Summary: In the OT times the leaders would come to the prophet desiring God to show them the way for the nation through his prayers. They were willing to obey God even if it was unpleasant for them so that they would have a good relationship with their Father.
Opening illustration: A mother was teaching her three-year-old daughter ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ For several evenings at bedtime, she repeated it after her mother. One night she said she was ready to solo. The mother listened with pride, as she carefully enunciated each word right up to the end. “And lead us not into temptation”, she prayed, “but deliver us some e-mail, Amen.” How many of us pray like that?
Let us turn to Jeremiah 42 and see the kind of prayers the captain of the forces desires Jeremiah to pray.
Introduction: Johanan and the captains being strongly bent upon going into Egypt, either their affections or politics advising them to take that course, they had a great desire that God should direct them to do so too like Balaam, who, when he was determined to go and curse Israel, asked God leave. Johanan and the remnant of the people desire Jeremiah to ask counsel of God what they should do. They believed Jeremiah to be a man of God and he promised that when the answer comes, he will not hold anything back. Apparently the prophet assures them of safety in Judea, but destruction in Egypt.
How will God show us the way?
1. Manifest Humility for God to show ‘The Way’ (vs. 1-2)
Are you humble? I have a friend who jokingly says, "I'm proud of my humility." The funny thing is that he actually is one of the more humble men I know. He and I both realize that humility is no joke. It is a hard thing to master. If I say I am humble, and then am I humble? If I think I'm humble, am I? Or what if I say, "In my humble opinion, I'm not very humble," then what do I do? The problem is that it takes great humility to understand humility, and even more to resist the pride that comes so naturally with even a discussion of the subject.
We are on slippery ground because humility cannot be attained directly. Once we become aware of the poison of pride, we begin to notice it all around us. We hear it in the sarcastic, snarky voices in newspaper columns and weblogs. We see it in civic, cultural, and business leaders who never admit weakness or failure. We see it in our neighbors and some friends with their jealousy, self-pity, and boasting.
What is humility? Biblically there are several facets to humility, but I want to focus on that aspect that deals with our relation to God. Therefore, humility is the right understanding of who you are before God. Notice, I did not say it means that you have to hate yourself, or call yourself names, or say you aren't worth anything, etc. Humility is that quality of a Christian that demonstrates a right relationship and position before God. This demonstration is manifested in attitude, words, and deeds. John the Baptist was humble: "And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals," (Mark 1:7). He knew who he was in relation to Jesus. Remember the parable of the tax gather in Luke 18:9-14 where he said, "Lord have mercy on me a sinner"? Jesus called him humble. He knew that before God, he was a sinner.
How about you? Are you humble before your Lord -- don't answer. Instead, think of who Jesus is, His holiness, His greatness, His majesty, His love, His sacrifice, etc. And remember that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming one of us, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross," (Phil. 2:8). Then, ask yourself if you are humble or not.
2. Desire for God to show ‘The Way’ (v. 3)
Often God will use different circumstances to lead you in life. Sometimes He won't reveal certain things to you until you need to know them -- for many different reasons. At other times, the Lord will conceal His direction because He knows that if He revealed it to you, and you knew what was to come, you wouldn't go down that path -- but that is exactly the direction that He intends for your life.
This is simply what God does for us by giving us the commands and teachings of the Bible. They direct us specifically what to do and what not to do. The Ten Commandments are one example. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t lie. Or the Sermon on the Mount: Love your enemies. Or the Epistles: Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Put on humility. This is the leading of direction. God reveals his directions in the Bible.