Prophet Wars

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces.

Jeremiah 28:10

Jeremiah 28 describes a gripping conflict between two prophets, Jeremiah and Hananiah. The story began in chapter 27, when the Lord told Jeremiah to wear a yoke that symbolized the yoke of Babylonian rule (27:2-8). Even as Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke, so the Jews and their neighbors would bear the “yoke” of submission to Babylon.

But in Jeremiah 28, Hananiah, “a prophet from Gibeon,” spoke to Jeremiah in the presence of the priests and the people (28:1). He brought apparent good news. The Lord would soon remove the yoke of Babylonian tyranny (28:2-4). Jeremiah responded by saying that he hoped Hananiah spoke the truth. The test of Hananiah’s prophetic status would be whether his prediction came true or not (28:5-9). Then Hananiah removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it, claiming that the Lord said he would break the yoke of Babylonian oppression (28:10-11). Soon thereafter, Jeremiah delivered the Lord’s message to Hananiah. In place of the wooden, breakable yoke, God would put a “yoke of iron” on the necks of his people (28:12-14). Moreover, because of his false prophecies, Hananiah would die (28:15-16). Two months later, this sad prophecy was fulfilled (28:17).

In our day, we rarely experience “prophet wars” just like this one. But it is common for prominent Christian teachers, preachers, and scholars to disagree with each other, sometimes quite stridently. Some in our day tell us that we can expect to prosper financially, while others call us to sacrifice and simplicity. Some preachers call us to sexual purity based on biblical teaching, while others encourage us to redefine sexual ethics in a way that reflects modern insights. Some leaders bless right-wing politics while others identify with the left. And so it goes, on and on. What are we to do?

We cannot bring an end to the “prophet wars” of our day. That continues to be God’s business. But we can commit ourselves to discerning what is truly of the Lord and what is not. We can weigh the words of preachers in the scales of Christian orthodoxy and centuries of Christian wisdom. We can listen to the voice of the Spirit as he speaks in Christian community. Most of all, we can and must evaluate all claims in light of biblical revelation. The Spirit who inspired the writers of Scripture will continue to guide and to speak in a way that is consistent with the timeless truth of the Bible.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever been involved in or a witness to a “prophet war”? What happened? If Christian leaders disagree, what can you do to discern the truth?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, it seems that throughout the history of your people there have been those who spoke truly in your name and those who spoke falsely. Thus we need to be able to discern what is from you and what is not. Help us to have such wisdom. Teach us to know what is right and true.

I pray for those who speak in your name, including myself, that we would tell the truth. Give us humility before you and your Word. Give us sensitivity to your Spirit. Help us to be in relationships with people who can hold us accountable in all we do and say.

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (Ps. 25:4-5).

I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.