“Then [the remnant of Judah] said to Jeremiah, ‘May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. 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 42:5-6]
So I read this passage a few weeks ago and cheered inside, thinking that God’s people had finally woken up to their sinful, disobedient ways. Here, they finally decided to seek direction from the Lord, and not only seek His direction but then vowed to obey whatever He would tell them to do, “whether it is favorable or unfavorable”! That sure sounded like renewed devotion to me! God responded quickly, speaking through Jeremiah and giving specific instructions to His people. He even went as far as to warn them of exactly what will happen if they did not follow His instructions. Pretty clear, no?
As the reader I’m thinking, “Okay people, how can you possibly ask for anything more? God answered your specific questions with specific directions and promises attached, to boot!” Apparently, their ‘renewed devotion’ was quickly thrown out the window. The answer they received from God through Jeremiah wasn’t the answer they wanted, so they chose to ignore it. Not only that, but when warned AGAIN about the idol worship that was angering God Almighty, this was their stubborn response (just two short chapters after vowing to obey whatever the Lord spoke to them through Jeremiah):
“‘We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord. We will certainly do everything we said we would: we will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.’” [Jeremiah 44:16-18]
Anyone else exasperated by these crazy people?? The two passages above sound like they have come from two completely different people. This was their arrogant response: ignoring the Word and warnings of the Lord, they chose to look with eyes of flesh at their situation and draw their own conclusions (i.e. ‘we were so much better off when we were worshiping this idol’). How easy it was for me to sit back and scoff at the arrogance and ignorance of God’s people…but then there was that gentle and loving, yet firm and convicting stirring in my spirit, and it hit me. How many times have I done the same thing? Too many to count. In many different areas and contexts of my life.
Currently my struggle is with bitterness and un-forgiveness. It’s absolutely toxic. I didn’t even realize the extent to which it had begun to consume my heart until I asked Him back in June of this year to search my heart and reveal to me the things that were not pleasing to Him. May I just say, be careful and be ready if you ask God this question? Because He will, and when I did I was not at all prepared to see the blackness that had grown in my heart that I was mostly unaware of (or maybe just deep down, unwilling to give up). So for almost three months I have spent time digging deeper into His Word and praying through what He revealed to me. Seeing not much progress, I became discouraged and confused. “Lord,” I prayed, “I’m asking You each day to please remove this ugliness from my heart! It’s going to eat me alive! Where are you? Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, I just want this gone!” (Sound at all familiar?) Looking back, I realized there have been times in my life when some things were “easier”, yet at many of those times I was spiritually dead or asleep-or worse, jut flat-out disobeying Him-ignoring His very Word, the bread of life, to worship my own idols (again, sound familiar?).
Then I came to chapters 42-44 of Jeremiah in my Bible reading plan and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “My Word says that if I have forgiven you, what can you possibly hold against anyone else? It also says to get rid of all bitterness […] along with every form of malice. It ALSO says that love does not envy and keeps no record of wrongs. Haven’t I spoken? And I have spoken clearly and specifically. It’s all in my Word, you have the choice to heed it or ignore it.”
So I suppose I’m really not all that much better than those ‘crazy people’. Was this revelation an immediate fix to a deep issue that the Lord was (and still is) working out of me? Wish I could say it was, but this time the answer is no. Does God sometimes work that way? I definitely believe so. Ultimately, I have made the choice (through His strength alone) to let go and trust that this very painful, humbling process will bring me closer to my Jesus than miraculous deliverance in a moment of revelation. I believe that is always one of His priorities, along with bringing glory to His name and building His kingdom. My hope in sharing this personal internal struggle and the revelation through His word that He so graciously imparted to me is that it brings glory to His name. He is so incredibly patient with His kids! His correction is accompanied with His gentleness and His loving kindness. He is always, always good. I know the outcome of this process will be worth the (delayed) freedom, versus ignoring it or putting it aside until I feel like dealing with it.
If there’s a heart issue you know the Lord has been nudging you to deal with, I encourage you to dig into His word and hear the specific instructions He has already given us, and ask His powerful Spirit to breathe those words to life and penetrate them deep into your heart. It will probably be difficult, but will be worth the outcome because He is faithful and completely trustworthy.