In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. Jeremiah 28:17
Two prophets are at war in this chapter: one prophesying what people want to hear and the other prophesying the word of the Lord. How do we know who is the true prophet? The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, although in the end it is.
Prophets have a unique standing with the Lord. Ultimately, He authenticates the words they speak and credibility is derived from the outcome over time rather than by tickling the ears of people.
There are many things that are interesting about the chapter, not the least of these to have two prophets speaking opposite words in the presence of people, including the priests. It’s a war of words. Who are the people to believe? Is it Hananiah? Or is it Jeremiah?
Hananiah utters a word of peace and hope. Jeremiah reminds Hananiah that the Old Testament prophets usually prophesied war, famine, and pestilence. “But,” Jeremiah adds, “if it comes to pass, then we will know that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
The prophet Hananiah takes it a step further. Jeremiah has been walking around with yoke-bars on his neck as a prophetic act. Hananiah now breaks these declaring that the Lord will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar in two years.
The Lord give Jeremiah a new word about the yoke: “Go, tell Hananiah: You have broken the wood bars, but you have in their place bars of iron.”
The final word Jeremiah brings Hananiah is that he shall die in a year. In that same year Hananiah dies. The proof is in the pudding. And of course, the exile was not lifted in two years. End of story.
In the Old Testament, a prophet was considered a prophet if his word came true. If not, he would be stoned to death. Today that is not the case.
It seems like this is a good place to pause to consider some differences between Old and New Testament prophecy:
- We prophesy encouragement, comfort and strengthening. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
- We prophesy in part. (1 Corinthians 13:9)
- The test of a true prophet is the acknowledgement that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. (1 John 4:2)
- The ultimate test is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
- The Lord does authenticate our words but even the apostle Paul who received a true word from Agabus begged to differ on the application. He went to Rome anyway. (Acts 21:10-14)
- Everyone can prophesy (Joel 2, Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14)
- As the Spirit of the Lord is in all of us, we all have a part in discerning the words spoken, even though some may be more gifted in this than others.
By Ralph Veenstra