Few things are harder to deliver than bad news. Few things are better to deliver than good news. Jeremiah had been the messenger that people had wanted to kill, and now that the bad news had happened, there were plenty of wannabe heroes wanting to bring good news and hope. The problem was that it was false prophecy and false hope.
Hanniah was a problem to Jeremiah. The first wave of exiles had been taken to Babylon, and Hanniah wanted to give Judah hope — nice sentiment but with the wrong method — so, he told the people that God was going to break the yoke of the king of Babylon within two years! It’s interesting — Jeremiah says is willing to “Amen” Hanniah’s prediction (v. 6), but he offers this counterpoint (Jeremiah 28:9): ““The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.”” This directly parallels what Moses said about identifying a false prophet in Deuteronomy 18:22. Jeremiah goes on to contrast his own prophecy to Hanniah’s (one of us is wrong and it’s not me!) and tells Hanniah that God would be visiting punishment on him for his false hope (Jeremiah 28:16, 17): ““Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’” So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.” Hope when it is not God’s hope is false hope. When it is spoken in the name of the Lord, and doesn’t come to pass (and it won’t, if the Lord isn’t behind it), the faith of men in the LORD begins to fail. Then when real hope is spoken by the LORD, men pay it no attention.
Jeremiah’s hope (from God) was less sparkling than Hanniah’s. Instead of blowing hot air like a quick return of the exiles Jeremiah told the exiles (Jeremiah 29:5): “‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.” Get ready for a long stay, settle in. Others prophets in Babylon were, like Hanniah, full of false hopes and promises of a quick return of the exiles, but God wanted His people to know the reality: (Jeremiah 29:9, 10) “‘For [false prophets of Babylon] prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD. “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” There was coming a time, when they would return, but it wouldn’t be soon, (Jeremiah 30:8, 9) “‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. ‘But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.”
And when they did return it would be a different Judah. This double prophetic passage includes a reference to the Messiah and the church, (Jeremiah 30:21) “‘Their leader shall be one of them, And their ruler shall come forth from their midst; And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the LORD.” The Messiah would not only be the king, He would also be the priest “he shall approach Me” — Jesus. Now that’s REAL hope! A real reason to rejoice!
There are folks today that chafe at God’s bad news about sin and Hell. They don’t want to be Jeremiahs and would much prefer to be the bringers of hope and grace and peace. The problem is that it is often hope, grace, and peace on the basis of cheap discipleship and smooth-sounding theology, and popular religion. It is false hope. There is real hope found in the Scriptures, God’s hope; the rest of it isn’t worth a dime.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.