I found this in my drafts from last fall. I don’t have answers, but I think it’s good to think on.
If you’ve been in church very long, you have heard Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you,”. declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This scripture is one of promise! It’s a good promise, but it’s not what I want to focus on today. My mind is hashing out the order of things a few chapters back leading up to chapter 29. Jeremiah was a prophet. The message from the Lord was a grim one. The instructions were strange: strap a yoke on your neck, send a message to the surrounding kings from the Lord that basically is: I’m in charge of the earth and everything in it. I decide who rules and who reigns. Nebuchadnezzar is my servant and I’m going to give you in to his hands for three generations. Don’t fight this, it is going to happen. If you don’t serve him, I will crush you. There are going to be false prophets who try to tell you something different. They are lying. If you submit to Babylon, you will get too stay in your own land and live.
Another prophet, Hananiah, shows up. He has a positive happy message that within two years, things stolen will be returned, all the exiles will return. Jeremiah says he hopes Hananiah is right, but he respectfully disagrees with the prophesy. Hananiah takes the yoke off of Jeremiah and breaks it, and Jeremiah leaves. Soon, Jeremiah receives a word for Hananiah that “the Lord has not sent you and you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies.” and you’re going to die. Then, he dies.
Jeremiah then sends letters to the exiles in Babylon telling them to settle in and go on with life where they are, because they are not going anywhere soon. The exiles, of course, do not like this message, but if you read Jeremiah 29: 1-7 it is a message of hope and instruction. It wasn’t what the people wanted to haer, but the goodness of the Lord is evident in the message.
A host of questions are banging against the side of my skull at this point: How did Jeremiah know that was the Lord’s message? How did Hananiah get it so wrong? Was he so distraught by Jeremiah’s message & so desperate for hope that he opened himself up to false prophesy? Did he just want to be popular & make prophets look better in the eye of the public? Did he see that they had killed the last prophet with a message similar to Jeremiah’s and he wanted to save his own life? Did he fail to see God’s goodness in Jeremiah’s work and decide it must be wrong and so come with a “better more God worthy” word?
How do I make sure I am hearing the Lord and sharing His word? Where am I desperate enough to be misled into false belief for the sake of peace or popularity or fear? What messages from the Lord am I softening, when in reality I am just failing to tell the truth, which is lying? Where do I fail to see God’s goodness or nature because I am focused on the negative, and thus fail to believe truth?