16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. 17 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. 18 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.”
How do you determine right and wrong? How do you determine the will of God? Is it by circumstances? Do you look at what parallels with success and assume it to always be the right thing?
In Jeremiah 44, we see a strange scene. The people of Judah have taken Jeremiah with them in their flight to Egypt. Even though God clearly commanded the people not to leave the land, they refused his commands and left for a place they felt was safer. While in Egypt, Jeremiah commanded the people to stop worshipping a false goddess, the “queen of heaven.” But, as we read above, the people did not listen.
What would cause people who should have been the people of God to worship a false goddess? The answer is success. When the people were doing exactly what the Lord commanded them not to do, their lives were easy. When they were obeying god to whatever level they ever actually obeyed the Lord, they found life to be hard. So, they concluded that the right thing, the smart thing, the good thing was to refuse to worship God and to instead keep up their worship of the false goddess.
While it is good not to be in the situation of those people who worshipped the goddess, it is also tempting today to follow the path of least resistance. It is easy to assume that success means that we are doing the right thing. Be careful. Often, for a time, doing what dishonors God will give a short-term success. Churches sometimes grow in numbers when they compromise. Parents who allow their children to dishonor God sometimes have less conflict with their kids. Sometimes it is easier in life not to tell the truth. But, if we are not careful, we will find ourselves like the people of Judah, led completely away from following God by apparent, short-term success.
The truth is, following God has always been hard. Jesus promised us persecution if we would truly stand for him. Sometimes it requires us to take the harder road, the less obviously successful road, in order to truly obey the commands of God and glorify him. By walking the harder path, we may indeed find that we honor God more and give him greater glory as we show that he and not worldly success is our desire.