|Theme: Disobedience to God’s Will Revealed through Prayer
|Focus on: Johanan, army officers and the people
|Reading Portion(s): Jeremiah 40 to 44.|
|– Important Background Information|
|– Helps you find strength in God|
|What this article teaches you|
|Prayer is serious business. You cannot play games with God. But there are many who are willing to do so. This is especially true in matters concerning God’s will for their lives. Prayers will be made with the objective of finding out what is God’s will for a particular situation in their lives. Whether they themselves pray or they ask a prophet of the Lord to pray; they will confess that they will obey whatever God says.
But this is deception. This is because they have already made a decision in their mind. And their seeking prayer now is to somehow find out whether God will approve of their decision. This is wrong kind of praying even though they keep on saying that they will obey whatever God would tell them. But they will stick on to their own decision and go ahead with their own plans even when what God says is directly opposed to their decision. Thus they reject God’s will. But God will uproot all they do.
Jeremiah was confined in the courtyard of the king’s guard in Jerusalem because he was prophesying that the Babylonian army would surely invade and conquer Jerusalem. Then it happened. Jerusalem fell. The king was captured. And along with him a lot of people were carried into exile.
Now God showed His mercy to Jeremiah. He caused the Babylonian king to show kindness to Jeremiah. Thus he was released from his prison. But somehow he was mistakenly put in chains and put along with the captives being taken into exile to Babylon. Now Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard found him, freed him from his chains and asked him to go back to Gedaliah whom the king of Babylonian had appointed over the towns of Judah. So Jeremiah went to stay with him.
A lot of Jews who were not taken to exile and who had been scattered in the nearby countries came to Gedaliah when they heard that he was made the governor of the land. A lot of poor people also rallied to him. There were two characters in the crowd that we may specially take note of. One was Ishmael and the other was Johanan. Both of them were army officers and Ishamel was of royal blood.
Now Johanan reported to Gedaliah that Ishmael had been sent by Baalis king of the Ammonites to take his life. But Gedaliah refused to believe this. Yet in the course of time Ishmael did indeed kill Gedaliah and took all the people captive. But when Johanan and the army officers with him heard about all what Ishmael had done they came and fought with Ishmael and rescued all the people.
Then Johanan and all the army officers led the people toward Egypt. They wanted to escape to Egypt since they were afraid of the Babylonians because of the murder of Gedaliah whom the Babylonians had appointed as governor of the land. On their way they stopped at Geruth Kimham near Bethlehem.
Now we find all these people including Johanan and the army officers, from the least to the greatest, approaching Jeremiah. They asked him to pray to God for direction as to where they should go and what they should do. They wanted Jeremiah to pray because they who were once many had now been reduced to a few.
Jeremiah promised to pray for them as they had requested. He also told them that he will keep nothing back from what God would tell him. Then the people promised Jeremiah that they will do exactly as God would say. They added that whether it is favorable or unfavorable they will obey the Lord so that everything will go well with them.
Ten days later the word of God came to Jeremiah. He reported to the people what God had said to him. God’s message to the people was that He will build them up instead of tearing them down, and plant them instead of uprooting them if they stay in the land. God promised the people that He will cause the Babylonians to show kindness and compassion to them. God asked them not to fear the Babylonian king. He wanted the people to stay in the land. And God promised to restore them to their own land if the people obeyed and stayed in the land. God also told them through Jeremiah that if they still persisted in going to Egypt they will definitely die by the sword, famine and plague which they feared.
Jeremiah understood that the people were determined to go to Egypt. So he told them that they had made a fatal mistake in asking him to pray to God. He told them that even though God’s will for them was clear they had not obeyed it. Moreover they were disobeying it by proceeding to Egypt. It was a clear violation of their own promise to obey what God would tell them. So Jeremiah told them that they will surely die by the sword, famine and plague in Egypt.
Now when Jeremiah finished telling them all these things, the people told him that he was lying. They added that Baruch, an aide of Jeremiah was inciting him against them. So instead of staying in the land according to God’s word Johanan and the army officers led them to Egypt in disobedience to the Lord.
This incident recorded here is typical of the prayers of many believers. Trusting in their own wisdom and acting according to their own desires they make a decision to do something. Then they approach God in prayer. Sometimes they seek out a prophet of God to pray or they personally pray.
This gives us the impression that they are earnest in their praying. To add to it they tell God or the prophet that they will obey whatever God tells them to do. We need not have any doubts about their sincerity because they tell us that they would obey God even if what He tells is favorable or unfavorable. Yet this if far from the truth. The smooth talk of their lips is used as a cover-up to hide the decision that they have already made in their hearts.
It is amazing how such people are ready to wait till the answer to prayer comes. And when it does come and people find it unfavorable they charge the prophet of God that he is lying. They tell him that somebody else is inciting them to give them the wrong message. What a tragedy is this!
This incident should teach us that we should never be hypocritical when we seek God’s will in prayer. We should not go to God with a decision already made in our hearts. Then there is no point in seeking His will. If at all we seek God’s will in prayer let it be done only if we are ready to fully obey what God says. If it is not done likewise the consequences for disobedience will be truly tragic. God will definitely tear down and uproot what you plan to build and plant in disobedience to God’s will.