Jeremiah 31:9 They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
As I read this in the NIV I thought I would write on it because of the reference to prayer, and then I read the Japanese and discovered that it says, “I will comfort them as I lead them back.” Not knowing the Hebrew, I have no idea why the divergence. I have observed that there is a strong connection between praying and being comforted, but I have also seen people who pray and pray and refuse the comfort God offers. Sometimes we have trouble believing that God’s not mad at us and that His forgiveness is real, if we will repent. I have heard some people repent of exactly the same thing time and time again, though they haven’t repeated the sin. Sometimes that indicates a lack of faith, but sometimes it indicates that there is something else they should repent of that they don’t want to face. God is indeed more than gracious, as this whole chapter expresses, in harmony with the rest of the Bible. However, His Holy Spirit will shine light on the specific issues we would like to keep hidden, and that’s why many people run from Him, just as Jesus said. (John 3:19-20) If we really want the comfort that only He can provide, we need to bring our burdens to Him and then really let go of them. Too often we “bring our burdens to the cross” and then take them back again! As Isaiah famously said, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) Trust is faith with its shoes on, faith that chooses to follow. When we really trust God, we receive the comfort we so desperately want sometimes.
This certainly applies to me. I have believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always trusted Him enough to be fully obedient. I have learned that protestations of faith mean very little without obedience. I am reminded of the story of Charles Blondin, a famous tightrope walker of over a century ago. He crossed from Canada to America on a cable stretched across Niagara Falls, and then did it again pushing a wheelbarrow. He then asked the delighted crowd if they thought he could do it with a man in the wheelbarrow. There was an enthusiastic “YES” from the crowd, but then he asked for a volunteer! He eventually did it successfully with his manager riding in the wheelbarrow, but the point was that they “believed” he could do it, but didn’t trust he could do it when their own life was on the line. I’m faced with that choice myself, and I have found that He is indeed trustworthy. I know that the time will come when He will say, “That’s enough. Come on home,” and I look forward to it with great anticipation. Meanwhile, I need to do whatever He says whenever and however He says to do it, knowing that He is more than able to deal with whatever is involved – even if it feels like I’m in a wheelbarrow over Niagara!
Father, I certainly didn’t expect to write on this when I started! Thank You for speaking outside of my preconceptions. Help me hear You accurately and obey You fully, in complete trust, so that Your will may be done in and through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!