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Monday, October 17, 2016

How can you tell when someone's a false prophet?

So Daniel was in Babylon and Jeremiah was in Jerusalem, and the world was falling apart. We're up to the part where Jeremiah tells the exiles to settle down and makes lives in a foreign land, much to the annoyance of those who feel they can't live anyplace but here. It should make for a fun Bible study this week.

(31) True and False Prophets

Jeremiah is not the only prophet in Zedekiah’s court after Nebuchadnezzar’s deportations.
1.       Which two well-known prophets have been deported? Where were they sent? Can you see God’s hand in choosing where to send them?

2.       Do you suppose they wanted to be deported? Do you suppose Jeremiah wanted to be left behind? How do you respond when God gives you something you don’t want?

3.       Before reading on, do you imagine God had all the false prophets deported, all of them left behind, or a mixture?

Hananiah is one of the prophets left behind in Jerusalem.  But Jeremiah might be the only true prophet.

1.       Read Jeremiah 28:1-4. Suppose a modern-day, highly-visible church leader pronounced that God has promised he’ll bring all terrorist groups to an end in two years. How would you respond?

a.       What information would you look for to determine if this was a true prophet?

b.      What information would you look for to decide the prophet is false?

2.       Read Jeremiah 28:5-9. Suppose you believed the false prophet. How would you feel you had to behave during those two years?

3.       Read Jeremiah 28:10-11. Why does Jeremiah leave? How hard is it to walk out when you’re sure someone is wrong?

4.       Read Jeremiah 28:12-17. How is Jeremiah’s patience rewarded? How might the king choose between believing Hanahiah and believing Jeremiah now? How willing are we to change “sides”?

Jeremiah doesn’t just tell the king and false prophets that they’re wrong. He doesn’t restrict himself to preaching where he’s placed. How do we decide who we need to speak to or listen to?

1.       Read Jeremiah 29:1. Before reading on, why might Jeremiah decide to write to the exiles?

2.       Read Jeremiah 29:3, 2 Kings 22:8. Jeremiah writes to influential sons. Do you think Jeremiah still has influence at court? When leaders disagree politically, theologically … how do we decide who to follow, or do we just keep out of it?

3.       Read Jeremiah 29:4-9. How would this be good advice to the exiles?

a.       Are we exiles here on earth? In what sense is our position, in the Western “post-Christian” world for example, similar to that of the exiles?

b.      How might Jeremiah’s advice apply to us?

c.       How might it not apply?

4.       Read Jeremiah 29:10.
a.       What would the first readers have made of 70 years? Would they have counted the years one by one, or estimated and waited for the end?

b.      What is our first instinct when we read 70 years? Did you look up the history to see if it fit?

c.       What might this mean for how we view end-time prophecies?

5.       Read Jeremiah 29:11-13. This is my favorite Bible verse. What are your favorite verses? Why?

a.       Thinking of when God gave this message to Jeremiah, why is it so relevant today? And why is so relevant to each of us?

b.      Do verses 12 and 13 say “if” or “when”? Why is the difference important?

c.       Verse 13 commands them to seek with their whole hearts. What does that look like?

6.       Read Jeremiah 29:15-20. Why will Jerusalem fall, and why might it be better to be in captivity in Babylon?

a.       Are there times you can think of when things seem to have gone terribly wrong but prove to be good?

b.      Does this help us face difficult times? Does it help us help others to face them?

7.       Read Jeremiah 29:21-23. How does Jeremiah know about Ahab and Zedekiah?

a.       When Jeremiah writes about cursing, how does it relate to modern expressions (doubting Thomas, regular Judas, Benedict Arnold etc)?

b.      Is there a connection between this and modern cursing?

c.       How do we separate cultural offence from spiritual offence?

8.       Read Jeremiah 29:24-28. Is this all one letter? And is all well in Babylon?

a.       How should family relationships and relationship to God fit together (see sons of Maaseiah)? How do we decide who to be loyal to?

b.      How should church relationships and a personal relationship with God fit together?

c.       How should we deal with the fact that secret sin might be as pervasive within churches and within society?

9.       Read Jeremiah 29:29-32. How bad is it to make a false prophesy?

a.       Is Shemaiah deliberately going against God, or is he just deluding himself?
b.      Were Job’s comforters going against God?

c.       How might a church protect itself from messages that don’t really come from God? (Read Matthew 10:16, Romans 12:2)

d.       How might a church protect itself from interpretations that don’t really come from God?

e.      Would you want to be a prophet?

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