Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ACCORDING TO HUMAN KNOWLEDGE AND JUDGMENT.
1. With moderation. "Amen: the Lord do so." Under such trying circumstances the behavior of the prophet is praiseworthy in the extreme. The contradiction and indignity to which he had been subjected might have excused a hot rejoinder. He is willing to have the dispute settled in a very effectual way. Meanwhile he is careful to make it clear that he too desired what his opponent had prophesied. This was the disposition of the Master, and should be copied by all his disciples. "A soft answer turneth away wrath;" "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men."
2. By an appeal to the great principle that the event will determine the truth of their predictions or the wisdom of their conduct. (Vers. 8, 9.) This was an appeal to the conscience of his opponent.
3. Quiet submission to the will of God. "And the prophet Jeremiah went his way." When there is no sign of reasonableness in our antagonists, or no prospect of immediate success, it is well to submit quietly and to wait God's time. This is the test of spiritual reality. True Christianity will show itself in earnest, unobtrusive actions and patient waiting for Christ. The most eloquent enforcement of the gospel is a quiet, consistent life.
II. AS INSPIRED. Whilst he had no direct message he was silent. But God, who will not leave his servants without a witness, and who resents the slightest dishonor to which they are subjected, came to his rescue. The whole attitude of the prophet is now changed. With certainty he recovers also his vivacity, energy, and fearless power of denunciation. He is now the minister of judgment.
1. To the nation. The yoke of wood gives place to one of iron. The complicity of the people in the guilt of the false prophet must be punished. Their resistance to the will of God and disbelief of his servant involves them in a heavier sentence. So it is with all impenitence and rejection of God's Word. The position of the transgressor cannot remain the same. With each step he plunges into deeper guilt and more fearful judgment.
2. To the originator of the offense. In this case the sentence is proportionately heavier and more immediate. Death is pronounced against the offending prophet with terrible brevity and clearness. There is ever a distinction between offenders and those who cause them to often& Primacy in disobedience will ensure a special and unmistakable mark of God's anger. This announcement of doom, simple as it was in itself, must have been appalling to its hearer, whose inner sense of degradation and falseness would enhance its force. It is possible that the time and manner of this communication may have been intended to awaken repentance; failing which it was carded into effect. All around us such judgments are taking place, and it is well for men to examine what manner of spirit they are of ere they presume to occupy sacred offices or to set themselves against the laws of God's kingdom. - M.
I. HANANIAH'S PRESUMPTION. Note his direct challenge to the true prophet. He seeks out Jeremiah in the house of Jehovah, "in the presence of the priests and of all the people." A prophet was, of course, bound to make his utterances in public, but Hananiah waited his chance until he found an opportunity of bearding the hated Jeremiah in as open a way as possible. He speaks explicitly in the Name of Jehovah. He is not afraid to take the great Name in vain. Let us be warned lest we heedlessly utter, under the pretended authority of God, what is nothing more than the daring imagination of our own hearts. The false prophet Ventures on the very figure which had been employed by the true prophet. It would almost seem as if Jeremiah had habitually borne something in the shape of a yoke, and if so, it must have been a very irritating sight to the false prophets. Little wonder that, under the pretence of a prophetic mission, he ventured on the removal of this yoke. Above all things, there is the confident assertion with respect to time. Notwithstanding all the manifest difficulties of the achievement, Hananiah is not afraid to say that in two years Judah will again be firmly resting on its old foundations. Thus from all these indications of presumptuous action, we have an illustration of how confident heretics are in their error. Too often we are doubtful and partial in our statements of truth. We lack that faith and that thorough-going assertion of the truths God has revealed which are so necessary to make those truths full of operative and irresistible force. Hananiah here is as confident as he can be in all his deadly errors. He has not the least fear of plunging into the greatest responsibilities with regard to definite predictions. He passes from the ground of mere expostulations and remonstrances, and ventures on statements which in a very short time must either make him or ruin him. Let us learn from our enemies, and labor to be confident and determined in our assertion of truth, seeing there is no lack of determination on the part of those who have cast in their lot with error.
II. HANANIAH'S PERSISTENCE. It is very noticeable that Jeremiah does not meet him in anything of an angry or denouncing manner. It would have well pleased the true prophet to see the predictions of the false prophet brought about; for it is made abundantly evident that the sufferings of his country were an unspeakable grief to Jeremiah. An angry reply served no good purpose. The true prophet could manifest a dignified patience, and leave time to vindicate both the validity of his prophetic claim and his fidelity in speaking the truth. Meantime, he can only recommend Hananiah to consider well the lessons of history, and how the prophets of old had spoken of stern dealings with many wicked nations. Unfortunately, bad men are hardly ever discriminating students of history. Hananiah was here given an opportunity of repentance, if only he had chosen to avail himself of it. But so full was he of his own devices that gentle treatment only increased his audacity, and he drew public attention more than ever to himself by removing the symbolic yoke from Jeremiah's neck. That he was allowed to do all this should teach us a lesson of patience and trust when we see wicked men pursuing, undisturbed, their chosen path. They are only climbing higher that their ultimate ruin may become more widely manifest.
III. HANANIAH'S DOOM. The first result of his presumptuous conduct is to bring a more emphatic prophecy with regard to the captives. The second is to bring's sentence of death on the false prophet himself. He who has dealt rashly with the ordering of times and seasons is to know by a bitter experience that God has these times and seasons in his own hands. He is to die within the year. Notice the sin which he is charred with committing. He is doomed to death, not simply for the falsehood or the profanity, but for this, that he had taught rebellion against Jehovah. His words were an incitement to make a useless and premature attempt at liberation. God's prediction with regard to the captivity in Babylon had in it the nature of a command.
IV. HANANIAH'S DEATH. It came very quickly. Two months at the outside was the space between the utterance of a false rebellious statement and the confirming of a true one. The death came at such an interval as was very impressive. Compare the relations between Jeremiah and Hananiah here with those between Peter and Ananias. Both Hananiah and Ananias dealt presumptuously with the holiest of things. - Y.
I. THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE FREQUENTLY AT APPARENT DISADVANTAGE AS COMPARED WITH THE SERVANTS OF SATAN. The action was so sudden and unexpected that Jeremiah had but little to say, and eventually went his way, sad but silent. Everything seemed to favor his opponent. The "patriotic party" was enthusiastic, and not to be restrained. The wisdom of this world is prompt and versatile because it is unprincipled; and it is bold because it is profane and unbelieving. Yet this is the condition under which the followers of the truth are to contend.
II. THE SERVANTS OF SATAN ARE THEREBY ENCOURAGED TO MORE PRONOUNCED BEHAVIOR, AND COMMIT THEMSELVES BEYOND RECALL. Hananiah's case illustrates this in two ways, viz.:
1. Sacrilegious action. Touching the person of the prophet. Deliberately destroying the yoke which he must have known was of Divine appointment.
2. Its definitive interpretation. He not only rebelled against the Lord, but committed himself to a prediction with a fixed date, and one that must soon arrive. The necessity of the position he had assumed was upon him. Woe to the prophet of lies who ventures upon definite and verifiable prophecies! There is no halting-place to those who begin systematically to oppose God's truth. They must ere long be caught in their own snares. With the sense of reverence the fear of consequences is forgotten and caution is discarded.
III. BY SO DOING THEY HASTEN THEIR OWN JUDGMENT. The triumph is brilliant but short-lived, and purchased at terrible cost. Let sinners pause when their crimes are made easy for them and excess follows upon excess. The motion of the rapid may but precede the fall (Jude 1:8-13). When human resources and precautions are exhausted, it may be a sign that God will undertake his own cause. His servants are justified at such a time in looking for and invoking his help, which is likely to be of a very signal and determining kind. - M.