For the last few days I have been in the book of Jeremiah for the Old Testament portion of my reading plan. Today I want to take a look at the account from chapters 41-43. Nebuchadnezzar had taken exiles from Jerusalem and Judah into exile, and appointed Gedaliah as ruler over those left in the land. Ishmael was sent by Baalis the king of the sons of Ammon, to murder Gedaliah. Ishmael kills Gedaliah, and a bunch of others with him, and a small remnant of Judah is left. They are terrified, and have it in their minds that they will be safer if they flee down to Egypt. But, they first consult the prophet Jeremiah, to have him pray to the Lord, asking Him what they should do. They said to him:”Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6) God replied that they were not to go down to Egypt, but to stay in the land, where He promised to relent of the calamity He was inflicting on them. But if they went to Egypt, then God said that everything they feared would happen to them if they stayed in the land, would surely find them down in Egypt. God’s people predictably disobeyed and went down to Egypt, even though they had promised to do what the Lord had said.
Reading this account got me thinking about confirmation bias. If a scientist approached their research with a closed mindset and simply interpreted the results in a way that confirmed what they had already decided was true, we would say that they were not practicing good scientific method. Although not an exact analogy, I offer for your consideration that we believers often do the same thing with scripture, as the remnant in Judah did in the example above from the book of Jeremiah. The people went through the motions of consulting God for His will, perhaps they truly believed (self deceived) they were open to what He would say to them. But they had obviously already settled on what the ‘right answer’ would be. When they received an answer that didn’t fit their presupposed truth, they rejected it. In fact, they claimed that Jeremiah was lying and that the Lord had not said that at all! So much for being open and willing to do what ever the Lord commanded.
I wonder how many times the same could be said for us believers? When we search the scriptures, are we approaching them with a confirmation bias? Or with open, obedient hearts that want the truth, whatever it may be? When the Lord speaks clearly and authoritatively, do we submit? Or assume that that can’t be the actual meaning of the text? I exhort us all, myself included, to carefully examine ourselves and our motives when we go to God for direction and truth. It is so easy to give in to the old nature and have our ears tickled and our fleshly desires indulged. Blessedly, we have the Holy Spirit, who’s ministry is to teach us the scriptures and convict our hearts of sin. Ask Him for help, and ask Him to transform your heart and will to be conformed to the Father’s. This is the best way to avoid maligning the scripture, following lies, and deceiving our selves. God will answer those prayers, because they honor Him!
Soli Deo Gloria!