God has just warned Judah NOT to listen to the false prophets. Case in point; Hananiah who breaks the yoke Jeremiah is told to wear as he gives the true word of the Lord.
When we join Jeremiah today, he is still wearing the yoke that God told him to put on. That yoke was a visual representation of God’s plans for not just Judah but for the whole region. They would come under the yoke of the king of Babylon for three generations. Willingly or not. He has just shared this message in the courtyard of the Temple for all the people to see. And he has strongly warned the people NOT to listen to false prophets who are calling out safety and deliverance.
Enter Hananiah. He begins to prophecy in the name of the Lord, or so he says. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel” (verse 2a). He claims his words are from God but they run exactly opposite to what Jeremiah has just shared. Hananiah claims that God will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar within two years from the necks of the people. He claims God will bring back everything Nebuchadnezzar took from the Temple and Jeconiah. These ALL run contrary to what God has spoken through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah tells Hananiah, and the people listening in, that he too would LOVE it if God had indeed sent this message. But then Jeremiah throws out the litmus test. ‘Let the proof speak for itself.’ Prophets of old have had time to prove their prophecies true or false. If it doesn’t happen as foretold, it IS NOT from God. God NEVER says something that is untrue. Hananiah gave his prophecy a timeline. Two years is a short time to wait for a prophecy to be fulfilled. Zedekiah would reign in Judah for 10 years. This prophecy was done in the early years of Zedekiah’s reign so there is plenty of time for Hananiah’s prophecy to be exposed as a fake.
If it would have ended there, I think all might have been fine. The ‘wait and see’ would have played out on its own. But Hananiah tried to completely dismiss Jeremiah in front of the people. He took the yoke that GOD TOLD JEREMIAH TO WEAR, pulled it from his neck and broke it in two! Jeremiah didn’t explode. He didn’t prophecy against Hananiah at that moment. He kept his cool and simply walked away.
God didn’t let it go. But neither did He tell him to go right back and confront Hananiah. God let it stand for a while. We see this in the word “sometime”, meaning time has passed before God gives Jeremiah a word to bring to Hananiah. What did Jeremiah think about during this ‘sometime’? Did he stew on the event? Did he ‘let it go’? Did he ask God to punish Hananiah? Did he wait patiently or with anticipation? Was God exercising Jeremiah’s patience or waiting for all the fuss to die down?
Within two months of Hananiah disrespecting God’s true prophet and giving the people false information, Hananiah was dead. Not of natural causes or an accident. But as punishment for his deeds. “Because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord” (verse 16b). Jeremiah didn’t have to lay a finger on Hananiah or publicly confront him. Jeremiah left the issue in God’s hands. Jeremiah DID have to follow God’s directive and deliver the message; maybe privately. We don’t know this for certain because we are not told where Jeremiah delivered God’s message. It may have been publicly so Hananiah’s words would have been discredited too.
God looks after His own word. As long as we speak only what He has given us to say, He will protect it. And His word will NOT return void to Him. It will accomplish EVERYTHING He has purposed it to do.
Father God, I’m glad I don’t have to prove Your existence or Your words. You do that quite nicely Yourself. All I have to do is stay within Your word. Say what You say without altering it to meet my desires. I PRAY I do this EVERY TIME I come and spend time with You. If EVER I deviate, PLEASE change the words Yourself. You can part the sea and bring Your people across on dry ground, You would have NO problem reaching into ‘cyber space’ and fix anything I have done wrong.