We need God. It’s plain and simple, lest we fall into the traps set in this world and become enemies of God. Only God can transform us from the thrill seeking, self-serving humans we are by nature into humble servants dedicated to pleasing God.
James’ counsel here is a bit over the top when he talks about our envious desires leading us to killing someone. It appears his audience needs the “wow factor” to get their attention. I can just hear someone saying, “God doesn’t listen because he didn’t give me what I wanted.” That’s a great example of having the wrong motives. God knows our heart. He knows why we ask for what we do. Is what we’re asking for merely for our own pleasure?
Our story continues, and we hear about what happened to Jonah after going overboard during the ferocious storm. Jonah does this in the form of a prayer. And he prays this from the belly of a fish! From the sounds of it, God’s rescue of Jonah was “just in time” using the fish to catch him and bring Jonah to safety.
Jonah prayed, and God heard him. “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me.” It didn’t matter that Jonah had turned his back on God and avoided doing what God had asked him to do. Jonah wisely realized that his only hope was in the very God he was running from. God was also faithful and did not let the rebellious Jonah die.
Is it easier to ask permission or seek forgiveness? I can remember as a youth wanting to do something that instinctively I knew my parents would forbid. So, if I were to go through with it, I’d be asking for forgiveness instead. That is certainly not easy! While I was a rebellious teen, I did try to ask for permission as often as possible!
In our passage today, we see the leaders seeking God’s input to their situation. The people approached Jeremiah and asked him to pray to God. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? But it was almost as if their fingers were crossed behind their backs. They were putting on a good show, weren’t they?
God doesn’t respond here to Jeremiah’s cry for answers. What do you make of his non-response? Does God assume that by now Jeremiah would understand what is coming? Perhaps Jeremiah didn’t expect the timeline of events to be happening so soon. Perhaps Jeremiah still hoped God would change his mind.
How do you behave when you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers? Are you patient or persistent? Sometimes I feel like a broken record repeating the same prayers over and over. In that way I’m persistent, but I can’t say I’m all that patient.
Have you ever been part of a discussion where the topic is “whether God ever changes his mind?” This is especially a key concept for our prayer lives. Hezekiah didn’t want to die, and he made that abundantly clear to God in his prayers. God’s mind had been made up, as we can see through Isaiah’s prediction of Hezekiah’s death.
This notion the king wouldn’t survive this illness wasn’t Isaiah’s idea. Nobody just makes up the idea somebody else is going to die and then say it’s a word from God. Do they? No, Hezekiah’s time was coming, and God wanted him to know. Knowing when you’re going to die, that, in and of itself is amazing! How many people get privy to “intel” like that? I’m sure it was infrequent in Hezekiah’s day, too.