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Divine Guidance

"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" is a reassuring promise that should encourage us to take everything to God in prayer. From time to time in Life's experience we arrive at Crossroads and wonder which direction to take. If we go to God in prayer over the matter we should look to Him to guide us in one way or another to reach the right decision. He will direct according to His will and for our profit. Such divine guidance is essential if we are to walk in fellowship with God.

Most Christians readily acknowledge the need for divine guidance. There is the sad possibility that while praying for it we may have already decided which path we will take. There is a striking illustration of this attitude in the book of Jeremiah. When Nebuchadnezzar finally carried away the inhabitants of the land to Babylon, he left a small remnant, including the poorer people, to dwell there. Gedaliah was the man the emperor left to govern the country. For a brief period these people enjoyed a measure of peace, if not of prosperity. This encouraged exiled Israelites from the countries of Moab and Ammon to return to Judea. One of these was Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. His motive in returning was treacherous. This was discerned by Johanan, one of the captains, who warned Gedaliah of the intent of Ishmael. But Gedaliah refused to listen, for he had confidence in Ishmael. Thus, although Johanan's motive was a pure one, he was refused permission to kill Ishmael. It was not long before Ishmael accomplished his purpose and slew Gedaliah. Then he proceeded to his further intention to carry the remnant to the king of Ammon. Johanan and his fellows nobly rose to the occasion and battled with the traitor. They defeated him.

In spite of their victory they were greatly disturbed, for they feared that the Babylonian monarch would seek vengeance on them for the murder of his viceroy. So they determined to go to Egypt (Jer. 41:17). They halted however and approached Jeremiah, asking him to seek God's face for guidance. Note what they said, "That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we should walk, and the thing that we should do". Jeremiah readily acceded to their request, assuring them, "Whatsoever... the LORD shall answer, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back". At first sight it appears that they were in a good state of mind to do all the will of God. The sequel however reveals their true state of mind and heart.

Ten days later Jeremiah gave them the Lord's reply to their enquiry.

God's desire was that they should abide in the land. If they did so, God would build them. They were assured that they had nothing to fear from Nebuchadnezzar, for he would deal mercifully with them. Moreover they were warned that to proceed to Egypt would be disastrous. The final portion of the word from the Lord makes sad reading. They were told, "Ye have dealt deceitfully against your own souls".

The truth of this was soon manifest, for they not only refused to act on the word from the Lord, but they denied it was the word of God. A marked contrast is seen in their attitude now and the one they professed when they came to Jeremiah. It was made evident that they sought not the will of the Lord but the blessing of God on their own desire.

We might find ourselves ensnared in like manner. We desire to do a certain thing. We look to God in prayer, persuading ourselves that we are seeking divine guidance, while we are really looking to God for encouragement in our own purpose, forgetting that if we desire the Lord to lead, then our own will should be yielded to His will.

The story of Balaam provides us with further warning in this matter. When the messengers of Balak came to Balaam the first time he waited on the Lord for His guidance. God's answer was very plain, "Thou shalt not go". Accepting the will of the Lord, Balaam refused to go with the men and said, "The LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you". Balak sent again with an offer of greater reward and it was made by stronger men. Balaam again said, "I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more", but then he offered to go back to God again. Could he expect any different answer? For the LORD "is not a man that He should repent". God gave permission to Balaam and he went. His life would have been forfeit but for the faithfulness of his ass. Seeing this, he made what seems a half-hearted offer to return. His failure to curse Israel dismayed Balak, but from the New Testament we learn the sequel. It is clear that the will of God meant little to Balaam, for to ultimately gain the reward, he taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before God's people and to lead them to serious sin.

Let us then seek God's guidance at all times. But let us be careful that when we do so we are ready to accept God's answer and to act on it whether or not it accords with our own desire. We are warned in Scripture, "Let no man deceive himself'. This is what the men with Johanan did.