Lately, I’ve been ever-so-lovingly challenged by the Lord to reevaluate where I’ve placed my trust. I decided to do an exercise that involved me asking the family member I’m closest with to describe me as a young child. The words in particular that were the most difficult to hear were “you knew who you were, and you embraced it.” My life since I was ten years old has been marked by the lie that I am never enough. I tried to become who everyone else wanted me to be, and when that didn’t work, I ran from anything that looked remotely like intimacy in relationships for fear.
These past nine months in Nashville have rocked me in the best way possible. I’ve met these incredible people who challenged me to be real, to rest, and to rely on them. I’ve realized that my fear of never being enough caused me to become self-reliant – to the extreme; I had no idea how to lean on other people, whether in the work place or in relationships.
I began to realize how prideful I had become – relying on my own strength, ignoring areas of weakness and refusing to acknowledge them. I had stuck to what I knew and the things that I knew I did well, and didn’t want to expose weaknesses to grow in those areas because that would mean being vulnerable and willing to admit that I didn’t have it all together.
This morning during my time with the Lord, I was reflecting on the ways that He has been shifting things in my spirit this year. I picked up reading where I left off in the book of Jeremiah, and was completely astounded by today’s reading…
* * * * *
Jeremiah 39 – 43. The Babylonians invaded Judah, and the prophecy that the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah had been fulfilled. The Babylonian armies came in and took all of the nobles, business owners, and land owners (the upper and middle classes, respectively) into exile in Babylon. The military leader, Nebuzaradan, left behind the poor and let them abide in the land because they were not worth the effort to bring to Babylon. These people had never owned land, never worked, and essentially would have had no idea how to survive on their own. It would have no adverse effect on Babylon to let these people stay, as they would most likely perish on their own anyways.
But, God had different plans in mind. The Lord’s hand was on Jeremiah’s life, and he was given the option to either come to Babylon and be taken care of (per the king’s orders), or he could stay in Judah. He chose the latter. In addition, the king of Babylon appointed a governor to the land to oversee the remnant. He would be their representation before the king of Babylon, and they were told to “gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in the cities…” (Jer. 40:10)
Land of their own for the first time in their lives! Resources that they could call theirs, homes to dwell in, representation before the king for their needs, and the mouthpiece for the Lord (Jeremiah) dwelling in their midst! What more could they have asked for?
The governor of Jerusalem was killed by long time adversaries of the Hebrews, and hope was lost again – even though a misfit group of Hebrews (who had been living in the outskirts of the city to escape the Babylonians when the city was captured) defeated their adversaries. The loss of the governor shook the hope of the remnant to the point that they decided it was time to return to Egypt, believing that the loss of their representation before the king of Babylon would result in their destruction.
When I read this, my mouth dropped. Egypt?! After this clear blessing from the Lord, they still were controlled by such fear that they would want to return to their ancestor’s land of slavery?
They were so blinded by fear of the unknown that they were willing to return to the bondage of the past rather than embark on the adventure that the Lord had set before them.
Think about it for a second… Jeremiah had already prophesied that after seventy years of dwelling in a foreign land, God would bring the people back to Jerusalem (see the famous passage, Jer. 29:11). However, God wanted to expand that blessing even further! By leaving the poorest of the poor in Jerusalem, He was going to train them up to not only be sufficient on their own, but to guard and rebuild the land after the destruction of the exile to Babylon. Think about it – this would have meant that after the seventy years of exile, the Israelites could have returned to a fortified city rather than ruins (see the book of Nehemiah). There would have been no lower class in the entire land, because the poor would have established themselves! Israel had the potential to become the strongest nation once again, returning to the prosperity that they experienced under King David.
Their fear won out. Though Jeremiah spoke to the people and told them, “If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy that he [the king of Babylon] may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land.” (Jer. 42:10-12) He goes on to say that if they choose to live in Egypt, everything that they’re afraid of will come to pass, and they will be destroyed and/or taken into exile in Babylon.
They chose Egypt.
The remnant of the weakest Israelites saw themselves as just that. They saw themselves as the lowest of the low, unable to provide for themselves, and sought a master. They did not trust God to be their leader (much like their ancestors did, asking for a king and rejecting God’s lordship over them – see 1 Samuel). God was going to redeem them, call them up out of their poverty, and build them up into people marked by prosperity and abundance (Jer. 40:12).
Their fear – their false, worldly view of themselves that told them they were worthless – kept them from experiencing the restoration that God longed for them to have.
They decided to go to Egypt, and experienced their worst fears. The Babylonians had their sights set on conquering Egypt, and they they did just that (Jer. 44:40). God knew that this was going to happen, hence why He commanded the remnant in Jerusalem to stay where they were! God had plans and provision in store for them, but their fear and false identity robbed them of the victory.
* * * * *
In seasons where it seems like your strengths are being attacked and placed aside, where your areas of perceived weakness are being called to bat, how will you react? Will you trust that God is going to redeem your areas of weakness? Will you surrender control and believe that God is greater than your fears, or will you hide in strongholds that you think will save you?
Have you forgotten that your weakness in your true strength? (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Allow grace to flood into your areas of weakness. Give yourself permission to not have it all together so that God is able to fully be Lord over your life. Refusing to embrace your weaknesses ultimately shows that your faith is in yourself (your strengths), and lordship belongs to pride rather than Christ. When you are weak, then you are strong.