Have you ever attributed praise or accomplishment to something or someone and believed it with a firmness and conviction that even when faced with opposing evidence of the same, we can at times falter in seeing the truth or believing it?
In Jeremiah 44, we see the remnant of Judah who fled to Egypt, completely fail to recognise that their disobedience to God is what led them into the very situation they found themselves in. They attribute their time prior to the downfall of Jerusalem to their worship of a pagan god – the queen of heaven.
The chapter begins with Jeremiah sharing God’s word to them. God reminds them that the disaster brought on them was because of the evil they did (verse 2-6). And as we read further, God tells them through Jeremiah that they would continue to have His anger brought upon them even in Egypt, if they persist in their sinful ways of idolatry.
What do the remnant say in response to God’s message?
Jeremiah 44:16-17a “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.”
When we read these verses, we struggle to comprehend why they remain stubborn in their disobedience to God. God had made it abundantly clear repeatedly through His prophets that it was their idolatry, lack of reverence and obedience to Him that brought upon the judgment they faced. Neither words nor seeing those prophesies come true have managed to snap them out of their spiritual stupor.
We see their faulty reasoning in the following verses.
Jeremiah 44:17b-18 says “At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
A misplaced trust in an empty idol is what we see here. They were so far removed from God that they fail to see that the very actions they assumed kept them safe and in a time of abundance were what aroused God’s anger.
To their response, Jeremiah says in verses 21-23 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him or followed his law or his decrees or his stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”
They completely miss the truth of the situation. God’s blessings, His protection, mercy and patience that they experienced before and while he waited for them to turn back to Him, seem completely inconsequential to the people who are blinded by their own sin.
For us: When our back is turned from God, our gaze is no more on Him, and when our gaze is fixated elsewhere, our hearts become set upon something else other than God. And when our hearts are set away from God, we fail to perceive His grace and mercy that surrounds us and that can lead to a stubbornness in our sinful ways.
Our hearts when set away from God become calibrated in such a way that stepping out of God’s will no longer registers as wrong. For our hearts to be aligned with God’s, our gaze has to always remain on Him. If not, there comes a definite lack of spiritual discernment along with a misplaced trust in something or someone else other than God.
Jeremiah’s message fell on deaf ears. As Jesus often said “Those who have ears let them hear.” He refers to spiritual ears, a discernment that comes with the presence of the spirit within us.
1 Corinthians 2:14 says “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
When one is unable to perceive God’s workings or understand His message, it is called spiritual blindness. The heart of spiritual discernment is knowing and recognising God’s voice and His workings from those of the world’s.
Acts 28:26-27 says “Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”
We can be inclined to glory in our achievements, trust in futile things and Satan revels when we do it, but as my friend Bridget A. Thomas says “Walking with the Holy Spirit helps us to have discernment. He will guide us along the rocky path of life. When we stay anchored to the Lord each day, we will not be led astray.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
The word of God was foolishness to the remnant in Egypt, but let’s remember those like Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego who were taken captive to Babylon, the word of God was power to them. Their faith in God never faltered, their trust never wavered and their gaze never scattered.
May we never move away from God that we fail to recognise His hand and His workings in our life, may He give us discernment to recognise them and if we do step out of His path may we realign ourselves to Him. May God keep us close to Him and sheltered under His wings.