Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dangerous pleas

Jeremiah 42 started out innocently enough, with a prayer request. This sounds promising, I thought. I am always looking for ways of praying more effectively. Johanan and some other officers asked for some instructions from the Lord, due to the fact that their numbers were dwindling and they were scared.

Then it got a little problematic. Johanan, et al added a little plea to their prayer....please, God, we'll do anything You ask, if only You'll give us an answer.

But the Word that returned through Jeremiah was a hard one to hear. God did tell them what to do, but they were prone to disobedience.
"O remnant of Judah, the LORD has told you, 'Do not go to Egypt.' Be sure of this: I warn you today that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the LORD your God and said, 'Pray to the LORD our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.' I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the LORD your God in all he sent me to tell you. So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle. (Jeremiah 42: 19-22)
Now, what exactly was that "fatal mistake"? Was it insincerity in prayer? Were they too late for God's mercy since they were already disobedient in their hearts? Were they too hasty about wanting answers?

I think a part of it is that God does not want us to swear. He wants us to surrender to Him, yet we owe Him more than words.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. -James 5:12

And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. -Matthew 5:36

What would have made a better prayer? Perhaps it's better to pray that we desire to obey Him, rather than promising we will do it.

At any rate, God knew the motives of Johanen's heart, and what he was really asking. He knows our hearts as well, and will answer accordingly.


  1. My first thought is that the fatal mistake was promising to to everything God wanted when the entire will was not behind it.

    That is what scares me.

    I picked up a book yesterday by St. Robert Bellarmine. The title, "How to Have Holy Death" (I think close to that) was, inside, quickly, and I think properly, amended as he said that the only way to have a holy death is via a holy life. So, I glanced at the chapters - Fervent Prayer, Sacrifice, Fasting.... Oh, dear! I wasn't ready to read it. (Well, I had just picked it up for a three-minute break...) But more than that....I think there was something that wasn't quite ready to say, "Tell me how to live a holy life, and I'm there!" But, at least I've been thinking about it since.

  2. You may be right. The next chapter confirms their disobedience. I suppose what scared me was that it wasn't just a foolish prayer where they botched the words, it was a matter of life and death.

    The translation, by the way, varies.

  3. Oh, my! I preached on "Do not go down to Egypt" a few years back at one American church. Thank you for brining me back to that great time.

    The man's wisdom is fleeting. I think God doesn't want us to rely on something that is so unsustainable. What IS exactly the wisdom of man? The books they read? The philosophical discussions they might have? What is it?

    Exactly! It's nothing. It cannot be grasped or comprehended because the wisdom of man doesn't exist! Just think about it. We are nothing but worms in God's eyes. But... he still loves those worms. Which to me is amazing.

  4. Very interesting observations. I think sometimes our lack of wisdom (as you mentioned) lies in failing to grasp the sovereignty of God. We think we can test Him or fit Him into some sort of prayer formula. But He's bigger than that.


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