Once upon a time there was a prophet in the Hebrew court named Hananiah. He was very well liked and enjoyed the riches of his position.
Hananiah was well-known for his position that God lived in Jerusalem. Therefore, no army could prevail against the city. When the mighty Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, Hananiah told the King not to worry and the people not to be afraid. God would protect them. Their city and their way of life would continue forever.
Another prophet, Jeremiah, was not so popular. He preached that Jerusalem would fall and the people would be taken away in slavery. This judgment was to come upon the Hebrews because they had been unfaithful to God and God’s Law.
Most of the people did not listen to Jeremiah. The King did not listen. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians who literally took all the people and their belongings back to Babylon where they were enslaved and forced to adopt Babylonian ways and Babylonian faith. We know this period of Hebrew history as the Exile.
There is no book of Hananiah in the Bible. The oracles of false prophets may be mentioned in Scripture, but the Bible only rewards prophets who spoke the truth. We have the book of Jeremiah, as well as Lamentations and possibly even the book of Deuteronomy to remember this amazing prophet who dared to speak the truth when all around him were in denial.
Today we have a multitude of false prophets telling us it is okay to open up our society in the midst of this horrible pandemic. “God will protect us!” they say. “Jesus is our vaccine!”
God does not work that way. God does not reward foolishness and ignorance. Presidents have no special immunity from the ravages of nature.
It is possible we are experiencing the Wrath of God in this crisis. I really don’t know. At the very least, we are being reminded of our human frailty. We are being shown just how much of life we have no control over. Social distancing notwithstanding, we should see just how desperately we need each other. Tragedy and death come to all of us.
There are true prophets out there. They are health care professionals, teachers, first-responders, reporters and even parents. Many of them are suffering horribly or have even died. Their names will be lost to the pages of history.
Please listen to prophets who are trying to save our lives. It is not easy to stay home or to wear masks when we must venture out. It is easy to be taken in by the lies of political leaders who are only concerned about themselves.
Faith demands patience and discernment. False prophets abound. They tell us what we want to hear. God’s prophets tell us what we need to hear.
False prophets have taken over modern Christianity and the Church. It will take great endurance and perhaps a period of great exile for the true Word of God to manifest itself again in our country and our world.
However, when we listen, we will hear. When we open our eyes, we will see. When we use our brains, ignorance will become wisdom.
Hananiah and his King were wrong, and a whole nation paid a dear price. Jeremiah was right, and his words still inform us today.
Tom Hartshorn is the pastor of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ.