December 11: Faithful Decision-Making
Jeremiah 21:1–22:30; Romans 3:1–20; Proverbs 17:1–28
“I asked God, and He didn’t answer me.” When I hear people say this, I’m often tempted to reply, “Haven’t you read the prophets?” Because sometimes what people are really saying is, “I asked God to do something for me, and He didn’t answer in the way I expected, so He must not be listening or He must not care.” Yet the prophets repeatedly tell us the opposite. God is not human, so He does not make decisions like a human. Instead, He sees all possible outcomes and knows the best route. We simply struggle to understand the wisdom of His decisions.
One particular event in the book of Jeremiah illustrates this point. When King Zedekiah (the last king of Judah) asks Jeremiah to intercede with Yahweh on behalf of Jerusalem against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah gives an unexpected reply: Yahweh has refused to do so. He will not intercede for His own people. Rather, He will make Nebuchadnezzar’s task easier (Jer 21:1–7).
Before we view Yahweh as harsh and unforgiving, let’s recall that this occurs after God’s people have been rebelling against Him for hundreds of years. Even so, in Jer 21:8–10, God’s people are given a choice: They can remain in Jerusalem and die—for Yahweh has deemed that the city must fall—or they can enter what appears to be death but is actually life. Yahweh sets up a faith choice for them: “He who goes out and goes over to the Chaldeans who are laying siege to you will live, and his life will be to him as booty” (Jer 21:9).
Even in the midst of unbearable circumstances, Yahweh offers a way of grace. Even when everything seems to fail, we can decide to choose faith. This story mirrors what we experience on our deathbed. It also mirrors the decision we face every day of our lives: Will we listen to the voices of the world, or will we listen to the prophets who proclaim honest indignation and faithful decision-making? Will we stay in the city, or will we go where God calls us—no matter how difficult it may seem or how improbable?
Where is God calling you? What must you walk away from? What faith decision is before you?
JOHN D. BARRY
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashhur, the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah, the son of Masseiah the Priest, saying, Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us (for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel maketh war against us) if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may return up from us. Then said Jeremiah, Thus you say to Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babel, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand, and with a mighty arm, even in anger and in wrath, and in great indignation. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence. And after this, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah the King of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city, from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their lives, and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword: he shall not spare them, neither have pit nor compassion. And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way death. He that abideth in this city, shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans, that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey. For I have set my face against this city, for evil and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babel, and he shall burn it with fire. And say unto the house of the King of Judah, Hear ye the word of the Lord. O house of David, Thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver the oppressed out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my wrath go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the wickedness of your works. Behold, I come against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord, which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitation? But I will visit you according to the fruit of your works, saith the Lord, and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour round about it. Thus saith the Lord God, Go down to the house of the King of Judah, and spake there this thing, And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates. Thus saith the Lord, Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor, and vex not the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow: do no violence, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if ye do this thing, then shall the kings sitting upon the throne of David enter in by the gates of this House, and ride upon chariots and upon horses, both he and his servants and his people. But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this House shall be waste. For thus hath the Lord spoken upon the king’s house of Judah, Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon, yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and as cities not inhabited. And I will prepare destroyers against thee, everyone with his weapons, and they shall cut down thy chief cedar trees, and cast them in the fire. And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city? Then shall they answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them. Weep not for the dead, and be not moved for them, but weep for him that goeth out: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country. For thus saith the Lord, As touching Shallum the son of Josiah King of Judah, which reigned for Josiah his father, which went out of this place, he shall not return thither, But he shall die in the place, whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more. Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers without equity: he useth his neighbor without wages, and giveth them not for his work. He saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers: so he will make himself large windows, and ceiling with cedar, and paint them with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink and prosper, when he executed judgment and justice?
- What is then the preferment of the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision? Much every manner of way: for chiefly, because unto them were of credit committed the oracles of God. For what, thou some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, and every man a liar, as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy words, and overcome, when thou art judged. Now if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? is God unrighteous which punisheth? (I speak as a man.) God forbid: (else how shall God judge the world?) For if the verity of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why am I yet condemned as a sinner? And (as we are blamed, and as some affirm, that we say) why do we not evil, that good may come thereof? whose damnation is just. What then? are we more excellent? No, in no wise: for we have already proved, that all, both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, As it is written, There is none righteous no not one. There is none that understandeth: there is none that seek after God. They have all gone out of the way: they have been made altogether unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher: they have used their tongues to deceit: the poison of asps is under their lips. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and calamity are in their ways: and the ways of peace they have not known. The fear of God is not before their eyes. Now we know that whatsoever the law saith, it saith it to them which are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, all the world be subject to the judgment of God. Therefore by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the Law cometh the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:1-20
- Better is a dry morsel, if peace be with it, than an house full of sacrifices with strife. A discrete servant shall divide the heritage among the brethren. As is the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, so the Lord trieth the hearts. The wicked giveth heed to false lips, and a liar hearkeneth to the naughty tongue. He that mocketh the poor, reproacheth that made him: and he that rejoiceth at destruction, shall not be unpunished. Children’s children are the crown of the elders: and the glory of the children are the fathers. High talk becometh not a fool, much less a lying talk a prince. A reward is as a stone pleasant in the eyes of them that have it: it prospereth, whithersoever it turneth. He that covereth a transgression, seeketh love: but he that repeateth a matter, separateth the prince. A reproof enereth more into him that hath understanding, than an hundred stripes unto a fool. A seditious person seeketh only evil, and a cruel messenger shall be sent against him. It is better for a man to meet a bear robbed of her whelps, than a fool in his folly. He that rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house. The beginning of strife is as one that openth the waters: therefore, or the contention be meddled with, leave off. He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord. Wherefore is there a price in the hand of the fool to get wisdom, and he hath none heart? A friend loveth at all times; and a brother is born for adversity. A man destitute of understanding, toucheth the hand, and becometh surety for his neighbor. He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate, seeketh destruction. The froward heart causeth good health: but a sorrowful mind drieth the bones. A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to wrest the ways of judgment. Wisdom is in the face of him that hath understanding: but the eyes of a fool are in the corners of the world. A foolish son is grief unto his father, and a heaviness to her who bare him. Surely it is not good to condemn the just, nor that the prince should smite such for equity. He that hath knowledge, spareth his words, and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, (when he holdeth his peace) is counted wise, and he that stoppeth his lips, prudent. (Proverbs 17:1-28)