by Ed McGeachy
Talk about actions speaking louder than words, and being determined to do what we want regardless – you’ll hardly find a clearer example than in the case of the Jewish remnant left behind after the fall of Jerusalem. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc.1:9); as you’ll see, things haven’t changed a whole lot in the intervening centuries.
First, they sounded so spiritual and sincere. They approached the prophet Jeremiah for guidance, asking that he pray to the Lord that God would tell them what to do. Problem: they were afraid because the Babylonian-appointed governor had been killed. They promised the prophet that whatever God’s answer, whether pleasant or unpleasant, “we will listen … so that it may go well with us” (Jer.42:1-6). Sounds good, don’t you think; not unlike what we often hear from individuals who state a desire to study the Bible in order that they may know and follow God’s will.
Know when the trouble began? When they learned that God’s will wasn’t what they wanted to hear!
God’s answer: “Do not go into Egypt,” but if they choose to go ahead anyway, they were to clearly understand that they would die by sword, famine and pestilence (Jer.42:19-22). Pretty clear; hard to misunderstand, don’t you think?
Their response: We’ll do what we think best, because listening to God hasn’t worked!
1. They accused the prophet of lying; got up and went to Egypt (Jer.43:2-7). Interesting how a pious-sounding faith reacts when confronted with life’s realities! God’s word says one thing, but I really want to do something else. What to do? I know, I’ll say I can’t believe the message!
2. Once in Egypt they abruptly told Jeremiah, “we are not going to listen to you,” and firmly refused to quit their idolatrous ways (Jer.44:16-17). In coming to this conclusion – so contrary to what they had initially affirmed – they were actually pragmatic realists: God had proven to be a disappointment! While they lived as idolaters life was good, but when they stopped “burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven,” well, that’s when their problems began (Jer.44:17-18).
* Problems began, they thought, when they turned to God; therefore God was either the cause of their difficulties, was powerless to help, or just didn’t care. Either way they rationalize their actions to themselves; disobedience sounded reasonable.
* Truly, “The heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jer.17:9), and if we insist on judging God by our so-called objective standards (What has He done for me?), rather than humbly obeying His word (Heb.5:9) we run the risk of being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb.3:13), just like those ancient Israelites.
This is the weekly bulletin article written by Ed McGeachy. Keep visiting our site to read future articles.