Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): What is the reason why many, in the greatness of their folly, forever go astray? They do not trust in the Lord with all their heart, but lean to their own understandings.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Do not do as some do. Many a person comes to me and says, “I want your advice, sir; as my minister, perhaps you could tell me what I ought to do.” Sometimes it is about their getting married. Why, they have made up their minds before they ask me, they know that; and then they come to ask my advice. “Do you think such and such a thing would be prudent, sir? Do you think I should change my position in life?” and so on. Now, first of all, I like to know, “Have you made your mind up?” In most cases they have—and I fear you serve God the same. We make up our mind what we are going to do, and then we go down on our knees, and say, “Lord, show me what I ought to do;” and then we follow out our intention and say, “I asked God’s direction.” My dear friend, you did ask it, but you did not follow it; you followed your own. You like God’s direction so long as it points you the way you wish to go; but if God’s direction lead contrary to what you considered your own interest, it might have been a very long while before you had carried it out.
STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): We make an idol of our own wills.
THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Such as pretend to ask counsel from the Word, but it is according to the idol of their own hearts; that come with their own conclusions, and preconceptions, and prejudices, against God’s counsel: Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart―as those that came to Jeremiah the Prophet, and they were prepossessed, and had their resolutions aforehand.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): A remarkable instance of this we have in Jeremiah 42-44. After the destruction of Jerusalem, and the death of Gedaliah, the people that were left entreated the prophet to inquire of the Lord for them, concerning their intended removal into Egypt. Their request was fair: “That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.” Their engagement was very solemn: “The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord they God shall send to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee.” But their hypocrisy was most detestable. The Lord, who seeth the inmost purposes of the soul, could not be put off with their fair pretenses. He sent them in answer an express prohibition to go into Egypt; assuring them that His curse should follow them, and that there they should certainly perish. Yet they went, verifying what the prophet had told them: “For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me to the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God, and according to all that the Lord our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.”
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We do not truly desire to know the mind of God if we do not fully resolve to comply with it when we do know it.
WILLIAM JAY: If, therefore, I do not consult God sincerely, it would be better for me not to do it at all, for it can only dishonour Him, and delude myself…Shall I find fault with His decisions, after beseeching Him to decide? And with His guidance, after desiring Him to guide?
MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Beware of forming plans in your mind, and then coming to ask counsel of God.
JOHN NEWTON: It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan; and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans, and to cross our wishes. For we cannot be safe, much less happy, but in proportion as we are weaned from our own wills, and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance. This truth―when we are enlightened by His Word―is sufficiently familiar to the judgment; but we seldom learn to reduce it into practice, without being trained awhile in the school of disappointment. The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient, that when they are broken we are ready to say, What a pity! We try again, and with no better success: we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and plan out another, and so on: at length, in a course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us, that we are not more able than we are worthy to choose aright for ourselves. Then the Lord’s invitation to cast our cares upon Him, and His promise to take care of us, appear valuable; and when we have done planning, His plan in our favour gradually opens, and He does more and better for us than we could either ask or think.
MATTHEW HENRY: Those who know themselves cannot but find their own understanding to be a broken reed, which, if they lean to, will certainly fail them.
JOHN NEWTON: I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, of which I have not since seen reason to be satisfied, that, had it taken place in season and circumstance just as I proposed, it would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or, at least, it would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge of things by their present appearances, but the Lord sees them in their consequences; if we could do so likewise, we should be perfectly of His mind; but as we cannot, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is spoken of as one of His heaviest judgments, when He gives any person or people up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk after their own counsels.
THOMAS MANTON: O! when a man is brought off this spiritual idolatry of making his own bosom to be his oracle, and his own heart to be his counsellor; when he doth in the poverty of his spirit humbly and entirely cast himself upon the help of God, and acknowledge Him in all his ways, then he shall see a clear direction what God would have him to do. You have another place to this purpose: Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk: for I lift up my soul unto thee, Psalm 143:8.
MATTHEW HENRY: Those that resolve to follow God’s directions may in faith pray for it.
JOHN NEWTON: One thing is needful; an humble, dependent spirit, to renounce our own wills, and give up ourselves to His disposal without reserve. This is the path of peace; and it is the path of safety; for He has said, The meek He will teach His way, Psalm 25:9 and those who yield up themselves to Him He will guide with His eye, Psalm 32:8.