Be Like Johanan?

By Ron Thomas

Have you ever met anyone who spoke better than they did? In fact, we might ask ourselves, are we guilty of speaking better than we actually do? I know I am. However, I sure don’t want to EVER be guilty of that which Johanan did.

In the chaos of Jerusalem’s sacking, Babylon’s king left a remnant in the city. Those who were poor and feeble were left behind to tend to a destroyed city which, in many respects, was a living coffin. Babylon left a governor in place; his name was Gedaliah. The governor was warned a plot was being raised against him, but Gedaliah was not receiving the viability of this plot. In time, the governor was murdered by a man named Ishmael. Ishmael was a force to be reckoned with, and a man named Johanan was one to do it.

In the meanwhile, Jeremiah was tending to matters of his own. Because of Jeremiah’s faithfulness to the Lord, when Babylon had captured Jerusalem (and thus Jeremiah), the Lord had shown mercy to His prophet when Babylon’s king gave Jeremiah the opportunity to stay in Jerusalem or go to Babylon and be cared for by the king. Jeremiah chose to stay.

In time, Johanan sought out Jeremiah and asked for counsel concerning whether he should stay in Jerusalem or flee to Egypt. They were frightened by the prospects of staying in Jerusalem, and the prospects of going to Egypt seemed rather peaceful to them. To Jeremiah they go seeking counsel. Ten days later word from the Lord comes to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah gives this word to Johanan and all that were with him.

The Lord called Johanan a hypocrite (cf. Jeremiah 42:5-6, 20).

So gripped by embarrassment (presumably) and arrogant pride (Jeremiah 43:2), the recipients of the Lord’s message spoke against Jeremiah by calling him a liar. They refused to hear anything of the Lord because they were determined to go to Egypt. Their earlier approach to Jeremiah was nothing more than a facade.

It is a struggle for us in life to know exactly what to do in all circumstances; in fact, so much of a struggle it is we sometimes just don’t know what to do! We appeal to the Lord for wisdom, counsel, and direction, praying earnestly and frequently. In doing so let us be sure we hear and obey the Lord. His word is our ultimate authority, and to go beyond the Lord’s revealed will is to leave the Lord Himself. It may be that our heart is really pulling us in one direction, but if that one direction is contrary to the Lord’s expressed will we can be sure the Lord is not with us and, in fact, He will be against us.

Do you want to be like Johanan? That’s what you’ll be like if you refuse to hear and heed what the Lord has said. He spoke better than he did.