Jeremiah 28:1–10, 15–17
Key Verse: "The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." (Jeremiah 28:9)
While Jeremiah labored to warn Jerusalem of the impending judgment of God, the forces of Satan tried to confuse matters with a contrary word. A visitor named Hananiah, identified as the son of a prophet, appeared at the temple declaring that Nebuchadnezzar's yoke on Israel would soon be broken. Hananiah even had the temerity to remove the wooden yoke Jeremiah was wearing (the one we read about in the previous chapter) and destroy it to illustrate his point.
Jeremiah's response to Hananiah shows us how the believer should evaluate prophecy. Jeremiah expressed his pleasure at the notion that God would soon end the domination of the Babylonians (v. 6), but he withheld his full endorsement of the prophecy because it was a reversal of the previous messages he and other prophets had been given (v. 8). In the same way, Christians are told not to despise (automatically dismiss or ignore) prophecies, but instead to prove (test) them (1 Thess. 5:20,21).
First, we measure the prophecy against the yardstick of revealed truth. This is what Jeremiah was doing when he recalled the previous predictions of war and suffering. The principle is the same today: we should be wary of any prophecy that appears to contradict what God has already declared in His word. Of course, to apply this test, we must be knowledgeable of scripture.
The next measure of any prophecy is confirmation. We notice that Jeremiah did not become argumentative or accusatory immediately after Hananiah's theatrics. The prophet simply "went his way" (v. 11). In time, the Lord revealed to him that Hananiah was a false prophet, and then Jeremiah confronted him (v. 15). We must not be hasty to either embrace or reject a prophetic word. It is wise, instead, to petition God and wait for Him to confirm or deny that it is His word.
Ultimately, a prophecy is true if it comes to pass. The genuine seer was 100% accurate. He spoke as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, so he had no possibility for error. God established His prophets by having them speak into local situations early in their ministries. When their word consistently came to pass, it was known they could be trusted to prophesy about events in far away places or the distant future. Those with the gift of prophecy today will likewise prophesy inerrantly about verifiable matters, and thereby demonstrate their trustworthiness.