Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord, and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 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 28:5-11 ESV
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Psalm 4:1-4 ESV
One invention that made war an even more terrible thing than it had been before is the machine gun. The machine gun made it possible to quickly and automatically shoot many rounds of ammunition at the enemy. It completely changed how World War I was fought, because to protect themselves from machine gun fire soldiers dug themselves into trenches. But the interesting thing about machine guns is that their inventor, Hiram Maxim, thought that they would bring peace. When people asked him if his invention would make war more terrible and cruel, he said instead that it would make war impossible. Many people believed this. They thought that the death and suffering a machine gun could cause would make nations want to work for peace and avoid getting involved in such cruel warfare. But this was a lie, unfortunately. Wars continue to happen, and more and more cruel inventions make them even more devastating.
When Hananiah told the people that within two years God would return the true king and all the exiles to their own country, many people believed him. Hananiah even broke the wooden yoke that Jeremiah had made to give the people a picture of obeying the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah wished that what Hananiah said was true, because of course he wanted his people to know happier times. But Jeremiah said that the only way to tell if a prophet was telling the truth is if what he predicted would come true. Jeremiah knew that the truth was that the people were under God’s judgment, and that there would be more war and trouble to come. Jeremiah was a true prophet of the Lord, but he didn’t argue with Hananiah. He simply walked away, and he left Hananiah and his lies in God’s hands.
We sometimes want to believe lies that are positive and happy. We want to believe that through our own efforts we can bring an end to war, or cure all the sicknesses in the world, or even put an end to death. But these are lies, because only God can do these things. God came to us in Jesus to destroy sin and death and all the forces of evil forever by dying on the cross and rising again. Because of what Jesus did for us, we know that we will live forever in his heavenly kingdom, where there won’t be any more sickness or death or war. In the meantime, it pleases God if we work to heal sickness and pain and to bring peace. We shouldn’t be surprised or worried, though, when we see war and evil and disease, and we can be confident that God will bring all our suffering to an end in his time. We can leave it all in God’s hands.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to destroy sin and death and evil, and help us to trust you to work for good in our broken world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.