Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. — Jeremiah 28:15
An old cliché states, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” While this may be true in some trivial matters, it certainly is not the case in matters of importance. Although it may be more pleasant or convenient to go through life thinking that everything is OK, it is only when we know the truth — however unpleasant — that we will be motivated to do something about it.
To illustrate, I recall one Saturday a number of years ago when my teenage son and I prepared to repaint our downstairs bathroom, anticipating that the project would take no more than a couple of hours. As we began the prep work, I scraped off a large paint blister and was unhappily surprised to notice that the sheetrock under the blister was damp. As I removed a little of the sheetrock, and then still more, I learned the horrible truth. Not only was much of the sheetrock ruined, but the structural two-by-fours underneath were also rotten. What had once been solid pieces of lumber had become more like soggy bark dust. Our nice, ceramic-tile shower stall apparently had been leaking for a long, long time. By the end of that day, what had once been a shower stall was torn out. What had started out as a two-hour project ended up taking more than two months and around two thousand dollars to complete.
That “Saturday” project is now far enough in the past that we can smile about it, though it was a bit discouraging at the time. I still remember the good feeling we had at the end of those two months when the dry rot had been removed and the bathroom rebuilt with good, solid material. Learning the truth about the condition of our bathroom had been the starting point for repairing the damage.
In today’s text, Hananiah gave a prophecy that brought the people peace of mind and a sense of comfort and security. However, the prophecy was not true — and in our focus verse, Jeremiah rebuked Hananiah for making the people to trust in a lie. The fact was that judgment was definitely coming. Who knows what might have happened if the people had acted upon Jeremiah’s report and had turned to God in sincere repentance? Believing the truth could have been a new starting point in Judah’s relationship with God. Sadly, they did not accept Jeremiah’s words, but trusted in Hananiah’s lie and continued in their disobedience and rebellion.
Today, we must be careful to reject spiritual counsel that does not align completely with God’s Word. As in the time of Jeremiah, there are “Hananiahs” in the religious world today who lead people astray. Some may teach their hearers to accept Christ without giving any instruction about the necessity for repentance and turning from sin. They may say that a person can never expect to live a life without sin, or that one cannot know for sure that he is ready for eternity until he steps out of this life. While such teachings may seem comforting or convenient for the hearers, they are not according to the Word of God, and will bring eternal consequences.
We must be grounded in the truth in order to avoid being confused or misguided in spiritual matters. Let us purpose to seek for the truth, cherish it, and uphold it in our own lives!
Today’s text recounts a specific incident related to the wooden yoke and the false prophets mentioned in the previous chapter. Hananiah was one of those false prophets.
Because of Judah’s continued sin against God, He was going to allow the nation to be put in subjection to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The country had already been invaded twice by the Chaldean armies (605 and 597 B.C.), and the worst was yet to come. (The final invasion took place in 586 B.C.)
As an object lesson not only to the rulers but to the population at large, Jeremiah had been told to make yokes of wood. Yokes represent submission, as oxen under a yoke must submit to the farmer. The prophet was told to wear a yoke himself, and to send yokes to the kings of certain surrounding countries. The message was that if they would willingly submit to the judgment which was surely coming, then it would be relatively mild. If, however, the leaders refused to submit, then their end would be terrible.
Hananiah arrogantly stepped up and publicly rebuked Jeremiah. He prophesied that God Himself had showed him that within two years, God would break the yoke of Babylon from about the neck of Judah. To this pronouncement, Jeremiah responded in verse 6 with irony: “Amen: the Lord do so: the Lord perform thy words which thou hast prophesied.” While Jeremiah wished that this prophecy was true, he knew it was not. He reminded the people that the true test of the validity of a prophecy was whether or not it came to pass. Jeremiah had prophesied total domination by Babylon, with the one ray of hope being that if they would voluntarily submit, it would go much easier with them. Hananiah, on the other hand, had prophesied peace and prosperity within two years. The choice was before the people. Sadly, the majority of the people chose to ignore Jeremiah and to believe the lies of Hananiah.
Hananiah further insulted Jeremiah by breaking the wooden yoke — the one being worn in obedience to the word of God — from off his neck. Hananiah hoped this action would cause the people to believe more firmly that he was correct. Jeremiah responded by walking away. “And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.”
Later, God sent Jeremiah back to Hananiah. God’s message was that although Hananiah had physically broken the wooden yoke, God would one day create yokes of iron in its place, meaning yokes that could not be broken by man. Jeremiah also told Hananiah in verse 16 that for his sin in falsely representing God, he would die that year. Jeremiah’s word came to pass; Hananiah died in two months, which reinforced the credibility of Jeremiah’s prophecies.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
B. The conflicts of the prophet
3. The conflict with Hananiah (28:1-17)
a. The prediction of Hananiah (28:1-4)
b. The rebuttal of Jeremiah (28:5-9)
c. The action of Hananiah (28:10-11)
d. The condemnation of Hananiah (28:12-17)
May each of us ever hold to the truth so that we do not end up believing a lie.