The people of Judah who were not taken into exile, are confused. After the Babylonians take the king, nobles and leaders to Babylon as captives they are leaderless, and Gedaliah, the leading official whom the Babylonians appointed, is murdered. They approach Jeremiah for guidance, as he had brought messages from God warning of the disaster that had now come on Jerusalem. We read how they said to him, “pray to the LORD your God for us … because we are left but few … that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go and the thing we should do” (ch. 42:2,3). The people see God as Jeremiah’s God, not theirs.

Jeremiah corrects them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back …” (verse 4). They reply, “… may it be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” (verse 6).

Ten days later (verse 7), Jeremiah tells them that God says there will be blessings “If you remain in the land” (verses 9,10). But they had already fixed their plans to run to Egypt for security. This illustrates the waywardness of human nature, the lack of most of a real consciousness of God’s will and guidance.

In the centuries since Christ, how many go to the Bible looking for evidence of what to believe? Rather, they go looking for evidence to support what they want to believe, such as heaven-going when they die. They distort the meaning of one or two texts, ignoring their context, to believe as they desire. John states in his gospel that “No one has ascended to heaven” (3:13) except Jesus. And Paul did not expect heaven-going. In his last letter we read, “… there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me but to all …” (2 Timothy 4:8).

A parallel tragedy is that many are told that all they need to do is to publicly confess that Jesus is their Lord and they will be saved. But Mark 16 says that “whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” (verse 16). Baptism is going down and being buried in the water and coming up again as a symbol of believing Christ died and then rose. You need to belong to him. Jesus insisted that John the Baptist should baptise him, telling John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), setting us the example. So it is then, as we carefully read God’s word, it will “show us the way we should go”.