A Shepherd's Heart

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Are your prayer requests sincere, acceptable to God?
by GBC Ministry

I must share a very personal experience with you this morning for your encouragement and, hopefully, learning.  I am not saying that my experience should be held up as “the way” God always works.  However, He has worked this way in my life many, many times, and I believe there is much to learn for all who, as the Bible often says, “have ears to hear.”  I will trust the Lord to deliver to your heart whatever blessing and instruction my experience might provide according to your needs and His purposes.


I was considering a non-ministerial trip today.  There was nothing inherently “evil” about either my desire or the nature of the trip, yet I have been constrained by the Spirit for the past several days to pray quite specifically about whether or not I should proceed with my original intentions.  Still feeling “uneasy” this morning, I asked the Lord to be very specific in speaking to my heart regarding this matter.  He has answered my prayers.


As those personally acquainted with me know, I firmly believe the Lord will lead the Believer on specific matters very specifically through the work of His Spirit in His Word when the Believer’s heart is truly turned to Him, i.e., when he or she is truly willing to do what the Lord commands.  With this faith, I proceeded to the Word following my very specific prayer for very specific leading (I’m trying to make a very specific point!).


I was led in my reading to Jeremiah 40-42, specifically verse 40:4:


And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.”


These words were spoken by a Babylonian guard to Jeremiah.  At first glance the advice would seem to be “Do what is right in your own eyes.”  However, reading on to gather in the whole context, it becomes obvious that this is not a test of Jeremiah’s natural wisdom, i.e., that which is “right in [his] own eyes,” but, rather, a test of his heart.  The question is not, “Jeremiah, what would you like to do?”  Rather, it is “Jeremiah, what would the Lord have you to do?”  It may seem to be a subtle difference, but such are the tests of our faith and submission to the lordship of our Savior.


Reading on, Jeremiah chooses to NOT return to Babylon and to the favor promised by the guard, but to his own people and the inherent hardships associated with the present captivity which was of the Lord’s doing as the guard being led by the Spirit of the Lord rightly observed (verse 40:2, 3).  Following an accounting of deceit and a murderous attempt to usurp power from the governor of the land by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the people are moved by their circumstances to approach the man of God, that is to say, God, for advice as to what they should do.  Their request appears to be very sincere, much like ours appear to be when our life’s circumstances are changing or appear to be changing in substantial ways and we bring our personal petitions for leading/help to the Lord.  The leaders requested Jeremiah to pray


That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do” (42:3)


Jeremiah responded with wisdom:


behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you” (42:4)


And the people responded:


Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” (42:6)


To get to the lesson, Jeremiah did as he had promised, and the LORD answered in a very specific manner:


Go ye not into Egypt” (42:19)


Egypt is used as a type of the world and worldliness in the Word of God.  Christians are instructed to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2;15).  This has always been God’s command.  That this was the real issue, i.e., love for and dependence on the world, was not apparent in God’s children’s original approach to Jeremiah.  Their request seemed pure, their stated commitment to do the LORD’s will “regardless of the consequences” very sincere.  But "the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts" (1 Chronicles 28:9) and, through Jeremiah, reveals what was the true heart of His children:


know certainly that I have admonished you this day.  For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.  And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.  Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die ….” (42:19b-22a)


The word translated “dissembled” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to vacillate, or stray.”  God’s children’s request was insincere, their trust in God not steadfast.  They may have really thought that they wanted what the LORD desired for them, however, what they truly wanted, the desire that was deeply rooted in their heart was that the LORD would “approve” their own will and give them their own unstated desire which was to go to a place that they thought would be “safe” and filled with the good things that this world can offer.  In other words, they wanted personal convenience, temporal comfort, a reprieve from the battles associated with being God’s people, not the LORD’s will…and God, who alone knows men’s hearts (Psalm 44:21), knew it.


Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)


This story spoke directly to my own heart and made my personal decision very easy.  I will not be taking the trip originally planned.  But more than that, it provoked me to consider my own heart in other matters as well.  How often have I petitioned God insincerely (self-deceit)?  How often has my true heart’s desires been very different from what my lips would make them appear to be (“hidden,” self-centered agendas)?  How often have the words “Thy will be done” passed over my lips when, in fact, I was really saying “Please approve my will” without truly comprehending the abomination of such a request because “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9). 


How about you?


Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).






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