“Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do . . . 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.” –Jeremiah 42:3, 5
Jeremiah 42:1 through 43:7 tells an interesting story. Fearing retaliation from Nebuchadnezzar after one of their own killed the governor he’d sent to rule over them, the Israelite remnant wanted to flee to Egypt to seek safety from the Babylonians there. They stopped just as their journey began and asked Jeremiah to seek God’s will in the matter.
If they had really been seeking God’s Will, this would have been a good thing. What they were really seeking, though, was God’s permission and blessing. This truth comes out ten days later when Jeremiah tells the people that God has told them to stay put. (See Jeremiah 42:9-12.) The people accuse Jeremiah of lying and take off to do their own thing. (See Jeremiah 43:2-7.) This, of course, ends in disaster—just as God told them it would.
Children sometimes ask for permission, hoping for a parent’s blessing, yet determined to do what they’re going to do regardless. If they follow through with their plans even after a parent has said no, they will have consequences to face when they are done. At the very least, they’ll lose their parent’s trust and feel their disappointment. There may also be natural consequences that the parent has no control over or disciplinary consequences, such as loss of privileges, meant to help kids understand why it’s important they obey.
But children aren’t the only ones who face this temptation to proceed when they should not. How often do we ask God’s opinion about something (“Can I please do this, God? Can I? Can I please?”), then sense Him saying no. We accept the answer for a time, then decide that maybe He didn’t mean it or maybe we misunderstood His answer, so we ask again . . . and again . . . and again . . . until we finally choose to obey—or rebel.
What we want to do may even seem, through our eyes, to be a good and logical thing. This was the Israelite dilemma. Running from angry King Nebuchadnezzar seemed like the wisest thing to do.
But God said, No.
And they had promised to obey! (See Jeremiah 42:6).
When we ask God what we should do, we need to listen for His answer, seeking His Will through His Word, in prayer, and, if necessary, through the wisdom of mentors and trusted friends. Once that answer is clear, our wisest next move is always to obey.
God loves us and wants what best for us. If He says no, it’s for our good.
Thank You for watching out for us, Lord. How comforting to know that You see ahead and know what’s best when we can only guess. Help us seek Your Will with diligence, for Your glory and our good. We trust You, Lord. Amen.