Ask, Trust, and Obey
Judgment time has come, and God's wrath falls upon Jerusalem. The Babylonian army marches in: walls crumble, people are enslaved, and the holy temple of the Lord crafted by King Solomon himself is ransacked and set to fire. God's beloved city is in ruins, its people exiled.
Jeremiah mourns and laments.
Why didn't God's people listen? Why did it have to come to this?
A leader named Gedaliah is put in charge of what is left of Jerusalem, and after a short time, it appears some order is returning to the city. Some refugees find their way back, and prospects appear hopeful. But not for long. Ishmael arrives on the scene and assassinates Gedaliah and several Jews. Chaos and captivity return.
Johanan, a former commander of Judah's army, steps up and sets out to fight Ishmael. Although Ishmael escapes, Johanan rescues the remnant of people that were being held captive. The plan is for Johanan and the remnant to retreat to Egypt where it is safe. Before they go, however, they decide to call upon Jeremiah. They have experienced the wrath of God firsthand, so they know better than to move forward without His blessing. They want the prophet to speak to the LORD on their behalf.
"May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything he Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey Lord our God...." (Jer. 42:5-6)
This feels like a second chance, a lesson learned. Ten days pass, and Jeremiah returns with God's response - a hard and clear no. The people are not to follow through with their plan to go to Egypt, but instead, are instructed to stay in Judea and trust that God will keep them safe.
Johanan and the people quickly reject this response and accuse Jeremiah of lying. Once again, they decide to disobey God and go against His guidance. The faith and trust they appeared to have went out the window when they didn't get the answer they wanted. Their fear clouded their faith, and their own plan took precedence over God's plan.
Jeremiah warns them, again. They don't listen, again.
The same story, the same rebellion, the same end result. From our perspective, it is frustrating. The recipe is simple: Ask, trust, and obey. Johanan and his group almost got it right, but they only attempted step one. They asked for God's guidance, but they didn't trust and obey. They didn't want to hear God's real answer. They only wanted His permission to carry out their own plan.
How often do we do the same? We pray - or even say we are
to pray - but what we are really doing is just clearing our conscience, telling ourselves we sought God's guidance but then follow through with our own plans anyway. We take the safer path; we let fear cloud our faith. Even though we have experienced God's faithfulness -- even though we may have reaped a few consequences -- we still ignore God's whispers toward something greater than our plan because it seems too scary.
Do we, too, forget the simple recipe? Ask, trust, and obey. As we enter this week, may we be reminded to seek God's guidance in all that we do, and more importantly, be prepared to change course, especially if God's answer is no.
~ Lisa Bonnema