I imagine myself standing there on the curb, staring at the flames pouring out of the windows of our beloved home. My family is with me and we are safe, but our life is changing before our very eyes. Home as we know it is gone.
I can picture Hananiah, the false prophet from Jeremiah Chapter 28, standing there with us, proclaiming to us his “everything’s going to be okay” gospel. “Two years!” he declares triumphantly. “Two turns of the calendar and everything will be just the way it was.” Meanwhile, we are hurting and homeless. Everything is most definitely not okay.
There is a problem to be acknowledged. There is work to be done. There is faith to be lived out, not merely proclaimed.
This imaginary scenario helps me grasp the weight of the false prophet’s empty promises. A gospel that does not call me to relationship with God is no gospel at all.
As we read yesterday in 2 Kings, the people of Israel were in an ongoing battle. But this battle was not just between the kingdom of Babylon and the wayward kings of Judah. The battle was for the hearts of men and women—for the hearts of the very children of God.
The people of Israel were in exile. Their temple had been burned and their religious symbols desecrated. Hananiah, however, didn’t seem overly concerned. Rather than calling the people to faith and repentance, he gave them a truthless pep talk.
But Jeremiah knew better. He had heard the words of the prophets who had come before him, warning that there would be consequences to their rebellion against a holy God. Jeremiah understood there was a problem to be acknowledged, a work to be done in the waiting, a faith to be lived out.
While Hananiah’s false prophesy presented the notion of a detached God and an “everything’s going to be ok” gospel, Jeremiah’s revealed the promise of the God who pursues, engages and rescues— the God who doesn’t simply replace what sin and its consequences burn away, but who restores the very heart of the sinner. As the people of Israel sat weeping by the waters of Babylon as they remembered their homeland (Psalm 137:1), they were not forgotten by their God. They were called back and gathered up.
Jeremiah’s God is Daniel’s God, calling for His people to return, inviting them to repentance, and promising full restoration in His perfect time.
You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place I deported you from.”
Friends, as we move forward into the book of Daniel and discover the parallels between his exile and our own, may we remember this call from the Lord. May Daniel’s story give us a new lens through which to see the good news of the Gospel. And as we see Daniel stand firm, actively clinging to his faith in a hostile culture, may we remember that Christ is the greater Daniel, the most faithful exile of all.