With the final king of Judah, Zedekiah now on the throne, Judah was on its last legs. And Jeremiah had a very unpopular message to give them and the surrounding nations: Submit to Babylon. If you will submit to Babylon, you will live. If you don’t, you will die.
There were a lot of prophets in Judah and in the other nations telling their kings, “Don’t worry about Babylon. You won’t serve them.” But Jeremiah said of them,
They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. (27:10)
A false prophet named Hananiah arose at that time, speaking against all that Jeremiah said. When he did, Jeremiah answered,
Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true. (28:6-9)
What was he saying? Basically he was saying that we should beware the prophets that speak only words of peace. That say, “Oh yes, God is pleased with your worship. He’s pleased with your lives,” and speak nothing of the need for repentance in our lives.
Another man named Shemaiah told the priests to reprimand Jeremiah for all his words of “doom and gloom.” (29:24-32) But in both cases, the Lord rebuked these would be prophets, and they both died for it.
I think sometimes people claim to speak for the Lord, when really they are only speaking from their own emotions. Emotions are great, but they don’t mean the Lord is speaking. God will use prophets to encourage us, that’s true. But he will not use prophets to say that he will bless us when we’re living in sin. Instead he uses true prophets to admonish us to put away our sin and follow him. That’s what Jeremiah did.
Do you test those that claim to be speaking for the Lord. Just because a person claims to be speaking for the Lord doesn’t make it true.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to just outright dismiss anyone claiming to speak for God. As Paul said,
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. (I Thessalonians 5:19-20).
But also remember what Paul said right after that,
Test everything. Hold on to the good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
How about you? Do you test what you hear?