Hananiah, son of Azur (Jer 28:1), ostensibly a prophet of Judah working in the ferment of early 6th century bc, claimed to be the recipient of a fresh word from God in 593 bc, which was a welcome harbinger to the doomed citizens of Judah. The lengthening shadow of Nebuchadnezzar and the burgeoning Babylonian juggernaut hovered like the “sword of Damacles” above the political landscape of Judah, while the memory of the ignominious demise of its sister state of Israel in 722 bc remained a pregnant memory in the corporate conscience of the populace.
Hananiah announced that God had given him an encouraging word. Within the short space of two years, God would break the yoke of Babylon, and the vessels that had been removed from the great Jerusalem Temple in 598 bc would be returned to the city of David. Hananiah looked like a prophet and sounded like a prophet. Hananiah nursed the penumbra of the prophet and was a convincing spokesman for King Zedekiah and the status quo. The culture was not perfect, but the warnings of Jeremiah of Anathoth were designed to engender panic in the people and, in the final analysis, were nostalgia for a former era that could never exist in modernity.
Jeremiah? Oh, yes. Everyone knew and remembered the gloomy prophet who seemed to prophesy only evil for Judah. And wasn’t he the character against whom the priests had led a rebellion, saying,
“Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (Jer 18:18).
Wasn’t Jeremiah the one who confessed about himself:
“Woe is me, my mother,that you have borne me,a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!I have neither lent for interest, nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me” (Jer 15:10).
How would Jeremiah respond to Hananiah’s prophecy?
From the flank of the crowd listening to Hananiah came a thundering “Amen! The Lord do so, the Lord perform your words which you have prophesied” (Jer 28:6a). Astonishingly the voice was identified as the well-known intonation of Jeremiah. Everyone recognized that voice. Can anyone believe that Jeremiah said, “Amen”?
Now the Word of the Lord did come to Jeremiah. Facing this self-proclaimed prophet of God, Jeremiah said to the pretender:
“Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the Lord’” (Jer 28:15-16).
And, as Jeremiah had prophesied, Hananiah was dead and his prophecy nullified in less than a year.
However, the motivation of Hananiah is not clearly stated. We do not know whether he was deceived, actually believing that God had spoken to him, or whether he was a false prophet, knowing that his message was false from the beginning. But his motive is not important. The prophecy of Hananiah is false! One of the two options is worse for Hananiah, but the conclusion of the matter is that what he said did mislead God’s people.
The contemporary Southern Baptist Convention exists at a critical moment in Christian history. Most “protestants” have succumbed to the siren songs of cultural relevance and even cultural Marxism. Baptists have lost their evangelistic hearts, which God had honored for generations. Leaders have assured us that everything is fine and that our problems just relate to Covid-19. But all the unmanipulated statistics tell a painfully different story. Whether this is deliberate deceit or mere naivete does not matter. We need a Jeremiah, a Moses, a Daniel who will hear from God and speak a word from God. Churches must abandon the “social gospel” and return to the proclamation of the way of Christ. That certainly has its social dimensions, but the essence of the true gospel is redemption in Christ.
As you and I look to our God for His intervention, we must determine that we will no longer listen to the voice of Hananiah. Whether sincere or not, Hananiah was a false prophet. His message extends promises, but those promises violated what God had done in the past; and we as Baptists must face the harsh reality that our own future is dismal if we continue following this path.