“‘And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, “Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? …then you shall say to them… “[B]ecause you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to Me.”’” (Jeremiah 16:10-12)
By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel had fallen beyond repair. The time that God had warned them about had come—He would no longer extend mercy to them. They had persisted in rebelling against Him, and now they would reap the consequences. Jeremiah was charged with a terrible message—very soon, Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people of Judah would be taken into captivity.
What’s interesting about this declaration is that outwardly, the people followed God. They offered sacrifices and by all appearances seemed to be obedient. That is why, when Jeremiah issued his proclamation, the people were indignant. “What do you mean we’re evil?” they demanded. “We haven’t done anything worthy of this punishment. We follow God and are perfectly able to be called His children.” But God, Who sees the heart—and therefore our motives—thought differently. He knew that underneath all their fine words and actions was a heart that was absolutely separated from Him. And why? Because they consistently followed their own will instead of God’s.
This is a disturbing truth. In today’s world, how often do we hear, “Follow your heart”? How often are we encouraged to do whatever makes us happy? That’s certainly a pleasing thing to hear. We all want to do what we find pleasure in, and to an extent, that’s not bad. But trouble comes when we chase our own pursuits at the expense of following God. God is greater than anything else in our lives, and when He calls us to something, we have to do it—even if it’s not what our heart may be telling us. In fact, God warns us not to listen to our heart, stating, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Throughout the entire book of Jeremiah, God reprimands His people for following their hearts. They pursued their own passions and delights and spurned their Creator’s words. Because of that, in Jeremiah’s time they were on the brink of captivity. Even today, God still calls us to follow Him, not our own desires. At the expense of everything else, we are to obey God, finding our joy in Him alone. And when we do follow Him, we will discover something wonderful—that is, when we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us our heart’s desire. (Psalm 37:4) Following our hearts will lead us to destruction; following God will lead us to abundance.