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Jeremiah 28:1-17 - Homiletics

The story of Hananiah the prophet.

Hananiah, priest and professional prophet, now presents himself as the rival and opponent of Jeremiah. A rude and shallow man, he probably thrusts himself forward unasked, as the representative of the popular prophets of smooth things whom it is the true prophet's painful duty to refute and rebuke. His own conduct and Jeremiah's behavior to him are both clearly brought before us in this chapter.

I. THE CONDUCT OF HAVANIAH .

1. He utters a pleasing prophecy . He promises a speedy overthrow of the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar. Even Jeremiah heartily echoes the wish that the prediction could be true. It is always easiest to prophesy smooth things, to soothe and flatter rather than convince men of sin and persuade them to accept the darker truths.

2. Hananiah speaks with great positiveness . He boldly claims the authority of God for what he says (verse 2). His assertions are definite, minute, inherently consistent. Daring assumptions such as those of Hananiah carry the unthinking as by storm. A brazen face, a loud voice, a positive assertion, are enough to convince many people without the slightest ground in reason. You have only to say a thing very strongly and to repeat it very often, and the mere force of utterance will make way for it where calm, measured reasoning quite fails. Hananiah is definite in detail. People have a tendency to believe what they can understand clearly and imagine vividly. We must be warned, therefore,

3. Hananiah manifests a stupid insolence under contradiction. He cannot reason with Jeremiah, he cannot refute the great prophet's words, he has no new thoughts to contribute; he can only repeat his former assertion with loud words and passionate actions. He is a poor, unintellectual creature, whose notion of controversy is like that of foolish people we sometimes meet with—people who imagine that to argue is just to repeat an assertion with dogged obstinacy. Hananiah loses his temper and behaves with rudeness to Jeremiah. The last refuge of the helpless controversialist is insolence and abuse.

II. THE BEHAVIOR OF JEREMIAH TO HANANIAH .

1. He heartily assents to the false prophet's desire for the happiness of the nation. "Jeremiah said, Amen: the Lord do so," etc. (verse 6). He had been accused of a traitorous wish to see his country humiliated. No charge could be more false. The preacher who feels it his duty to threaten Divine punishments to wicked men should not be accused of wishing them evil. He may speak with grief and regret, as God also punishes reluctantly ( Ezekiel 33:11 ).

2. Jeremiah appeals to the example of the older prophets . He is true to their teaching, while Hananiah contradicts it. This appeal should be unanswerable to one who, like Jeremiah's opponent, professes to be the successor of these men. Amongst men who believe in the Bible the appeal to Scripture should be a first resort. How can a Christian teacher maintain his ground if he is contradicting this highest authority? Jeremiah was fond of "the old paths," the traditions and examples of earlier prophets. There is a consistency in prophecy, a common spirit, common ideas and principles in the prophets, and in revelation generally.

3. Jeremiah appeals to the confirmation of facts . (Verse 9.) He dares to await the verdict of history; he challenges Hananiah to do the same. We are too hasty in following the loud and pushing popular spirits of the hour. Wait and see the issue of their work when the first excitement has died away.

4. Jeremiah meets the insolence of Hananiah with quiet courtesy . He calmly reasons with him at first. When he finds his opponent proof against arguments which only rouse his temper, he quietly leaves him. There are times when men are too heated for argument, and there are men with whom it is always useless to argue. Under such circumstances the interest of truth, our own rightful dignity, and charity to our opponent, caution us to leave him in silence.

5. Jeremiah reiterates his prediction at a later time, with more stringent threats, and pronounces a solemn sentence of death on Hananiah. This he does after receiving fresh communications from Heaven and under the urgency of a Divine commission. It is always our duty to forgive our enemies; but if they are also the enemies of God, we may recognize the justice of God's judgment on them. It is to be noted that Jeremiah did not compass the death of Hananiah; he only foretold it, and this under a Divine impulse. The words of Jeremiah were verified. Hananiah died long before events proved the futility of his own prophecy. Perhaps this was best for him. His death is a solemn warning to people who may be tempted to sacrifice truth for popularity.

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