Today’s devotion follows up where yesterday’s left off.
The people of Judah who remained in the land after the Babylonian army had invaded and conquered them had gone to the prophet Jeremiah, asking him to pray to the Lord for them, for they wanted to know whether they should remain in the land of Judah or flee to the land of Egypt instead. The remnant of Judah promised to obey whatever the Lord told Jeremiah about this. But, they refused to listen to the Lord’s word when it wasn’t what they wanted to hear and instead they went to Egypt and even took Jeremiah with them as their prisoner (Jeremiah 42-43).
Here is a classic example of a failure, not of hearing, but of obeying. The problem for the people of Judah was not that their ears didn’t work or that they were incapable of understanding the Lord’s word to them through the prophet. Instead, their problem was that their hearts were hard – resistant to God’s will and bent on doing things their own way.
What about us? Most of us like to feel as though we are in control of our lives. Most of us like to believe that we have got things together. Not many of us like being told what to do by someone else. The idea that anyone – God included – could command our obedience tends to cause us to straighten our spines, stiffen our necks, and stick out our chests in determination to “be our own people” and “do things our own way.” This attitude may seem natural and normal to us, but the Bible indicts this attitude as hardness of heart – spiritual stubbornness and defiance. Indulging in the illusion that we are in control of our lives leads us to miss the reality of God’s gracious reign over all things. Sticking to our guns and shutting God’s word out of our lives because we want to do things our way and not His is utter foolishness. It is no wiser than the rebellious teenager who insists that she knows more about life than her mom & dad. The Lord is pleading with us to give up our silly stubbornness: “Hear, O my people, and I will warn you – if you would but listen to me, O Israel!” (Psalm 80:8) We must learn to listen to God and while listening to God requires hearing his word it also requires obedience to his word. Jesus’ parable sums it up well:
Matthew 7:24-27: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”