Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jeremiah 28:5-9 Good Times vs. Good News Prophets

KEY TEXT Jeremiah 28:7-10 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."

KEY THOT: The context for Jeremiah's words is the conflict between Jeremiah's prophecy and Hananiah's prophecy. While Jeremiah prophesied impending judgment of God from the Babylonians and exile for 70 years, Hananiah prophesied that God would break the yoke of Babylon and the vessels taken by the king of Babylon would be returned to Jerusalem in two years. When Jeremiah heard Hananiah's prophecy, he replied sarcastically in the presence of the priests and the people: "Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words 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" (v.6). In contrast to Hananiah's good-times-is-coming prophecy, Jeremiah said: "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 the prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet" (vv.8-9).

We have often confused the "good news" Gospel of Jesus with the the "good times" Gospel of some modern preachers. They preach "positive" messages of peace and prosperity and ignore Jesus' warning of "war, famine and pestilence": "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.  But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you" (Luke 21:10-12). While the Gospel is Good News, it doesn't preclude the Bad News of divine judgment of war, famine and pestilences for all who reject the Gospel--including persecution of believers.

But persecution of believers is not part of the "Bad News" of divine judgment but rather part of the blessing of divine grace: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:10-11). In fact, Jesus included persecutions in his list of blessings for those who are rejected by families because of the Gospel: "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).

Many have confused "Good News" with "Good Times". They are told that God is too kind to put His children through persecutions. They have forgotten that to be a Christian means we have been transferred out of Satan's kingdom of darkness into Christ's kingdom of light and the result is relentless conflicts and clashes between light and darkness. This often manifested as persecutions inspired by Satan to destroy the believers' faith or relentless temptations to undermine their relationship with God through sin. Many believers are blithely indifferent to scriptural warnings to be alert because Satan is seeking ways and means to destroy them: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). They have been lulled into sleep by false prophets like Hananiah who prophesied "good times" ahead.

While we can rest assured that just as our Abba-Father will not let a sparrow fall to the ground apart from His will, so He will not let us go through the pains and suffering of persecution without granting us to experience His grace more fully. The Gospel of Grace is not just for "good times" Christians but more so for "bad times" Christians. If a preacher or prophet preaches only "good times" but never mention the impending "bad times" then we know he is a false prophets, for true prophets never avoid speaking of divine judgments even as they speak of the good news of divine deliverance: "The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms" (Jeremiah 28:8).

Abba-Father, thank You that You have given us the Good News Gospel of the Kingdom in conflicts. Help us to discern between "good times" prophets and "good news" prophets that we may not be deceived. Amen.

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