“The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.”
What is the deal? Jeremiah hears Hananiah prophesy that Israel will have peace and agrees that he wants it to be so and then adds this comment. Only it is not just a comment. It is one of the more telling litmus tests for prophets in scripture.
Back in The Law, God told Israel to test a prophet by whether or not his or her prophecies came to pass. If they said something was going to happen and they flubbed, ignore them. Worse, take them out and execute them. They are false prophets. This was not to be applied to someone who said something like, “I think it is going to rain tomorrow.” Guesses and personal predictions are fine and we can chuckle at one another’s inaccuracies all day long. But a prophet claimed to speak on behalf of God. I wrote recently on the perils of speaking for God, of how I needed to watch what I said. Prophets were in a very similar boat. But for them to say something wrong meant death.
So Jeremiah adds this to what God had said about testing a prophet. God’s criteria are that the prophet must have a 100% success rate in predicting the future. Add to this the note that predicting peace is a fantastic test. Is Jeremiah adding to what God has said? I do not think so. I suspect that Jeremiah is pointing something out to Hananiah: peace is rare. According to a 2003 NY Times story, less than 8% of recorded human history is free from war anywhere. In 2014, a story published on Salon.com claimed that we are living in the most peaceful period of human history … if we remove religious conflict from the equation. Human history is rife with war and conflict of almost every variety. To prophesy peace in the face of that is not only a gutsy move, it is a losing bet if you are trying to set up as a prophet and God did not tell you to prophesy peace.
The next question is what this has to do with me and my walk with God this morning. Two things, I think. First, I need to be mindful that peace between people is a rare bird indeed. It is not unheard of or impossible, but rare. On that line, I should not expect to turn on the news and see that the world is at peace. The next period of peace prophesied in The Bible is when the Antichrist sets up shop. I do not plan on being around for that show. Second, there is a peace that God promises to those who walk with Him: peace with Him. The world may be at war; my family and friends in conflict; my job uncertain; my world seeming to fall to pieces around me, but I can be at peace with God and that peace is pervasive. It permeates every aspect of my life.
Peace without? Unlikely. Peace within? Totally possible. Promised by God to those who walk with Him. Can I prophesy peace in the world? Not a bit. I can, however, state categorically that God wants to be at peace with people and that peace is completely attainable any time we are ready to surrender to Him.