“Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, “Do not go to Egypt to live there…”‘” (ESV – Read the chapter)
The people of Israel who hadn’t been taken off to Babylon as captives or killed in the process were scared. The options before them didn’t seem good at all. Some of their leaders had murdered the governor the Babylonians had put in place to rule over them. They feared retribution was coming and would be painful when it arrived. The various nations around them not only didn’t want to help, but were actively antagonistic toward them. The only option that seemed to make sense was to head to Egypt in hopes that by coming as refugees from their mutual enemies in Babylon, they would be received graciously and not as a hostile force.
Before they acted, though, they found Jeremiah, the prophet who had faithfully delivered to the people the words of the Lord throughout this ordeal. They asked him to seek the Lord on their behalf. They promised that they would do whatever the Lord told Jeremiah to tell them to do no matter what it was.
So, Jeremiah sought the Lord. And the Lord said that they were to in no ways to go Egypt. Instead, they were to stay in Israel. He would take care of them there and would reestablish them in the land. Not only would the Babylonians not bother them any longer, but their neighbors would leave them alone as well. In other words, He told them to do exactly the opposite of what they wanted to do.
When Jeremiah delivered this word to them, they revealed that while they said they would do whatever God told them, what they really meant was that they would do whatever He said as long as it was what they wanted to hear. The outcome was that they insisted to Jeremiah that God hadn’t told him any of that. Then, they packed up and headed to Egypt with Jeremiah forcibly in tow.
Far too often, when we seek direction from the Lord, what we want is not His counsel and wisdom, but rather a divine sanctioning for what we want to do. You see, God doesn’t play by our rules. His ways are not our ways. His plans are not our plans. If we want His advice on how we are best to proceed, He will give it, but if we don’t take it, we have two problems.
The first is that we are not going in the direction God told us to go. Given that His ways lead to life and ours don’t, to knowingly go in a way other than He has told us is to knowingly walk a path that will end in death. To take the wrong path blindly is one thing. To do so when we have been told it is the wrong path is foolish in the extreme.
The second problem is that by seeking God’s will and brazenly rejecting it, we are openly sinning against Him. We are living in intentional and open disobedience. Worse yet, we are calling God a liar. That is never a path that will lead to life and flourishing.
If you want God’s counsel, He is always willing to give it. But, if you’re not going to take it; if you are only looking for Him to sanction what you want to do, don’t bother asking in the first place. If you are going to do what you want regardless of the advice you get to the contrary, just go ahead and do it. If you want to know which path leads to life, though, ask and follow. Even if the path does not seem to be what you would prefer if you were choosing on your own, trust the One who can see the big picture and knows the plans He has for you. He will lead you to the life you seek.