Tag Archives: Jeremiah 28

Three Rules for the Prophetic

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies.”
Jeremiah 28:15 (NIV)

On occasion, along my spiritual journey, I have had individuals speak prophetic words to me. In fact, it’s happened more in the last few years than ever before. Prophecy is woven into the fabric of the Great Story, and it is a part of most all of our great epic stories. Even the epics of recent years (e.g. Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and etc.) have strong prophetic themes running through them.

In our age of enlightenment I’ve observed that we’ve discounted and diminished the role of the prophetic. In fact, I confess that even writing about it this morning gives me a certain level of discomfort. I’ve observed over time that the institutional churches in the West have largely ignored the fact that I Corinthians speaks of the spiritual gift of prophecy as being among the most important of spiritual gifts and believers are encouraged to be “eager to prophesy.” Most all the churches with which I’ve ever been associated have simply ignored this or have chosen to interpret “prophesy” as being a good preacher.

I get it. Prophecy is a mysterious, strange, and slippery part of the spiritual journey. It always has been.

In today’s chapter we get a fascinating peek at how it worked in the days of the ancient prophet, Jeremiah. It’s easy for casual readers to think that “the prophets” were unique individuals on the landscape of history but the fact of the matter is that most kings in Jeremiah’s day had hoards of prophets in their service. It was quite common for prophets to be spiritual “yes men” who divined what the king wanted and then gave him the spiritual rubber stamp with their prophetic visions.

Today’s chapter tells a fascinating story of a prophetic duel between Jeremiah and another prophet named Hananiah. Jer was hanging out in his ox yoke (see yesterday’s post) telling all the kingdoms of the region that they would end up in servitude to the King of Babylon. Along comes Hananiah who, in front of everyone, takes the ox yoke off Jer’s neck and breaks it. It was a public slap in the face. Hananiah upped the prophetic ante and told everyone what they wanted to hear: Things aren’t going to be as bad as Jeremiah keeps prophesying. Hananiah then claimed that after two years of serving the King of Babylon, God would restore all the kingdoms that Babylon would conquer.

Jeremiah then goes in private to Hananiah and tells the prophetic contrarian that not only is he wrong, but that he’ll be dead within a year. And, he was.

The realm of the prophetic is a mysterious place. Along my journey I’ve had people tell me that they “have a word” for me, but whatever it was they said amounted to nothing and was ultimately forgotten. I’ve also had some pretty wild experiences in which people have said things which were amazingly prescient and powerfully true.

Three rules I’ve come to embrace when it comes to people saying they have a prophetic word for me:

  1. Hold on loosely and let it be. If it’s true, it will be true. If it’s not, it’s not worth my time, energy or consideration. Those who receive a prophetic word and go out of their way to try to make it happen are likely to be as successful as the tragic hero in that Scottish play Shakespeare wrote.
  2. Consider the source. If someone claims to be prophetic yet, like Hananiah, their words are what most people want to hear and the prophecies usually seem to ingratiate the prophet to the hearer, I’m always wary. The occasions I’ve received prophetic words, the messengers were humble, unassuming, and at times as mysterious as the prophetic word itself.
  3. Listen to wise counsel. On my journey I’ve surrounded myself with wise and mature friends (my wife being chief among them). They know me, love me, and they desire the best for me. I trust them to assist me in being discerning about any prophetic word given to me.

Once again in my pursuit of what is true I find myself holding the place of tension between the two extremes. I don’t ever want to dismiss the prophetic outright, nor do I want to blindly give myself over to any and every prophetic message I hear.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 28

“We’ll wait and see. If it happens, it happens—and then we’ll know that God sent him.” Jeremiah 28:9 (MSG)

I was raised on westerns. Roy Rogers on Saturday morning, the Maverick brother on Sunday evening, and John Wayne movies with my dad. You gotta love a good western and the iconic showdown between two gunmen.

That’s the picture that came to mind when I read today’s chapter. Jeremiah and Hananiah, two prophetic gunslingers standing in a showdown at the temple court corral. At one end is the rugged loner Jeremiah (think Clint Eastwood as the man with no name) who stands alone proclaiming God’s judgment. On the other side is the popular, slick Hananiah (think of the card shark with the fine suit, polished ivory handled six shooters, and hair slicked back with snake oil).

Jeremiah, ever the truth teller, listens to Hananiah firing off exactly what the townspeople want to hear. Jeremiah then fires back, reminding Hananiah and the townspeople that the proof of where God stands on the issue will be evident in what eventually happens. As with all good western showdowns, the truth is revealed in the last man standing.

Through the years I’ve had others tell me that this or that is going to happen to me, or give me some direction that they say is from God. In most cases I believe that are well intentioned and I’m always willing to hear what they have to say and to test it. But, I like Jeremiah’s advice to let time and events to reveal God’s truth. My job is simply to stay tuned in to God as best I can, to be diligent to seek God in all that I do, and to take each step as I’m led. If I do that, then God will make sure that the path takes me where I’m supposed to go.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and twodolla