I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah and I never fail to be amazed by chapters 42-43. Just as Jeremiah had been prophesying, Judah was taken captive by Babylon. A leader was chosen for the remnant that was left in Judah but soon afterwards there was an insurrection. The guilty parties were killed but the Jewish remnant was now afraid of retaliation from Babylon. They planned to seek refuge in Egypt but before leaving they approached Jeremiah, asking him to inquire of the Lord on their behalf. And they told Jeremiah this:
Jeremiah 42:6 Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.
A few days later the Lord answered and told them NOT to go to Egypt, but to remain in the land and He would bless them there. But the truth is, they had already made up their minds as to what they wanted to do and they had hoped God would have the same idea. Well, He didn’t. And so all that talk about obeying Him whether it was pleasing or displeasing to them – turns out it was just words. They wanted what was pleasing to them more than they wanted God’s best for them. How strange that those would be two different things, but often they are.
There are times when the plan of God seems contrary to everything that we hoped for, when it seems displeasing to us, or perhaps even dangerous. Usually the problem lies in our lack of faith…our inability to believe that God knows what’s best for us better than we do. Oh how much faith we have in our finite minds and our own decision making skills which have often led us down a wrong, and sometimes damaging, path. To trust God in the details of life just seems so…hard.
Sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, we must realize that “it will be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God”. Can we believe that obedience to the One who loves us most will always lead us to a place we are delighted to be?
Then said I: “Ah Lord God! Behold I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth’, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 1:6-8
While we don’t know Jeremiah’s exact age at the time of his call into prophetic ministry, we do know that he was a young man. This is precisely the reason he gave to God for his inability to fulfill the call.
I cannot speak
I am a youth
Do not say “I am a youth”
This made me laugh, because God says nothing whatsoever to refute his admission that he is unable to speak. He didn’t try to build up Jeremiah’s confidence in his ability or his gifting. He also doesn’t seem to give Jeremiah any options for refusing – “for you shall go”, and “you shall speak”.
I don’t like to do things that I don’t feel comfortable that I have the ability to do. I guess most people don’t. Jeremiah didn’t either. But the Lord’s answer for Jeremiah was not to send him to the Anathoth School of the Prophets for a 4 year training program. His answer was “I am with you.”
How we underestimate this phrase! I think that we often prefer to gain confidence in our own abilities rather than to place our confidence in the abiding presence of God as sufficient for us in all of our insufficiencies.
Isn’t it wonderful that the promised presence of God is sufficient for every task, for every situation, for every difficulty? What wonderful rest that brings to the soul that trusts Him.
During the Wednesday night service, Pastor Randy made this statement and I can’t get it out of my head.
“Watch my life and see how I trust Him.”
As he began his message on faith, he explained that he wasn’t going to be teaching us anything new or telling us something we didn’t already know. But as I listened, I was so encouraged to believe God. It’s not that I’ve been disbelieving Him, but I think there is a level of trusting God that I have never experienced. And this is the life that causes people to take note that there is something different.
When I can learn to REALLY cast my care upon the Lord and to leave it there – they will see how I trust Him.
When I no longer complain about things that are not fair – they will see how I trust Him.
When I can truly experience His peace that passes understanding in the midst of the most difficult trials – they will see how I trust Him.
“My faith in God is not just about me, but it is a testimony to others of His goodness and faithfulness.”
I want to be able to endure in faith and obedience, trusting God completely even when the situations I am trusting Him in haven’t changed.
Israel continued to march about Jericho even though the walls never showed any sign of weakening.
The priests stepped into the overflowing waters of the Jordan although the water had not receded.
Rahab hid the spies, believing that Jericho was given to Israel even before they had crossed the Jordan and while the walls of the city were still strong.
There was no evidence to prompt their obedience. But there was faith. So believing God, they were obedient, and in one moment God changed everything.
As the apostle Paul was aboard a ship on his way to Rome, in the midst of the tempest as the storm beat violently against the ship and all hope was lost that they would reach safety, he speaks these words:
“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.” Acts 27:23-25
The storm rages, the men were hopeless, and yet he says “I believe God.”
When I look back on my life (not to mention in the word of God) there is ample evidence of His faithfulness and trustworthiness. It is scandalous that I should not trust Him always.
I long for a radical faith that just trusts God like crazy in everything. What would be the outcome if I could really live like this?
Maybe they could watch my life and see how I trust Him.
Asa, King of Judah, had experienced a mighty deliverance from his enemies by the intervention of the Lord. His prayer for help is a beautifully humble cry:
“Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” 2 Chronicles 14:11
The Lord overthrew his enemies and Asa experienced rest until the 35th year of his reign, until once again an enemy arose. This time is was Baasha, king of Israel. And this time there is no humble cry to the Lord for help. Instead, he plundered the treasuries of the house of the Lord to hire the Syrian army; an army that already had a alliance with Baasha, but was willing to trade allegiance for a bit of gold.
How often does this happen to us? Some type of difficulty arises in our life and we do not seek the heavenly solution, but instead go through all sorts of conniptions to try to engage worldly resources to aid us. How foolish to turn to the world (which by the way, cannot solve it’s own problems) when all of heaven is available to us in our time of need. Yet we turn to the faithless, fickle world.
Asa got what he paid for – Baasha was defeated, but by pursuing worldly methods he forfeited victory over the Syrians.
“…Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.” 2 Chronicles 16:7
This is the lesson for me: The enemy that you join yourself to is one that you will not have victory over. Your compromise will have further reaching implications that you might at first believe.
Let us press on in faith, fully trusting the Lord to deliver us, whatever the situation. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9