Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, begins with the first verse of the forty-third chapter, and continues through to the nineteenth verse of the forty-fourth chapter. In order to understand what is presented in these two chapters, it is necessary to journey back to the forty-first and forty-second chapters, for it’s in those chapters where we encounter and uncover the events that would serve as the context for this passage. Beginning with the eleventh verse of the forty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah we read of a people who were on the verge of being removed from the land of the inheritance and brought into a land that was not their own. In the forty-first chapter—specifically in the first ten verses—we read of a man by the name of Ishmael slaughtering Gedaliah who was appointed as governor over those Jews which were permitted to remain in the inheritance after Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army had completely devastated it. After Nebuchadnezzar and his army left the land of Judah after bringing upon it devastation, desolation and destruction, we read both of a people who were permitted to remain in the inheritance, and a people who returned to the inheritance. There was a people who were permitted by appointment of the king of Babylon to remain in the inheritance to look after, to dress and to care for the land. It was to these people who was given fields and vineyards and would remain in the land—even after Nebuchadnezzar had carried the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem captive into the land of the Chaldeans on three successive occasions. It’s interesting to note that there was a people who remained in the inheritance after being permitted to remain in it when countless others were carried away captive, as well as a people who returned to the land after having fled when the enemy and adversary began invading the inheritance. Let me pause for a moment and ask you a question at this moment: What do you do when the enemy and adversary arises within your life and not only invades the inheritance given you, but threatens to destroy Jerusalem within your life? Are you one who remains where you have been placed, or are you one who rises up, flees and abandons where you have been placed. Those who were permitted to remain in the land were those who chose to remain in the land in spite of the threat of the adversary, while those who returned to the land were those who had fled and abandoned the land upon news and report of the adversary entering into and invading the land. I am convinced, and I would dare say there are those who remain within the inheritance—even when the enemy enters into, invades and threatens Jerusalem—and there are others who rise up, flee and abandon that place they have been placed.When we read this particular passage of Scripture, we not only find a people remaining, but we find a people returning. Those who remained within the land were the poorest of the poor, and in all reality had nowhere to run and nowhere to turn to when the enemy and adversary entered into and invaded the land. Because they were poor and essentially had no place within the inheritance, they were entirely and completely at the mercy of the events that would take place and transpire within the land. I absolutely love that when we read of the enemy’s departure from the land of Judah and from the city of Jerusalem, we not only read of a people remaining within the land, but we also find a people who returned to the land. We find a people who had removed and distanced themselves from the land, yet who made the conscious decision to return to the land after hearing that there was a remnant which remained within the land. RETURNING TO THE PLACE WE ABANDONED! RETURNING TO THE PLACE WE FLED FROM! RETURNING TO THE PLACE WE RAN FROM! Within this passage we find a people who returned to the land from which they fled after hearing a report that a people remained within the land. I am reminded of Hagar who was instructed by the Lord to return to Sarah after she had run and fled with her son for fear within her heart. I am reminded of Joseph, Mary and young Jesus who returned to the land of Judea after living in Egypt until Herod had died. I am reminded of Naomi who returned to Bethlehem after living in Moab with her husband, her two sons, and her two daughter-in-laws. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are multiple examples in Scripture of men and women who returned to the place from which they fled, ran from and perhaps even abandoned. RETURNING TO THE PLACE WHERE WE WERE MISTREATED! RETURNING TO THE PLACE WHERE WE WERE ONCE THREATENED! RETURNING TO THE PLACE WHERE FAMINE ONCE PRESIDED! RETURNING TO THE PLACE WHERE THE ENEMY ENTERED INTO AND INVADED! I love that there was a people living in the nations of Edom, Ammon and Moab who heard the report that a remnant remained in the land, and made the conscious decision themselves to rise up and return to that place. When the enemy had departed from the inheritance, and when the dust began to settle there was still a people who were present within the land. When the dust began to settle and report reached those who had fled to the surrounding nations and lands, they made the conscious decision to rise up and return to the land in which they once dwelt.
DAVID RETURNED TO THE PLACE WHERE HE WAS HUNTED AND PURSUED! HAGAR RETURNED TO THE PLACE WHERE SHE WAS MISTREATED! JOSEPH, MARY AND JESUS RETURNED TO THE PLACE WHERE JESUS’ LIFE WAS THREATENED! NAOMI RETURNED TO THE PLACE WHERE FAMINE ONCE PRESIDED AND HUNGER ABOUNDED! While it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what we read in the forty-third and forty-fourth chapters of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, it nonetheless bears witness that there are certain times within our lives when the Lord can and will call and instruct us to return to that place from which we fled, and perhaps even abandoned. There are times when the voice of the Lord will instruct and command us to return to the place we have left and abandoned, while there are other times when a certain word, or certain news, or a certain report will reach our ears that will prompt us to rise up and return to the place from which we fled. In the case of Joseph, as well as in the case of Hagar, it was the Lord of hosts who instructed and commanded them to return to the place from which they had left. In the case of David, in the case of Naomi, and in the case of those who had been scattered within the lands of Moab, Ammon and Edom, it wasn’t the instruction of the Lord that brought them back to the place they left, but news and a report which had reached their ears. There are times when the Lord can and will instruct us to rise up from where we are and make the journey back to that place from which we fled and abandoned—regardless of the reason(s) which prompted us to leave in the first place. There are times when the Lord knows and understands that we have been in that place we have been dwelling and abiding for too long, and He calls, commands and instructs us to return. I am reminded of a personal experience within my own life when I was called to return to the Bible college I attended after being asked to leave a year earlier. I am reminded of when I was asked to leave the Christian college I attended because of an indiscretion on my part, and spending a year away from that college, yet being called to return a year later. One of the most interesting things we must recognize when we consider this concept of returning, is that there are times when we can and may very well return to a place of ruin and rubble, while there are other times when we can and will return to a place where we once experienced heartache, heartbreak, tragedy, abuse, mistreatment, and the like. There are times when although we have made the conscious decision to return to the place from which we have left—when we finally do return, we return to a place left in ruin and rubble.
What do you do when the place you returned to is not what you expected, nor even what you remembered? Those who dwelt in the surrounding nations of Ammon, Moab and Edom returned to the land of Judah, yet when they returned—while they returned to the enemy having been removed from the land—they returned to devastation, destruction, ruin and rubble. There are times in our lives when returning is not easy, nor even pleasant, for when we return we return to devastation, destruction and desolation. Those who rose up from the lands of Edom, Moab and Ammon returned to the land of Judah—returned to the place of inheritance—yet they returned to the Temple being burned with and destroyed by fire, and the place of the king with the throne of David having been destroyed. When they returned to the place of inheritance, both the place of the altar and the place of the throne lie in complete ruin and desolation, as the enemy had not only cast fire into the sanctuary, but had also destroyed the palace of the king. There is perhaps no passage in Scripture that so encapsulates and captures that which this people experienced when returning to the place of inheritance as does the seventy-fourth chapter of the book of the Psalms. This chapter was written by Asaph, and was written after witnessing the devastation and destruction which the enemy and adversary wrought upon the city of Jerusalem. “O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now they break down the carved work therefor at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? Pluck it out of thy bosom” (Psalm 74:1-11).
When those who had dwelt in the lands of Edom, Moab and Ammon returned to the land after hearing the report that a remnant had remained within the land, they returned to a land and city that lie in complete desolation, ruin and rubble. Though they returned to the place of inheritance, that place had been invaded and devoured by the adversary, and the place of the altar and the place of the throne destroyed by the very same adversary. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to return to the land of Judah, and to the city of Jerusalem and see the wall broken through, the gates broken down, the Temple destroyed with fire, and the palace of the king demolished. Returning to the land of Judah—returning to the place of inheritance—was easy for those who dwelt in the lands of Moab, Edom and Ammon, yet arriving in that place was perhaps incredibly difficult. Yes, it was true they had returned to the place of inheritance, but they returned to ruin and rubble everywhere within and throughout the land. When they returned, they returned to the Temple having been destroyed by fire, which meant there was no altar upon which to bring and present their sacrifices and offerings. They returned to a land absent the house of God, which meant there was no place they could go to worship the Lord their God. RETURNING TO THE PLACE OF RUIN AND RUBBLE! DWELLING THE PLACE OF RUIN AND RUBBLE! WORSHIPPING IN THE PLACE OF RUIN AND RUBBLE! While it is true that the Temple of the Lord no longer stood within the city of Jerusalem, there was still the incredible need to worship and serve the Lord their God. I had to admit that this undoubtedly wasn’t easy for this remnant which returned to the land, for how many of us can faithfully worship the Lord when surrounded by ruin and rubble? How many of us can worship the Lord when we are surrounded by devastation, desolation and destruction? Yes we have returned, but when we returned we didn’t return to the same place we left, for the enemy and adversary had entered into, invaded, and completely destroyed the inheritance. RETURNING MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE EASY, BUT IT IS ALWAYS NECESSARY! While it undoubtedly wasn’t easy to return to the land of Judah after looking upon all the devastation, desolation and destruction, it was necessary, for they weren’t destined to remain living among the Ammonites, the Moabites and the Edomites. Oh, how many men and women in this generation are spending their days and nights living and dwelling in the midst of their own Ammonites, their own Edomites, and their own Moabites rather than dwelling and remaining in and within the inheritance? How many men and women are like David and those six-hundred men with him—having left the place of inheritance and anointing, and living in the territory of the enemy? Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that David not only left the place of inheritance, but he also left the place of anointing, for it was in the land of Israel he had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. With that being said, it’s necessary to note that while he left the place of anointing—left the place where he had been anointed by the prophet of the Lord—the anointing remained with and remained upon him. It’s worth noting that within the book of First Samuel, we not only witness the glory and presence of the Lord being brought into the territory of the enemy—as was revealed when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the land of the Philistines—but we also witness the anointing of the Lord being brought into the territory of the enemy—as we see when David, who was anointed by the Lord of hosts entered into the territory of the Philistines.
When we read this particular passage of Scripture within the prophetic book of Jeremiah we must understand it in context of what has taken place within and in the midst of the land. The enemy and adversary had entered into and invaded the inheritance, had destroyed the place of the altar with fire, and had destroyed the place of the throne with fire. The enemy had put a number of men and women to death by the sword, while carrying others captive into the land of the Chaldeans. What’s more, is that once the enemy and adversary had departed from the land, we witness another rising up within the land and wreaking havoc. Oh, it was true the enemy and adversary had departed from the land and returned to his own land, but there was another who had risen up in the midst of the land and unleashed a wave of terror. Ishmael not only murdered Gedaliah who was appointed governor over those which remained, and those which returned to the land, but he also slaughtered the men of war, those Chaldeans which remained in the land, and even four score men who came to worship the Lord. As if this weren’t enough, Scripture recounts how Ishmael took those who remained captive and intended on bringing them over into the land of the Ammonites. The enemy and adversary had departed from the land, but that didn’t mean the threat had been removed, for there would arise one among them who would put some to death, while taking others captive in order to remove them from the place of their inheritance. When we come to the eleventh verse of the forty-first chapter, we find the threat of Ishmael having been brought to an end, yet we find the people in a very peculiar place. With the threat of Ishmael having been removed from the land, you would think those which remained in the land would finally experience some sort of peace, rest, security and refuge within the land. The truth of the matter is that when we come to the conclusion of the forty-first chapter of the book of Jeremiah, we find those which remained dwelling in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Beth-lehem, to go to enter into Egypt. When the forty-first chapter concludes, it does so with those which remained in the inheritance having every desire and intention of going down into the land of Egypt because of the Chaldeans, for fear of what they might do to them. Ishmael had slain that one who was appointed governor over the remnant which remained in the land, and those which remained undoubtedly feared that they would be blamed for Ishmael’s actions. If we are being honest concerning the text, we must admit that those which remained in the land were fearful that they might be blamed for something they didn’t do. In order to escape being put in that place, they moved close to the edge of the inheritance, so they could depart and go down into Egypt at the right moment.
WHAT IS DRIVING YOU TO DWELL AT THE BORDER OF THE INHERITANCE? WHAT IS DRIVING YOU TO DWELL AT THE EDGE OF THE INHERITANCE? Those which remained in the land grew fearful because of the actions of another, and it was that fear which caused them to begin the journey down into the land of Egypt. I can’t help but think of how many men and women are in this place right now—the place where they are living as close to the edge of the inheritance as they can, so when the right moment comes, they might leave the inheritance and journey into Egypt. Despite the fact the Lord not only allowed a people to remain in the land, but also a people to return to the land, that people grew fearful because of the actions of another, and felt they would take the blame for what they did not do. Oh, I am convinced there are men and women in this place right now—in the place where they are fearful because of the actions of another, which they are worried might come back against them. Those which remained in the land of Judah sought to go down into Egypt, for they did not want to chance or risk remaining in the land, for fear of what the Chaldeans might do unto them. Oh, I believe there are a number of men and women who find themselves living at the edge of the inheritance for fear of what might happen to them because of that thing, or perhaps even those things they had absolutely nothing to do with. When the forty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah draws to a close, we find a remnant of those which remained in the inheritance, those which returned to the inheritance, and both which survived the actions of Ishmael dwelling close to the border of the inheritance “to go to enter into Egypt.” Consider that the enemy had invaded and destroyed the land, the governor who was appointed by the king of Babylon was slain, countless others were slain as well, and an attempt was made to carry them captive into the land of the Ammonites. A lot had happened to this remnant which were dwelling within the inheritance, and now they found themselves living in fear because of the king of Babylon. They feared the king of Babylon would hold them accountable and responsible for the actions of Ishmael, and rather than trust their case to the Lord, they sought to run from it, and escape into Egypt. How many times do we attempt to escape and run from that which we have been called to remain and confront for fear of what might take place if we choose to remain? How many times does fear drive us closer to the edge of the inheritance with every intention and desire to enter into Egypt? What’s more, is that in this passage we find this remnant of the people of God attempting to make a journey they were never intended to make. When the Lord delivered, redeemed, and brought them forth from the land of Egypt, He never intended on them returning the way they came.
In the forty-first chapter we find the people dwelling near Beth-lehem to go to enter into Egypt, and in the very next chapter we read of them coming near unto Jeremiah to entreat the Lord concerning the direction they should go, and what they should do. It’s worth noting that when we read of the people coming near to Jeremiah in this passage to pray for them unto the Lord their God, they had no desire to submit to that which the Lord actually wanted for them. What the remnant which drew near to Jeremiah actually desired was the Lord to bless and approve of that which they had already planned and purposed within their hearts. CALLING THE LORD TO ALIGN HIMSELF WITH OUR PLANS! CALLING THE LORD TO ALIGN HIMSELF WITH OUR AGENDA! What we read in the forty-first chapter is a people who rather than desiring the Lord to reveal His plan and purpose for their lives, they desired the Lord approve and bless the plans they had already chosen and decided. At the end of the forty-first chapter we find the remnant which remained in the inheritance seeking to go down into Egypt, while in the forty-third chapter we find this remnant despising the word of the Lord, and going down into the land of Egypt. What do we find in between the intention and the manifestation? The forty-second chapter provides us with what we find in the place between the intention and the manifestation—an attempt to manipulate and coerce the Lord into aligning Himself with their intentions, desires and motives. “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is death.” How many times have we found ourselves living in this very place—living in the place between the intention and the manifestation? We know what our intentions are—even before we attempt to draw near and come before the Lord in prayer—and yet we come before the Lord in prayer out of a sense of duty, obligation and responsibility. Rather than coming to the Lord in a spirit of obedience, submission and humility, we come with an arrogance and pride that demands the Lord align Himself with our intentions, desires, motives and agendas. BRINGING OUR INTENTIONS INTO ALIGNMENT WITH THE WILL OF THE FATHER! BRINGING OUR MOTIVES INTO ALIGNMENT WITH THE WILL OF THE FATHER! BRINGING OUR DESIRES INTO ALIGNMENT WITH THE WILL OF THE FATHER! Permit me to pause for a moment and ask you this very pointed question: Which is greater within your heart and life right now—the will or the intention? Which is greater within your life right now—the will of the Father, or the intentions of your heart/ How many times do we pretend and play at prayer in the place between the intention and the manifestation because we somehow think we can coerce and manipulate the Lord into aligning Himself with our intentions, desires, motives and ambitions?
ARE WE PRAYING ARIGHT? These four words might seem to be insignificant and perhaps even irrelevant, yet I am convinced they play a crucial and vital role within our lives. The remnant which remained in the land, yet which chose to dwell close to the border of Judah, came to the prophet Jeremiah with what appeared to be a genuine and sincere desire to hear the word and voice of the Lord. A careful study of the forty-third chapter reveals that when they came before and came unto the prophet Jeremiah, they didn’t come with their hearts right before the Lord. When they came before the prophet Jeremiah, they came having already decided and made up within their hearts and minds what they were going to do. DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR WHAT I HAVE TO SAY? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW MY HEART? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW MY WILL? I am convinced these questions are asked by the Lord countless times when we come before Him in prayer, for there are times when we come before Him in prayer, yet we don’t come with humility and submission, but with an arrogance and pride. We play and pretend that we will listen to and obey His voice and word(s)—so long as they line up with our intentions, our desires, our motives and our ambitions. Oh, how many men and women would actually listen to the Lord if He aligned Himself with and approved of that which they already purposed and planned within their hearts. “LORD, I WILL LISTEN TO YOUR VOICE, AND EVEN OBEY YOUR WORDS, BUT YOU HAVE TO AGREE WITH WHAT I HAVE ALREADY DECIDED. I WILL LISTEN TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY, BUT YOU HAVE TO ALIGN YOURSELF WITH MY INTENTIONS. I WILL OBEY WHAT YOU SPEAK, BUT YOU HAVE TO APPROVE OF WHAT IS ALREADY WITHIN MY HEART.” See, we read the words of David as recorded in the fourth verse of the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms—“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart”—and we think that if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will approve, He will grant, He will release the desires of our heart. The truth of the matter is that I am convinced if we read this verse with this perspective in our minds, we are setting ourselves up for deception and destruction. What if—instead of David suggesting that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will grant us the desires of our heart, David was actually suggesting that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires within our heart? In other words—if we delight ourselves in the Lord, it will be the Lord Himself who will place His desires within our heart, and His desires become our desires. What if David never thought of his delighting in the Lord as bringing about the Lord’s approving of his desires, but rather the Lord implanting and impregnating David with such desires? D
Consider what comes before and what comes after this fourth verse, and you will catch a glimpse of the fact that it is not our delight in the Lord that will grant the fulfillment of the desires within our heart, but rather the impregnation of desires within our heart. In the previous verse we read these words—“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell. In the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psalm 37:3). In the verse immediately following, we read—“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). In the seventh verse, we read these words—“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). TRUST IN THE LORD! DO GOOD! COMMIT THY WAY UNTO THE LORD! REST IN THE LORD! WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM! TRUST, COMMIT, REST, WAIT! I am convinced we spend so much time focusing on “and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart,” that we forget about our responsibility to trust, to wait patiently, to rest, and to commit our way unto the Lord. Those who read these words in the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms will assume that the remnant which came unto Jeremiah delighted themselves in the Lord whom they were entreating, and that the Lord was going to give them the desire of their heart. They desired to go down into the land of Egypt, and they even came before the prophet to inquire of the Lord, and I am convinced they might have even expected the Lord to approve of their intentions and motives. The truth of the matter is that the Lord neither approved, nor aligned Himself with their intentions, and actually warned them against it. What do we find in between the intention and the manifestation? A warning. DISCOVERING THE WARNING BETWEEN THE INTENTION AND THE MANIFESTATION! DISCOVERING THE CAUTION IN BETWEEN THE INTENTION AND THE MANIFESTATION! Those who came to Jeremiah did so so they could at least say they inquired of the Lord before they went ahead and did that which they had already sought and desired to do. How many times are we ourselves guilty of this very same thing within our lives, for we come to the Lord in prayer only to justify ourselves before doing what we have already determined and made up in our mind to do? We come before the Lord in prayer—not because we desire to hear what He has to say, or even intend on obeying His voice, but because we want to justify our actions. How many times do we use prayer as nothing more than a justification of the actions we are about to commit? How many times is prayer nothing more than something we check off our to-do list as we prepare to do what we have already made up in our hearts and minds to do?
WHEN PRAYER IS NOTHING MORE THAN A JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD! I would dare say there have been times within my own life when I have used prayer as a justification before God to do what I have already made up in my mind to do. I have come before the Lord in prayer—not because I want to hear what He has to say, or even to obey what He commands and instructs, but to say that I at least tried to come before Him in prayer. WHEN PRAYER IS USED AS AN EXCUSE TO DO WHAT HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED! WHEN PRAYER IS USED AS A LICENSE TO DO WHAT HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED! It’s almost along the same lines as when the apostle Paul wrote concerning grace that there were those who used grace as a license to sin. There were those who knew the Lord was gracious, and they knew that His grace was free and sufficient, and they used and abused that grace as a license and excuse to sin. USING GRACE AS A LICENSE TO SIN AND PRAYER AS A JUSTIFICATION TO REBEL! We dare not begin to think for one moment that either of these realities aren’t a possibility, for if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have been guilty of at least one, but perhaps and most likely, both. We have used grace as a license to sin before the Lord, but we have also used prayer as a justification to continue in that way which seems right in our own eyes. We delight ourselves in the Lord, and we think that by doing so, the Lord will grant, approve, and fulfill every desire of our heart. What we fail to recognize and understand is that in this place, we neither trust in the Lord, nor do good. Moreover, we neither commit our way to the Lord, nor wait patiently for Him. The remnant came to Jeremiah in the place between the intention and the manifestation, and they even pretended and played to inquire of the Lord, yet it was nothing more than a justification to move forward with their own plans, actions, motives, intentions and desires. What came in between the intention and the manifestation, but the justification that they at least made the attempt to come before the Lord in prayer. “Lord, we attempted to come before you in prayer, but you didn’t agree with or align yourself with our desires our intentions. Lord, we have done what we desire and think is right, yet now we are going to move forward with our own intentions and desires.” OH that we would read these words with an open heart and ears to hear what the Spirit of the Lord desires to speak to us, and that we would examine our own hearts and lives, and what we do in the place between the intention and the manifestation.