Jeremiah 44:16-18 – “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
In Friday’s post (see below), we saw from the word of God that the scripture is more sure than anything that we think we have seen or experienced. Even though it is very natural for us to trust our own experiences far more than anything we have read in a book, in the case of the Holy Bible, the book is what is for sure and our experiences are what are questionable.
The verses above from Jeremiah 44 are an excellent example of people using circumstantial evidence to make decisions about what to do. The rebellious people of Judah had fled to Egypt before the final arrival of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Taking Jeremiah with them, they settled in Egypt and continued in pagan practices including worshiping a false goddess they called the “queen of heaven.” God, through Jeremiah, warned the people to turn away from their idolatry and their worship of other gods. But, as we read above, the people refused to listen to the Lord.
Notice, if you will, the reasoning behind the people’s refusal to return to the Lord. When they were practicing their false religion, they were experiencing prosperity. When they stopped their practice of idolatry, they experienced very difficult circumstances. Thus, the people concluded that they ought to return to worshipping the “queen of heaven” instead of worshipping the Lord. They let what they had personally experienced lead them to draw false conclusions about what was true. Assuming that their former prosperity was the blessing of the “queen of heaven,” they failed to recognize the mercy and later chastisement of the Lord. That failure led the people to an incredibly destructive decision, the decision to continue in idolatry.
Now, let’s learn from this event that happened almost 2,600 years ago. As I said Friday, people often trust their own experiences today far more than the Bible. If they have a dream, have a strong feeling, or have a “peace” about something, people often assume these signs to be communicating to them the favor of God. And while I do not want to ignore the possibility of those things being the prompting of God, under no circumstances will those “promptings” ever lead us to a place that is opposed to what is clearly written in the Bible.
Here are some examples:
· A woman has a very hard marriage. Her husband is not loving, not caring, and not even responsible. She prays about her situation, asking God to help her. In her heart, she feels a confidence that God does not want her to be in her marriage. She knows God loves her. She knows God does not want her to be unhappy. So, she asks God if it is Ok in her situation for her to file for divorce. Immediately she feels at peace with the idea. She “knows” that she has heard from God. The problem: she is wrong. Regardless of what she feels, the word of God has not given her freedom to seek to divorce her husband. While there may be reasons that the scripture gives to allow for divorce, being in a frustrating and even unfulfilling relationship is not one of them. Regardless of the woman’s experience, a decision to divorce is a sin against God.
· A young man desperately wants to be loved. He is a Christian, but still struggles with his singleness. One weekend, he meets a beautiful, fun, and sweet young lady who is clearly interested in him. The girl is not a believer in Christ. As they get to know one another, they find that they are both romantically interested in each other. Eventually, the young man even begins to think that she might be “the one.” He prays about it, asking God to let him know if there is anything wrong with him marrying the girl. Nothing in his heart or life circumstances says to him that there is anything wrong with the relationship. So, with complete peace in his heart, he proposes marriage. The problem: the Bible expressly forbids Christians from marrying non-Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14). No matter how he feels in his heart, this young man sins against God by breaking God’s explicit command.
· I find myself in a conversation with a person, and a clear opportunity to share the gospel presents itself. For whatever reason, I decide that the timing is not right, and so I simply continue talking about meaningless things like sports. While my “feelings” lead me to avoid the difficult conversation, God has commanded me to share the gospel with all nations. I sin against God if I do not listen to his word above my feelings.
On and on we could go here showing example after example of how we often fail to obey God’s word while looking for some other means of understanding his will. I’m not trying to pretend that this is always easy. But I do want us to think clearly. God leads us primarily through his written word. Other factors may play a part in how we think, but they must never lead to a decision that is contrary to what is revealed in the scripture.