Jeremiah 28:15-16 (ESV) -- 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. 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.’”
Not everyone who speaks on behalf of the LORD is telling the truth. We would do well to grasp this lesson. Many folks claim to speak for God. Preachers do it. Politicians do it. Your neighbor does it. The truth is: most people find themselves representing what God thinks or desires at some point. It comes out when we hear folks say things like, “I just think God…” or “The Lord would never….” Whatever things come after statements like that are claiming to represent God. Almost everyone does this. The question isn’t whether we do it, the issue at stake is are we telling the truth.
Our passage today shows how God feels to be misrepresented by us. The story in the book of Jeremiah shows Jeremiah confronting the prophet Hananiah. Why is he confronting him? Because Hananiah prophesied false things to Israel about Babylon’s conquering of them. The LORD tells Jeremiah that Hananiah speaks falsely to the people. So we read Jeremiah’s interaction with him. We read, “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. 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.”’”
Hananiah was not sent of the LORD. He did not have permission to speak on God’s behalf. The result of his deed? The people of Israel have believed a lie. Why is that so bad? Because if Hananiah doesn’t represent God, but he leads the people to hold expectations of God based on Hananiah’s words, then God looks to be a liar. Hananiah makes God a liar because he testifies falsely. This angers the LORD. So the LORD tells Jeremiah that Hananiah will be punished by death. He has acted on his own account. He has deceived the people. God will inflict judgment upon him for his sins.
This story teaches many lessons. The most important of all of them is the need for discernment. We must test everything we hear with the Scriptures. We cannot let people lead us into lies or deceptions about God or His will. Many claim to speak for God or represent Him with their words. Christians must examine these things against what the Scriptures reveal about God’s character and ways. We cannot adopt at face value everything we hear, and we certainly cannot be the kind of people who speak falsely about God.
Reflection & Journal:
- What sin is Hananiah guilty of committing?
- Why does God take this so seriously?
- How does this passage help encourage us in our lives today?
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