Day 124: God Eliminates a Couple of Options

Jeremiah 29:15-23

Because you have said, “Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon;” Yahweh says concerning the king who sits on David’s throne, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who haven’t gone with you into captivity; Yahweh of Armies says: “Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that can’t be eaten, they are so bad. I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed back and forth among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an object of horror, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not listened to my words,” says Yahweh, “with which I sent to them my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but you would not hear,” says Yahweh.

Hear therefore Yahweh’s word, all you captives, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in my name: “Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he will kill them before your eyes. A curse will be taken up about them by all the captives of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, ‘Yahweh make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;’ because they have done foolish things in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken words in my name falsely, which I didn’t command them. I am he who knows, and am witness,” says Yahweh.

After considering the ministry of various prophets in the Bible, I started to notice that they appear to have a set of signs that they do repeatedly. Jeremiah has a sign that could very well be the most serious of all. When a false prophet opposed him, that prophet ended up dead. He wasn’t the first to have this sign. God did the same thing through Moses in the wilderness when He was opposed. This sign didn’t stop with Jeremiah, either. It continued into the New Testament in an even more immediate way when Peter spoke to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. There are certain, critical times in which God chooses to remove false prophets in a public way like this. God intends to make His message clear and when a false prophet muddies the waters, it puts large groups of people at risk of not hearing the truth and being saved.

This should also be a warning to those who want to be “neutral.” God won’t allow it. Notice that the people were saying: “Yahweh has raised us up prophets in Babylon.” We read here that these prophets were speaking lies to the people at this critical time and for a while they thought it was a good thing. I believe that God destroyed the neutral approach by removing one of the options from the realm of possibility. Jeremiah predicted that after God destroyed the false prophets, the people would change and it would be evident in their curses when they say: “Yahweh make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire.” That’s quite a swing in public opinion don’t you think? When it comes to God’s word, there is no neutral approach. There’s no way to avoid trouble by acting neutral either. Eventually, trouble will come and force us to stop pretending.

Day 123: A Letter from God

Jeremiah 29:8-14

For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you. Don’t listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them,” says Yahweh. For Yahweh says, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says Yahweh, “and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh. I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been violently ripped from your home and made a slave in a country that doesn’t speak your language and does everything differently? Then can you imagine what it would have been like to receive a letter directly from God like this? What a wonderful thing that would be don’t you think? God tells His people that He has “thoughts of peace, and not evil” toward them. That’s quite amazing considering the fact that they were being punished for their rebellion. God tells them in His letter that he wants to give them “hope and a future.” Then He lays out the plan. He intends to wait until they seek Him with all of their heart and then take them back out of their captivity and bring them back to their own land. He even tells them how long it will be. That’s quite a letter.

We have similar times in our lives. There are times when things are so confusing that we don’t really know what to expect tomorrow. Then God gives us hope. He helps us to see His hand in our lives and may even give us a clear vision for several years into the future. God loves us, even though we are sinners and His intention for mankind has been good since the very beginning as we have been reading for several years now.

There’s another important thing that we need to really pay attention to as believers. God can and does speak through dreams. Even in the New Testament, we see examples of this, but that does not mean that God speaks through all dreams. In this letter, God makes that clear. He warns His people that the dreams that the prophets are having there in Babylon are not to be trusted. They were having dreams but those dreams were simply their own. They weren’t from God. I believe that the Bible makes it clear that all truth that is not directly written in the Bible is to be carefully tested. Even good people can have dreams that are more related to stress or a meal that they ate before going to bed. There are even drug related dreams that unbelievers have that could be influenced by evil. We need to remember what God wrote in His letter to us:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Day 121: An Actual Contradiction

Jeremiah 28:10-17

Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it. Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Yahweh says: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations within two full years.’ ” Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go, and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Yahweh says, “You have broken the bars of wood, but you have made in their place bars of iron.” For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. I have also given him the animals of the field.” ’ ”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! Yahweh has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will send you away from off the surface of the earth. This year you will die, because you have spoken rebellion against Yahweh.’ ”

So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

When Hananiah went on to say that Babylon’s power would be completely broken in the region within two years, a contradiction was not only apparent, it was real. God has spoken through Jeremiah that the people in other nations were to prepare for the Babylonian takeover. That takeover would not be happening if what Hananiah said was true.

Notice that Jeremiah didn’t say anything after Hananiah took the bar from his neck and used it as an illustration. He probably saw the contradiction quite clearly himself now. Both Hananiah and Jeremiah could not be true prophets of God. One of them was an imposter. Evidently, Jeremiah walked away. I know this because God told Jeremiah to “Go,” and tell Hananiah a new message which means he had to go to where Hananiah was. It’s important when we see a real contradiction, that we not try to accept it. It is also true that we shouldn’t speak until God shows us to what to say, but this passage also demonstrates that God will deal with a false prophet.

If God would have left things like they were, the people would have been confused. Which message was from God? To me, this seemed like an impossible problem but God provided an amazing way out.

The people had only one way to tell if a prophet is true. They had to see if what he predicted would happen. Both prophets could not be right, but if they were to wait until two years passed, it might be too late to follow Jeremiah and surrender to Babylon. I would imagine that Satan created this dilemma but God made it look easy. He simply had Jeremiah predict the death of Hananiah in a few months! Since both prophets could not be false, all the people had to do is watch to see if Hananiah would or die not! God not only proved to the people that Jeremiah was a true prophet, He also took out the bad one. God is quite capable of making His voice clear to us. He is also very serious about those who speak His word. This is a blessing to those of us who are telling the truth and a fearful warning to those who don’t.

Day 20: A True Believer

John 1:43-51 : On the next day, he was determined to go out into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said about him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I told you, ‘I saw you underneath the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these!” He said to him, “Most certainly, I tell you, hereafter you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Now we can see a pattern. Jesus finds Philip and asks him to follow. Philip, like Andrew, finds someone else. Clearly, Jesus expects this pattern to happen. This shows us how evangelism can work naturally. People talk to each other and bring each other to the truth. Each person has a part in what God is doing. Nathanael was sceptical. Evidently, Nazareth didn’t have a good reputation as a town. Jesus appears to have agreed with his assessment.

Jesus appreciated Philip’s care regarding the truth. He was pretty direct in his approach to questioning Jesus’ validity. I think this is appropriate. I’m not to be shocked if you question me as I write this blog. You need to be careful. I am claiming to tell the truth and it will have big implications if you believe something that isn’t true. It is important that you check out what I say for yourself by studying the Bible on your own. I know that I have made mistakes before so you do need to take what I say with care. You can, however, rely on what God says. Take what He says instead of anything that I may say that is different.

Jesus, however, is God and He was only going to tell the truth without any mistakes. So it was easy to respond when Nathanael questioned Him. In fact, Jesus told him things that he had recently been doing. I have no idea what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree, but it caused him to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

After questioning, Nathanael believed and Jesus told him that he would be there when Jesus was glorified. Basically, Jesus told him that he would see Heaven. This is the pattern for our salvation. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our savior, we will also be with Him in Heaven. If you read through the Gospels, you will see how rare it was to find a Jew as faithful as Nathanael. What an amazing thing to be praised by the Son of God; to be told, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!

We should also be discerning. We should also not just accept what people say without being critical and verifying that they are telling the truth. Mere men will get angry if we challenge what they say, but people who are like Jesus will be happy and expect you to be very, very careful about the truth in a world full of lies.