Weekly Devotional: Jeremiah 10:23-24
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been cherishing memories on Facebook of my graduation from seminary in May 2019. Mixed in were photos capturing my relocation from Louisville to Spokane. I had great excitement with what the Lord had in store for me in 2020. Now that this year is halfway over, it definitely hasn’t gone as I had in mind. Then our Lord tapped me on the shoulder to show me something in his word.
Listen to these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord, but only with justice—not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.” —Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NIV84)
Now, I don’t have time to delve into the intricacies of Jeremiah’s prophecy as a whole. But the tenth chapter of his prophecy occurs within a larger section (Jeremiah 7:1-10:25) that details the spiritual depravity of God’s people. The Lord gave Jeremiah a front row seat into the behavior of his fellow countrymen. He witnessed their refusal to repent of their idolatry, and return to the Lord in worship. This horrified the prophet.
All Jeremiah could do in response was express anguish, sorrow, and righteous anger. He left us a record of his musings in the tenth chapter and in the rest of his prophecy. The Lord used the prophet’s response to show him his own heart. Therefore, Jeremiah turns to the Lord in his anguish, and prays the words of our text: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord, but only with justice—not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.”
What are we to make of this in our days of COVID-19 and civil unrest? Jeremiah realized that he couldn’t say or do anything to stop the downward spiral of his own people. Likewise, we can’t say or do anything to save our family, friends, and neighbors who don’t know the Lord. Neither do we have the power to eradicate COVID-19 or racism from the hearts of men. That sense of powerlessness led the prophet to ask the Lord to correct him and to guide him.
The implication is that if the Lord doesn’t correct and guide, then Jeremiah could end up like his doomed countrymen. That’s also true for us. We have no power to change the secular perception of our Lord and of us. We haven’t been created by the Lord to know and understand all things. We are limited by design; therefore, we’re easily overwhelmed by it all.
Now for the good news—here’s what we can do. Like Jeremiah, we can ask the Lord in humility to test our hearts and souls to see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). We can remain faithful stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2) by proclaiming the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) as we entrust ourselves to him (1 Peter 4:19). Above all, we can persevere to the end by fixing our eyes onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).