When Prayer Is Answered But Not Obeyed

Right on the heels of yesterday's post on Zedekiah's efforts to manipulate God comes another lesson on prayer. I won't tell you the whole story, but encourage you to read Jeremiah 40-42 so that you have the background.

To summarize, a bunch of army officers asked Jeremiah to: "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. Whether it be favorable or unfavourable, 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 42:3, 5, 6, NIV.

Can't you just hear the "amens" rolling off your tongue? What a great prayer!

Except that when, ten days later, Jeremiah delivered God's answer, the officers refused to obey God's instructions. When it came down to it they were afraid to trust God with their lives. In the end the sentence Jeremiah pronounced on them for their disobedience was simply the fulfillment of the very thing they had hoped to avoid.

At least Zedekiah didn't pretend he was going to do what the Lord told him.

Lessons?

if you are not sincerely committed to obedience, better not to ask for instructions from God in the first place. These men wanted to go to Egypt. Why ask God for other options when they had already made up their minds what the solution to their dilemma was? God doesn't do rubber-stamping well.

If you initially intend to keep the promises you make to God, be sure to hold up your end of the bargain. This is where real trust is tested. These men promised that whether they liked the advice or not, they would follow it. But in the end their words were empty.

Be careful what you promise God. Better not to say anything than to be trapped by your own words and bring even more disaster down on your own head. They actually asked God to hold it against them if they disobeyed! Not too many "bright bulbs" among them.

And the smartest move of all?

Ask Him. Promise Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. You simply can't go wrong.

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