Today you should read: Jeremiah 7:16-34
“They can’t tell me what to do.”
There is hardly a phrase as divisive as this. Of course, this depends on certain factors—who is “they” and what are they “telling?” For some people, the “they” and the “telling” immediately stir up frustration—especially, in many cases, is the “they” is from a different political party. Sometimes, even if what is being asked is completely reasonable, easy to accomplish, and a tangible expression of loving our neighbor, if the wrong “they” said it, “They can’t tell me what to do.”
As we read in our passage today, it turns out the Judah had a TCTMWTD problem too. Yesterday, we saw false confidence because of God’s Temple (verses 3–7). Despite Judah’s lawlessness that we read about today, they had an attitude of indifference to their sin because they had the Temple.
This was so bad that God commanded Jeremiah that he can’t even pray for the people (16). God said later that He had rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath (29). Yikes! But why did God give up on these people?
First, God never really gives up on people. He always preserves a remnant for Himself (see also Romans 11). In this case, Jeremiah himself was part of Judah’s condemnation. Jeremiah teaches us that, in some cases, our obedience heaps condemnation on those around us. A faithful remnant will always heap judgment on their unfaithful contemporaries.
Second, God surrendered those who would not turn back to Him. This pattern happens a few times in the Biblical timeline. However, in this case, the Babylonian Exile happened when Judah crossed that invisible line of judgment. It’s like there is a point in which God knows that, all who would repent, have repented, and all others shall be given over to judgment. It happened in the days of Noah. It happened in the Babylonian Exile. And it will happen again before the return of Christ.
Third, we see clearly what the people were doing to cause the Lord to surrender them to judgment. The New English Translation does a great job helping us understand verses 23–26:
23 I also explicitly commanded them: “Obey me. If you do, I will be your God and you will be my people. Live exactly the way I tell you and things will go well with you.” 24 But they did not listen to me or pay any attention to me. They followed the stubborn inclinations of their own wicked hearts. They acted worse and worse instead of better. 25 From the time your ancestors departed the land of Egypt until now, I sent my servants the prophets to you again and again, day after day. 26 But your ancestors did not listen to me nor pay attention to me. They became obstinate and were more wicked than even their own forefathers.’”
In other words, when God’s people went astray and He sent the prophets to correct them, the people responded with the famous phrase, “They can’t tell me what to do.”
Obviously, not all counselors are equal, nor should all advice have the same weight in our lives. Advice must always line up with God’s revealed Word. However, there is almost no circumstance when “They can’t tell me what to do” is said with a pure heart and right motives. Often it stems from pride because humility recognized that no one is ever 100% wrong. Even bad advice usually contains some nugget of truth or something to consider.
Instead of defensiveness, today let’s turn disagreements into a search to discover what God has to say about that which we want to dismiss.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate
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