Thursday, July 30, 2009

Response to Folly

Jeremiah 28:10-11
(10) Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them.
(11) And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, "Thus says the LORD: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years." But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

Jeremiah had made it very clear that the people should expect to be taken captive to Babylon. He even put a yoke on his neck as an object lesson for the people. Then this false prophet Hananiah came along and told the people what they wanted to hear.

I find the end of verse 11 to be a bit surprising. Were it me I would have wanted a fight. I would have brought out all my verses to show that Hananiah was wrong. I would have wanted to prove him wrong before all the people so that they could see the truth. And, frankly, so that they could see that I was right.

Jeremiah didn't do that. He just walked away from the situation. He was willing to wait the two years for vindication. After all, it would be easy to see who was right at that time. If the people came back then Hananiah was right.

I don't think that there is a universal application to this, but I do think that there is a lesson for those of us who feel a calling to fight for the truth. Sometimes we just need to walk away. I don't necessarily have a cheat sheet to show the situations when it is better to fight and when it is better to walk away, but I do think that there are times where one response is appropriate and the other isn't. I do think of the Jehovah's Witnesses and all of their prophecies. They can talk about "new light" all they want, but in the end they have to deal with following false prophets.

Ultimately, I think we need patience. That's something I know that I need a lot more of.


tom sheepandgoats said...

It's a good point. One doesn't always have to have a quick retort. The most notable example is Jesus staying silent before Pilate.

Actually, Jehovah's Witnesses feel their work parallels that of Jeremiah, whose prophesies remained unfulfilled for the better part of his lifetime. Contemporaries no doubt considered him a false prophet.

Hananiah, on the other hand, represents the prevailing view today that God will forever bless the present system of human rulership with its religious support. As you say, it's what people wanted to hear. But it will be a much more blessed time when God's Kingdom rules over the earth, per the "Lord's prayer."

Jason said...

But what about the predictions of 1917, 1918, and 1925? I'd love to get your take on this as I just read evangelical apologetics about it.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Combine Jesus' words to "keep on the watch" with human imperfection, and it is not so hard to imagine that a genuine Christian might jump the gun on occasion. Their mistake is not that of issuing a false prophesy. Instead, they misinterpret an existing prophesy.

I've posted about the dates you mention (and some ones you forgot) here:

Jason said...

I would accept your interpretation of this if the Watchtower never claimed to be a prophet. However, from what I understand, in the publication of April 1, 1972 on p. 197 there is a claim that the Jehovah's Witnesses are a current prophet of God. Does this mean that in the case of failed eschatological claims they were not using the prophetic office, but in other instances they are?

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I don't know how else to phrase the question.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Many situations and persons in the OT resemble or find fullfillment in events today, as you observed in your post and I agreed in my comment. I stated: "Actually, Jehovah's Witnesses feel their work parallels that of Jeremiah..." [and Ezekiel, etc] That's all the article is saying. In every case where the word prophet is applied to modern-day Christian representatives, it is put in quotation marks. Why the quotation marks? Apparantly so that all will realize they make no claim to be a literal prophet like Jeremiah or Ezekial, but are only performing a work foreshadowed by these men.

An example from the article (As I think you know, JWs think the years around WWI are very significant):

"However, Jehovah did not let the people of Christendom, as led by the clergy, go without being warned that the League was a counterfeit substitute for the real kingdom of God. He had a “prophet” to warn them. This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women."

Prophet is always in quotation marks. I wrote a post about the events covered here: