” Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached the prophet Jeremiah and said, ‘ May our petition come before you; pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do’.” – Jeremiah 42:1-3 CSB
Every New Year and frankly every day, we like to make plans. It’s the type A personality in us I guess that likes to do this. And after all, if we fail to plan we plan to fail right? Well, there’s nothing wrong with a good plan. It’s important to plan. For many of us nearing the age of retirement, we are glad we made the right decisions and plan this next stage of our lives God willing we get there. For myself, a single gall, I like to plan my days to the best of my abilities. So many things demand my attention hence the need to map it all down in my lovely planner. Did you catch that? We even call this specific notebook: a planner. At a certain point in my life, I never would have made it if it weren’t for my meticulous planning. Every minute of every day was accounted for. Between a full-time job, being a part-time entrepreneur, going to school, being in a relationship and serving in my church, I would have had no time to myself was it not for my detailed and carefully planned schedule. Even my breakfast time was timed and on the go. Movies and dinner with the ladies had to go down in the planner as well; otherwise, I would never make it.
There’s nothing wrong with planning. It keeps things organized especially if you’re a busy bee. However, when I make my own plans without consulting God, that’s when it becomes a problem. Instead, I make plans and then turn to God for approval with his special stamp. In essence, it is as if I don’t care so much for his input but want his approval nonetheless. I want him to approve my plans, not his.
This is exactly where we find the remnant of Judah in Jeremiah 42. The people came to seek counsel from Jeremiah and asked him to pray to God, but not just any God, ” your God” they said. But wait a second? Wasn’t this the same God that called them his children? Indeed, it was. Yet, they wanted nothing to do with him other than a stamp of approval on their plans it seems. So, they requested from Jeremiah:
“Pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on the behalf of the entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”
This “remnant” (do not confuse with God’s last days’ remnant) pretentiously came before Jeremiah wanting to know what God would have them to do. Though the people claimed that they would obey whatever God commanded them to do, what they really meant was ” we will certainly obey the Lord your God as long as he tells us what we want to hear“. Oh, how stubborn they were! What’s hard but necessary to admit is that sometimes, I too can be the same way. I too want God to tell me what I’d like to hear and nothing else. The reality was that while the people of God were claiming that they would follow God’s leading, they were already following the direction of their own desires. Indeed, at the end of Jeremiah 41, we find out that they were already well on their way towards Egypt when they made their request to Jeremiah. When Jeremiah returned after ten days with a word from God telling them not to continue towards Egypt but remain where they were, they did not believe. Rather, they got irritated, upset and decided to do what they had originally planned anyway and went to Egypt. Many at times, we act the very same way.
Rather than wait patiently on God, we move forward in our own ambitions and with our own plans. Rather than trust God, we trust ourselves more and trust our own plans believing they are better than his. That’s when we see that self has not died yet. Self is still alive and going ahead of God, choosing to become my god rather than let God be God. In this way, we become our own idol. We toss God aside and treat him like a genie in a box to whom we make wishes and expect them to come to pass rather than treat him as our supreme and sovereign leader and Father who knows what’s best.
That’s when we even pray selfish prayers and want to receive only the answers that we desire to hear. As such, we are not praying in the Spirit. That’s also when we sabotage ourselves (see Jeremiah 44:7) and forfeit the plans that God has for our lives rather than embrace them.
As a result, we follow in our stubborn and evil ways, disobeying God in the process rather than obeying him completely. But God demands our obedience. He not only desires us to obey but He demands it. And after all why not? He is God and he knows all.
In this story, the people of God remind me that I must respond to God’s Word in complete obedience rather than total rebellion. If we respond to God and His Word as the Rechabites did to their ancestors’ guidance ( see Jeremiah 35) in obedience and follow his leading, then we can trust that our obedience will serve us well.
“Obey the Lord in what I am telling you, so it may go well for you and you can live.” – Jeremiah 38:20b
When I decide to follow God’s leading, when I let him in on my plans, and better yet involve him in my planning process, I can trust that it will go well with me. Obedience is always richly rewarded but disobedience leads to self-destruction.
Friend, let’s invite God in our planning process. Let’s make plans with God and not simply invite him to approve our plans. And let’s be willing to change our plans when God redirects us to do so because God must always have the final say.
Father God, I know I like to plan and too often I make plans without consulting you or inviting you into my process. For that, forgive me, please. Teach me how to draw closer to you and get your input before I execute my plans. I don’t want to follow my plans anymore; I want your plans. When you prompt me to modify those plans, give me a humble spirit willing to follow your leading and make necessary changes. Lord, today, I choose to make room for you, make room for you in my schedule, in my life but also make room for you to give me your input in my life. Help me to crucify my selfish nature and embrace your supreme goodness and Spirit. Lead me day by day dear Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen.