Problems arise when we stop seeking God for ourselves and expect someone else to seek Him for us. That was the situation with a party of Jews shortly after Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah tells us that these Jews, under the leadership of Johanan, wanted out. They were convinced that Egypt would be a safe haven compared to Judah. Their hearts were set and their bags as good as packed. But they wanted to perform one last ritual to make a show of their devotion to God.
[They] said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us, that the Lord your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do.” Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to the Lord your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which the Lord will answer you. I will not keep back a word from you.” Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the Lord your God will send you to us. Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jer. 42:2-6)
Ten days later.
God spoke to Jeremiah and he passed the message on to the leaders. It set their heads spinning. Everything they hoped for in Egypt was promised to them if they stayed in Judah; what they feared from the Babylonians who occupied Judah was predicted to happen to them if they went to Egypt. It sounded like gobbledygook. The safest place to settle was right under the nose of the Babylonian warmonger, Nebuchadnezzar! What nonsense. It must be a conspiracy designed to destroy the remnant of Judah.1
Perhaps the only outward symptom of the spiritual malaise of the leaders of Judah was the way they spoke of God. They asked Jeremiah to petition “the LORD your God.” Only later did they speak of Him as their own God. We can imagine their heads bowing in shame as Jeremiah pointedly replied using their own words, “I will pray to the LORD your God.”
The problem with seeking God by proxy is that when He speaks through the proxy, it is hard to recognize His voice. God often calls us to act counterintuitively. His ways are not our ways and following Him requires faith. To a group of Jews who already had their tickets for Egypt, a promise of prosperity among the ruins of their war torn homeland did not sound like the words of an omniscient God. Only people who have been diligently seeking God for themselves will recognize His voice when He speaks such things. Only people with no agenda of their own will accept a plan like that.
The lesson for us is twofold:
- Set aside our own agendas and practice seeking God sincerely.
- Make getting to know God a lifelong habit so that when He speaks we are able to recognize His voice and trust Him for the outcome.
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- Jer. 42:5-22; 43:1-7. [↩]