Day 177: God’s Word vs. Man’s Word

Jeremiah 44:24-30

Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people, including all the women, “Hear Yahweh’s word, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt! Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘You and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and with your hands have fulfilled it, saying, “We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of the sky, and to pour out drink offerings to her.”

“ ‘Establish then your vows, and perform your vows.’

“Therefore hear Yahweh’s word, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by my great name,’ says Yahweh, ‘that my name will no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “As the Lord Yahweh lives.” Behold, I watch over them for evil, and not for good; and all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt will be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until they are all gone. Those who escape the sword will return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah few in number. All the remnant of Judah, who have gone into the land of Egypt to live there, will know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.

“ ‘This will be the sign to you,’ says Yahweh, ‘that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for evil.’ Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and sought his life.’ ”

In this passage, God shows all of us where man’s real problem lies. On the surface, it would appear that the problem is that the people were choosing to worship “the queen of the sky” instead of God, but God exposes something else here. The people told God that they were going to keep their vows, but their vow was against the vow of God. The real issue is that the people were putting themselves in the place of God in their attempt to keep their own word. They were the ones who were choosing to elevate “the queen of the sky” and they were the ones who made a bad vow, so God told them that His vow is against them. As a result, the people would find out “whose word will stand, mine or theirs.”

These Jews had given up on God’s word and had chosen to believe in their own ideas about the “queen of the sky.” They never really talked to this “queen.” They were actually worshiping their own imaginations. They were trusting in their own ideas. Modern atheists today would probably mock this idea of worshiping some “queen of the sky” but they still have the very same underlying problems. They trust in their own faulty ideas and they even personify them. There are atheists who believe that “life will find a way,” but life in this sense is an evolutionary concept. It doesn’t have a mind. It can’t find things. They say things like: “science is atheistic,” but science is merely a set of tools that we use to learn things, it doesn’t have a mind. It can’t be an atheist! The concept of evolution teaches that somehow, randomness creates all of the good things that we enjoy but randomness is the opposite of creation in our experience. The idea that randomness can create, is applying a magical ability to a concept. It’s clear that atheists today are merely worshiping their own ideas and they vow to keep those ideas in tact at all cost. It is clear from this passage what God will do. God’s word will continue to oppose them until it proves to be true, just as God’s word opposed the remnant of Judah in Egypt.

Day 176: The Danger of Abandoning the Truth

Jeremiah 44:19-23

The women said, “When we burned incense to the queen of the sky and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her, without our husbands?”

Then Jeremiah said to all the people—to the men and to the women, even to all the people who had given him an answer, saying, “The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, didn’t Yahweh remember them, and didn’t it come into his mind? Thus Yahweh could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you have committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation, an astonishment, and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is today. Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against Yahweh, and have not obeyed Yahweh’s voice, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil has happened to you, as it is today.”

When we decide to question God’s word, we put ourselves in serious danger. It’s important for us to understand the basis for good and bad reasoning. Good reasoning is based on fact, but if we choose to reason without believing in what God says, our reasoning is unhinged from reality. That’s because a mere human can’t be certain about anything. We make mistakes and we are often dishonest. We also may not know all of the facts that we should know in order to make a good decision. These things make our own understanding of the facts unreliable. Judah had rejected the word of God and decided to start reasoning without first accepting God’s facts. Hopeless confusion and destruction was now all that was left for them.

These people had convinced themselves that the queen of heaven was more likely to give them well being than God was because they perceived that whenever they worshiped her, their lives were better. God tried to remind them that the reason the their lives were worse was because He had seen them worshiping her and punished them in response to that. It would appear that the people’s ears were already closed to Jeremiah at this point, though. I would think that what Jeremiah was saying would be critical information to them. You would think that the fact that things got bad only after God was upset with them would change their minds, but because their hearts and minds were unwilling to even listen, they could no longer find their way back to the facts. They had lost hold of reality and had no way back. When we cut off the truth, how can we ever get back to it? All we have left, is to trust in our own assumptions about what is real and as we see here, our own thinking will lead to our destruction.

When I consider what happened to these people, it reminds me of a couple of important things for us to remember today. One is that we would all be lost and without hope had God not caused us to listen to His word and given us an opportunity to see things in a new light. We were all trapped in our own assumptions, but God, by His Holy Spirit, interrupted our assumptions and told us the truth in a way that we were able to understand. It’s important for us to remember that it was God who saved us from the prison of bad thinking that we used to live in. The other important thing to remember is that we could get lost again. If we decide to doubt God and trust in our own ideas instead, we will find ourselves in need of saving again. I don’t mean that we lose our salvation, but God may have to go out searching for us when we wander off. Thankfully, God won’t leave us and will bring us back to a place of faith again.

Day 167: Trusting the Wrong People

Jeremiah 40:13-41:3

Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and said to him, “Do you know that Baalis the king of the children of Ammon has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to take your life?”

But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam didn’t believe them.

Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, “Please let me go, and I will kill Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man will know it. Why should he take your life, that all the Jews who are gathered to you should be scattered, and the remnant of Judah perish?”

But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, “You shall not do this thing, for you speak falsely of Ishmael.”

Now in the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal offspring and one of the chief officers of the king, and ten men with him, came to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they ate bread together in Mizpah. Then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah arose, and the ten men who were with him, and struck Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land. Ishmael also killed all the Jews who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans men of war who were found there.

One of the most critical errors a leader can make is to trust the wrong people. This was so serious for Gedaliah that it cost him his life and the lives of the Jews who were with him. Johanan clearly tried to warn Gedaliah, but instead of trusting him, Gedaliah accused Johanan of lying and chose to protect Ishmael. Ishmael pretended to like Gedaliah and then rose up and assasinated him and those with him.

I have discovered that intuition is a very bad guide. God can show us things in spiritual ways, but we still need to test those things because they are not propositional truth, like the things that are clearly written in the Bible. Gedaliah appeared to have trusted his intuition so much that he accused an innocent man of lying. That’s the danger. Gedaliah may have thought he was fighting for peace as he opposed Johanan, but he was actually sinning, and was about to lose his life. It would have been wise for Gedaliah to do some investigation before rejecting what Johanan said. When a person simply accepts his own assumptions without question, that person is acting like a fool. I think that it is what is meant by Solomon when he wrote this:

Proverbs 26:12

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Johanan must have been pretty upset when he was rejected. Not only would Gedaliah be killed, the remnant of the Jews was in serious danger. Sometimes, as Christians, we find ourselves in Johanan’s position. We are accused of being evil as we merely attempt to do what is good. It’s good for us to remember that God is still in charge and is using our circumstances for His glory. It would appear that God’s punishment of Israel was not yet complete. Even some of those who were in this remnant were not allowed to live but this is still not the end of the story.