lie.” (v. 15) Jeremiah then proceeds to prophesy that Hananiah will die within the year for misleading the people. Seven months later Hananiah dies.
The test of a true prophet by Old Testament standards was that if the word he declared came to pass he was a true prophet – if it did not come to pass, he was a false prophet. (a crime for which the O.T. penalty was death by stoning) Interestingly, it would seem that for some reason the Lord spared Hananiah the humiliation of execution by stoning by having him die of some other cause, which also would serve to affirm the message of His true prophet Jeremiah.
There are several ways by which we in our context can discern whether something we are hearing is “of God” or not. The first and most obvious test is to compare it with what God has already revealed to us in His word (the Bible). Any message that contradicts what God has already declared is highly suspicious at best. When there is a prediction involved in the message about something that will or will not come to pass, the test is very simple – if it comes to pass it is possible that it was from God. If it does not come to pass – it would seem pretty clear that something is amiss with either the message or the messenger or possibly both.