Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God.” – Jeremiah 42:6 (NIV)
Have you ever had a conversation where someone is asking you for advice and you give your opinion, and the person objects or doesn’t agree with you ? At that point, you probably think to yourself – “What did they ask me for then ?” Or worse, have you been the one asking for advice and done the exact same thing ? I just finished reading Jeremiah this weekend and the above verse and the events surrounding it made me think of that situation.
In this scene, the destruction of Jerusalem is occurring. Some army officers and other women, children and soldiers are now in Judah, having escaped and are now wondering what to do next. At this point, they call on Jeremiah the prophet to go to the Lord in prayer and ask what they should do next, in verse 2 of chapter 42 (NIV):
Please hear our petition and pray to the LORD your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the LORD your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.”
The problem with request is that the group has already decided in their minds what to do. They want to move on to Egypt, where they feel they will be safer. Ten days after their request, Jeremiah has an answer for them. Either stay where you are, as God is commanding you, or move on to Egypt, but know that if you do go to Egypt, the Lord will not be with you and you will face “sword, famine, and pestilence”. How ironic that they wanted to go back to the very place that God delivered them from a thousand years earlier during the Exodus. And of course, their response to Jeremiah’s word to them is typical, in verse 2 of chapter 43 (NIV):
Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’ “
And so, by following their own desires and going to Egypt anyway, they wind up getting exactly what they were trying to avoid. So much for “whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey” !
I think this is a good example for us today. We can think things through many times ourselves as we’re trying to make a decision, and then figure that we know for sure what the right thing is to do. But we haven’t consulted God about it. Even worse, when we do go to Him in prayer about it, we’re just looking for his stamp of approval on what we’ve already decided. How insulting this is to Him and how bad the consequences are for us when we go that route.
I’ve been trying to find a verse to memorize each week from what I’m reading, and even before I got to this passage last week, I had settled on Jeremiah 10:23 (ESV):
I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”
I think God might want me to spend another week on this verse too 🙂