Jeremiah 14:11 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people.”
Jeremiah is the only person to whom the Lord says not to pray for His people, and He does it three times, here and in Jeremiah 7:16 and 11:14. At first glance that seems terribly out of character for God, but a slightly closer analysis makes it all clear. What God is talking about in all three instances is prayer for trials to be removed, for the situation to get better by human standards. Usually there is a reason for trials! What Jeremiah needed to pray, and what we often need to pray, is for people to repent of their rebellion against God. That’s what Jesus was doing when He wept over Jerusalem. (Luke 13:34-35) Had Jeremiah prayed as the people wanted him to, it would have been “bandaid prayers” that didn’t touch the root cause of the problem. Someone who speaks for God certainly needs discernment, because our desires and expectations can be very much at odds with the real situation. That can make us seem cold and uncaring at times, but it’s very much like firm discipline for children: in the long run it is the best expression of love. (Hebrews 12:11) This is the problem with what are called “bleeding heart liberals,” because they are so consumed with the symptoms they can’t discern the causes of the problems. This isn’t to say we aren’t to be compassionate toward people in difficulty, whatever the cause of the difficulty. I feel the Lord is very pleased with Samaritan’s Purse, for example. They set no conditions for their work, but they do everything in the name of Jesus, so that people may be led out of their ignorant rebellion against their Creator and brought to genuine salvation. We are not to ignore suffering, but we are not to prioritize temporal suffering over eternal salvation.
This is a struggle I think every compassionate person has. We see need and want to meet it, but too often we fail to see the underlying real need. We are to remember Jesus’ famous story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, but realize that it’s talking about “brothers of mine.” We are to meet physical need, but remember that the overarching goal is for those we help to become children of God. I think most people define “salvation” in terms of the here-and-now, and that is a huge mistake. I am to seek to be God’s instrument in meeting all sorts of needs, but remember that an unrepentant healthy millionaire is still headed for hell.
Father, I don’t have sufficient wisdom for all of this. Help me hear You clearly and reflect Your heart accurately, so that as many as possible may repent and believe, for their true salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!