There is a wrong way to pray. There is an offensive approach to God. James, in chapter 4, lays it out for us to see and repent and be instructed. And as I was reading in Jeremiah, I saw what James is illustrating and what John Piper illustrates in this brief video segment below.
King Zedekiah is making God a cuckold in Jeremiah chapter 21 and sadly it sounds and looks like what I have done too many times over… and maybe you too?
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, “Inquire of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”
King Zedekiah is asking Jeremiah to see if God will remove the very threat that God is bringing because of their rebellion and wickedness. And here is King Zedekiah, who on most every other day is shaking his fist in God’s face, now putting on a sweet face and asking for a favor… so that… he can go right back to living in his rebellion against God, in self-centered comfort.
God’s response through Jeremiah makes it very clear that God will not be mocked or used or trifled with. I need to read Jeremiah as part of God’s word to me (and you) today. It is hard to avoid the clarity and intensity of God’s wrath against those who rebel against Him. God deals with them in a temporal and often immediate judgement and there is no mistaking that God doesn’t ignore our sin. Today, we are deceived (or deceive ourselves) that God is only love and grace and doesn’t judge our sins because we don’t see the same response to sin today toward us as we see it in the Old Testament. What this really means is that we don’t understand the Cross. We don’t see the immensity of God’s wrath toward sin because we haven’t experienced it yet, so we wrongfully assume we’ve gotten away with our sin or that God has simply swept it under the rug because He is too loving to act against us. Somehow, we have forgotten the eternality of Hell.
If we have come to believe that our sinning will be ignored by a Holy God, we are deceived and the truth is not in us. Consider these words from John Piper…