I’ve been thinking a lot about Jeremiah chapter 28 lately.
That may seem like an odd chapter to captivate one’s attention, but I will tell you what snagged my interest.
The false prophet.
It’s always the false prophet.
The false prophet always gets my attention.
Because “false prophet” (and similar) is one of those railing accusations that demons can scream into a wild mind battle every time I step out to do anything for God.
Whether it’s praying for someone, or God moving through you, or discerning something, or writing something and sharing it, or testifying in church…. I can almost count on a cacophony of condemnation to follow.
“Heretic!” “False Prophet!” “Hinderance!” “Deceived!” “Errant!” “SELF!”
And the thing that always trips me up, is that, false prophets don’t seem to know they are false prophets. So of course, every time I encounter one in the Bible, I sit on the edge of my seat in wide-eyed horror at the possibility that somehow, I may be one myself. And because it was a genuine fear of mine, I couldn’t silence those internal accusations.
Not long ago I read two accounts of people who felt led by God, to a foreign mission field. Both sincerely believed it was God’s design and purpose for them to go. Both took steps of obedience. Both felt their faith was tested through a variety of obstacles. Both relied on what they believed was God’s voice directing them. On the surface, not one person would be able to discern anything that distinguished one from the other. The sad thing, was that in spite of being very similar accounts, only one of them was truly sent by God. The other was led by lying spirits and experienced a bitter end to her journey.
I found that extremely troubling.
I kept wondering what the difference was, and how a person could be sure they were not in error themselves, because steps of faith can easily be confused with failing to heed warning signs. So I asked the Lord to show me… “What is the distinction, between the man who sincerely believes he is led of You, and the man who is truly led of You.”
That was when I hit this chapter in my Bible.
And when I was introduced to Hananiah, the false prophet.
To give you a little background to this chapter, Jeremiah has prophesied that God’s people would be in captivity for 70 years. He wears a yoke on his neck as he tells them, basically, “Make yourselves comfortable! Settle in. You’re going to be here a while! You’ll bear this yoke until the very end.” and in walks Hananiah. We are never introduced to him prior to this, and no information about him is given, other than, ‘he’s false’. Hananiah says, “Nope, God’s going to deliver this people within 2 years.” Jeremiah replies, “AMEN! So be it!” And then gives Hananiah a reproof. Hananiah then breaks Jeremiah’s yoke and says, “In two years God’s people will be delivered!” The tragic thing that transpires is that Hananiah dies because his false prophesy caused the people to believe a lie.
Now, of course, as I read this, my eyes are big and there is a holy dread in my heart, and a deep, deep urgency to know and understand this passage because I want to be right before God. I want to know I stand in purity! I’ve been attacked in my mind by this “false prophet” accusation enough times that I’m ready to settle it! And this chapter resonated with that troubling account… because here were two guys, both felt like they had a message from God, both are steadfastly convinced their’s is the one, both defend their words, and yet… they completely 100% contradict each other. And regardless of how convinced he was of his message, Hananiah’s sin was so dreadful it warranted death.
Don’t know about you, but…. I don’t. want. to. be. a. false. prophet.
But how can I be sure I am not anything of the kind? Questions of this nature tormented me for months! So I read that chapter several times. The same questions rolling over in my mind… What warnings did Hananiah have prior to this? How was Jeremiah certain he wasn’t a false prophet? How did Hananiah get to the place that he was so convinced his message was true, that he went forward with this deed? How do I know I am not going to be deceived by the counterfeit?
So I got down and prayed, and asked the Lord to show me the difference….
What was the difference between Hananiah and Jeremiah? What was the difference between missionary A and missionary B?
As I carefully read through both stories, God showed me the common denominator.
Hananiah wouldn’t take correction. Which… this moment can seem a little tricky. Because there are times when you have to stand up against the grain and defend the truth, and Hananiah may have felt he was doing that. But the big difference comes to light with Jeremiah’s response. Even though Jeremiah knew he was right (he was backed by scripture), he was willing to be wrong. Hananiah on the other hand, was not. Hananiah had to be right.
And the “calling” the wayward missionary heard (via lying spirits)? “If you obey me, I will make you one of the most wonderful missionaries there ever was.”
She was enticed by grandeur.
I don’t know what kind of a man Hananiah was outside of this brief account of him in the Bible, but if he’s passing as a prophet, he was probably very upright, religious, and we know for sure he was passionate.
Both he and that lady, however sincere and genuine they may have been, their noble desire to be used of God, was mingled with pride.
It’s the sneakiest, stealthiest of all sins in my opinion.
You can find it concealed in some of the most noble of deeds. It’s subtle manifestations often go undetected by ourselves and anyone around us, and yet, they are just as rank to God as the blatant exhibition of arrogance.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Our hearts are so tainted! We don’t even know how polluted we are. (Proverbs 16:2-5) Deep down, some of our most sincere actions are mingled with pride. The prayer to be a mighty man or woman of God, the dream of becoming a powerful evangelist, the fancies of being a sacrificial missionary. The desire to be called into a “special work”. The desire to have a “role” in the ministry. The inclination to heroism. The pursuit to be “known as [fill in the blank]”. The desire to be relevant. The fixation on being right. Many times its wrapped up in giving. All manner of kindness and benevolence and charity can be cloaked in it. Sometimes it’s disguised as justice, or righteousness, or moral uprightness. Ironically, it can even manifest as selflessness and humility!
When I look over my own life and think about various deeds I’ve done, and prayers I prayed and sacrifices I made, and I think about my motives in them… tucked so neatly out of my own sight… My stomach turns to know pride was the seed of my action.
I suppose some may wonder, “What difference does it make? As long as you are doing good, who cares why you do it?”
That may be the saddest part about it.
Because God does care.
Because pride is an abomination to God.
It stinks in His nostrils.
And if it’s there, it taints and pollutes everything we touch.
That’s the counterfeit.
It’s the sin that germinates from that ever so subtle beast called “pride.”
It’s the host of great deeds and sacrifices and prayers that begin, ever so imperceptibly, in pride.
All of those great noble things that people do… if they are done with pride…
They mean nothing.
They are the chaff that is burnt up with God’s unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)
Years of brutal work in a foreign land.
Millions of dollars given.
A lifetime of sacrifices.
Heaps and heaps of kindness.
The most beautiful soul, filled with goodness before all men….
“Verily, verily they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-5)
If your motive is rooted in pride, your only reward for those deeds will be the earthly motivation that spawned them.
It makes me shudder.
How dreadfully I have failed!
Daniel chapter 3 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the 90 ft. gold statue he builds of himself and then demands that the entire kingdom bow down to it, or he will kill them. It’s probably one of the most pompous and conceited moments of all time. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and arrogance here were so blatant it makes your head spin. But when I think about this story, I don’t think about Nebuchadnezzar. I think of that huge crowd of people, all bowing down to the god of pride.
Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was certainly glaring, but all those people were bowing to the same god.
They were all contaminated by the same seed.
And just like each of those subjects bowing, tucked themselves in the crowd and bent down not to draw any attention to themselves, pride cleverly tucks itself from visibility.
My heart breaks because I have been there.
I’ve been enticed by people’s good opinions.
I’ve bowed with the crowd to save my skin.
I’ve done good things to be a hero or feel purposeful.
I’ve been nice to be known as a nice person.
Pride is in me.
A root of corruption, spoiling this and spoiling that…
An offense to God.
It’s a self-serving nature that hijacks our service.
It’s so clear to me now.
It’s clear to me what makes a false prophet. It’s clear to me what makes a pharisee. It’s clear to me where every sin, blatant and subtle are born.
Ecclesiastes 10:13 says “For pride is the beginning of sin, and he that hath it shall pour out abomination.”
How can you detect the counterfeit in yourself?
The counterfeit is deeply rooted, cleverly concealed in pride.
If you want to know if you are a counterfeit, ask God to shine His light deep into your heart and show you your motives. (John 3:21)
You might be surprised.
Not so long ago, I found a seed of pride. I was bowing.
I saw the hideousness of it and my heart still weeps when I think about it.
As long as that seed is in me, there is nothing preventing me from becoming a counterfeit.
From that moment, I have cried out a thousand times to die a thousand deaths!
God, throw me in the fiery furnace! Burn away every shred of pride!
Eradicate it! Get it as far away from me as You can possibly get it.
Take away the dross from the silver! Let me stand in the crowd and die in that fire so that You might live!
Bring that blazing fire down into my soul!
The good news is that Jesus Christ is the Truth.
And if you are crucified to self, dying daily, than CHRIST LIVES inside of you!
And if He is living and reigning in you, you no longer have to fear the counterfeit.