Lord, teach me to merely do what I’m told.
Read JEREMIAH 43:1–13
43 When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them— 2 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.’ 3 But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.”
4 So Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers and all the people disobeyed the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah. 5 Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers led away all the remnant of Judah who had come back to live in the land of Judah from all the nations where they had been scattered. 6 They also led away all those whom Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan—the men, the women, the children and the king’s daughters. And they took Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah along with them. 7 So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord and went as far as Tahpanhes.
8 In Tahpanhes the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 9 “While the Jews are watching, take some large stones with you and bury them in clay in the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. 10 Then say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them. 11 He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. 12 He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive. As a shepherd picks his garment clean of lice, so he will pick Egypt clean and depart. 13 There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.’”
New International Version (NIV)
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Making up one’s mind about a course of action and then praying for God’s stamp of approval is a time-honored mistake that Christians make.
The student who emerges from an exam praying “Dear God, please let the capital of Italy be Paris” is not much different from the “arrogant men” (2) of Judah. Wishful thinking rarely works. It’s a temptation that originates at the Garden of Eden. “Surely not!” they (and we?) say—God couldn’t possibly have forbidden us to go to Egypt (2). The initial stage of self-deception is doubting the truth when presented directly to us. Expert in self-deception as they were, they went on to the next stage: crafting a plausible argument in their favor. This is merely, they contend, a plot to bring them to Babylon or be killed (3). Almost inevitably, this leads to the final stage: willful disobedience (4,7). Is there anything that God has shown you that you’re pushing against just now? Perhaps it’s time to evaluate your reasoning and ask God what he really wants.
Amazingly (but not surprisingly), God refuses to give up on them. Even after they arrived in Egypt, he tells Jeremiah to enact yet one more prophecy (9–13). In full sight of the Jews, Jeremiah places large stones in a brick pavement in front of Pharaoh’s palace. Then he tells them that Nebuchadnezzar (God’s servant, 10!) will attack and destroy. He will “pick Egypt clean and depart” (12). Their disobedience will prove to be worse than pointless. In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar does invade Egypt, and their escape is now pointless.
This disobedience is full of irony. Having recently been returned to Judah, they are now led away again to Egypt, the place of their original captivity. In returning to the place of bondage they have dealt a deathblow to the story of salvation.
Do you know anyone who is going through a similar process of self-delusion? Is there any way that you can help them to see how things really are?
Lord, I am fully aware of the fact that doing Your will is not always easy, but in the long run it is highly profitable.