I’ve spent the last few months reading through the book of Jeremiah. The thing that struck me was how many times God gave His people the choice of whether or not to forsake their idols and worship Him. As I read, I realized how many times we have choices to make. In our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and especially with God. These next few weeks I will be sharing a 5-part series on choices (Read other posts here). I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what helps you make wise choices.
I don’t envy the prophet Jeremiah. At all.
He prophesied in a time when people didn’t want to hear his words. He was obedient to speak all that God gave him. And his was an unpopular message.
In Jeremiah 27, God gave Jeremiah a message for the new King Zedekiah. Words that grated against everything their culture believed. The culture told Zedekiah (and Judah’s inhabitants) that this land was theirs. They were to remain at any cost.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had other plans for the nations surrounding his own.
God had warned Judah dozens of times that they needed to turn from their idolatry and wicked ways. He sent prophets to exhort Judah and its kings to turn their hearts back to God. In love, He tried to persuade His children to turn back to Him.
But the people.
The people were so far gone on their way of living. They relegated God to a back corner, all but invisible. Except when they wanted to pull Him out and say something like,
“But God said . . . . ”
“Our God promised . . . ”
They wanted comfort more than obedience.
They chose to live for pleasure rather than for worship.
And God was done with their pretense.
Jeremiah shared a radical message with King Zedekiah. His words opposed everything the people of Judah wanted. They wanted to stay in their Promised Land and live the way they wanted. Not the way God instructed.
I imagine Zedekiah was a young guy when he became king. He surrounded himself with the sage voices of their culture. He listened as they declared God would give them the victory. God would help them to defend their land.
I always wonder what Jeremiah felt as he stood before the king, sharing this message that contradicted everything the cultural pundits proclaimed. Nervous? Scared? Angry?
His message was to (gasp) go willingly into captivity in Babylon. Not to fight it. God said He would bless those who surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah was probably the only voice contradicting culture. He was the man no one wanted to hear because his words were hard. They didn’t make sense.
Everything the king and the people believed, saw, and heard declared one message.
But Jeremiah’s words?
His words made no sense at all.
After all, God gave them their land, right? Surely He wouldn’t want them to leave it.
Surely He would protect them . . . Right?
We live in a similar culture. Anyone who knows the story of the United States’ founding can witness to God’s hand bringing this nation into existence.
Our culture declares many things:
- We’re free to be our own person.
- We can believe and act how we want without repercussions.
- We don’t have to believe God’s word.
And it’s all good.
Our culture conveys many messages that contradict what God says in His word.
And unless we know God’s word—and believe He is who He says He is—we can’t discern between His truth and the lies our culture tells us.
There are times when what we see, hear, and understand make perfect sense. The message resonates in our hearts, our minds. We grasp it as truth.
And then God speaks to us—whether through His word, a message we hear through a pastor, or in our hearts—and it makes no sense.
We may need to surrender something we’ve held onto.
A belief, a possession, a job, a hope or a dream . . . or something else.
It makes no sense to let it go. Everything around us urges us to hold onto it.
But here’s the rub, if God says to let it go—to surrender that thing—we’re wrong to cling to it. No matter what everyone tells us.
We must make the choice.
Sometimes, holding onto that “good” thing will bring far more trouble than if we had let it go when God directed us.
God told the people of Judah that, for those who surrendered to King Nebuchadnezzar, He would bless them in the land of their captivity.
For those who fought or ran? God would punish them.
We always have a choice. Sometimes what looks like the harder choice is the better decision in the long run.
What about you? When have you had to make a difficult decision? When have you chosen God’s way over what culture says is best?