In spite of this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 3:10

Jeremiah began his ministry in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign. Josiah was a good king who was in power for 31 years and instituted some major reforms. He destroyed many idols and heathen altars. He repaired the temple and reinstated the Passover. Yet it was only about 20 years after Josiah’s reign that Judah was taken captive and exiled to Babylon because of its sinful ways.

It would appear that King Josiah’s reforms only corrected Judah’s outward behaviour but didn’t touch their hearts. They followed the king’s decrees and thought this was enough to please God. But God isn’t interested in an outward adherence to a set of rules, He’s interested in a heartfelt relationship that transforms our attitudes and motives.

In Babylon, the exiles were a long way from the temple and without their outward forms of religion. If they wanted to worship and honour God in Babylon, it would have to be from the heart. Being exiled was God’s severe mercy. He took away the outward trappings of their religion in the hope they would come to an inward faith.

Likewise, we may wonder why God allows a ministry or some other Christian activity to stop even though it appears to be a good thing. Sometimes God has to strip away the externals to correct the internals.

Jeremiah wrote, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6) and isn’t impressed with mere outward appearances (Matthew 23:25).

Let’s seek God with all our heart.