Going along to get along. Caving to peer pressure. “It’s best not to rock the boat.” All of these philosophies seem to be the order of the day so often and despite the fact so many people ruin their lives, their communities (including workplaces), and their nations when they cling to those prideful principles, it is difficult for most people to learn their lesson from the many times those philosophies fail. Out of fear of rejection and/or fear of suffering harm or in anticipation of receiving a reward from someone in power (all of which are based on pride), we settle on being a “yes-man.”
This was the case of Hananiah the prophet in the book of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 28, there is a showdown between two prophets–Jeremiah, God’s prophet, and Hananiah, a false prophet. While they were in church at the temple, Hananiah, with the blessing of evil king Zedekiah of Judah, instigated a debate with Jeremiah in front of all the churchgoers. Hananiah’s message was basically that the people of Judah could continue going about their sinful business because God wasn’t going to punish them like Jeremiah claimed, but would bless them with witnessing the fall of their oppressor, Babylon, and the return of every Jew taken captive as well as all items Babylon stole from Solomon’s temple. Hananiah wanted the favor of king Zedekiah and popularity among the people, so he became preoccupied with brown-nosing as the king’s yes-man. Thus he was considered a true patriot in the eyes of the people.
Jeremiah, on the other hand, out of his genuine love for God and his fellow Judahites stuck to the unpopular message of repentance and impending judgment God gave him directly. He expressed his wish that Hananiah’s message of prosperity were true, but Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke to demonstrate and emphasize his godly message that Jerusalem would fall to Babylon. Hananiah then countered Jeremiah’s prophecy by grabbing Jeremiah’s yoke from him, breaking it in two, and reiterating his prosperity message that Babylon would break in the same fashion that he broke Jeremiah’s yoke. Jeremiah, God’s man, was labeled a traitor for taking a stand for God and he then walked out of the temple.
Such a dramatic display of kissing butt was very convincing, but totally untrue. It looked as if Hananiah, the butt kisser, had the last word. But a short while later, the Lord told Jeremiah to give Hananiah this last word, “Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD,” (Jeremiah 28:15-16). Not long afterwards, Hananiah died suddenly.
In spite of this clear sign that God was with Jeremiah, the people still rebelled with Zedekiah’s blessing. But Zedekiah’s rebellion led to exactly what Jeremiah prophesied. Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and put down Zedekiah’s rebellion (2 Kings 24:20-25:7), captured Zedekiah, made Zedekiah watch as his sons were slaughtered in front of him, then put his eyes out and carried him away to Babylon.
Being a yes-man became Hananiah’s downfall. Wanting yes-men became Zedekiah’s downfall and the downfall of Judah. Maybe the potential downfalls in our situation from yes-men is not as dire as this, but if we find ourselves in an environment of influential people caving to yes-men and butt kissers who refuse to stand for what’s right, whose side will we find ourselves on? Will we be bold enough to stand on the Lord’s side despite fierce opposition?