Today: [Jeremiah 42] So … You Want Go Back to Egypt? In this chapter, the captains of the forces remaining in Judah after the fall of Jerusalem petition Jeremiah for a word from the Lord. Jeremiah waits 10 days before the Lord until he returns to them giving a warning not to go back into Egypt lest they die by the sword. This was not what they wanted to hear from Jeremiah. Did you ever hear something from God that was not what you had in mind? The reaction of these men and Jeremiah’s faithfulness to obey God are an example to us all regarding how to and how not to respond to the voice of God in our lives.
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[Jer 42:1-22 KJV] 1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, 2 And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, [even] for all this remnant; (for we are left [but] a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) 3 That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. 4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard [you]; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, [that] whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare [it] unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. 6 Whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God. 7 And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah. 8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which [were] with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, 9 And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; 10 If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull [you] down, and I will plant you, and not pluck [you] up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. 11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I [am] with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.
Here we see Jeremiah having been set free by the captain of the host of Babylon, is now approached by the defeated captains of Judah, petitioning him for the word of the Lord. Their demeanor is humble and respectful in the extreme. They ask Jeremiah to seek the Lord to reveal to them a way wherein they may walk and the thing that they might do. Now if you pay attention to the circumstances at hand in truth they already knew what to do. The governor appointed by the king of Babylon, Gedeliah by name was obviously a godly man, under whose superintendence the people experienced peace, prosperity and safety. Gedeliah’s rule was not to their liking so one of the captains by the name of Ishmael assassinates Gedeliah. So we see even before the captains approached Jeremiah with such mock humility they had already eliminated the one avenue of redress that involved what they DIDN’T want to do. They fully expected Jeremiah to give them permission by the word of the Lord to go down to Egypt.
Jeremiah waits 10 days, seeking the Lord. I can imagine he knew that God would not give these men the answer they wanted. Gedeliah is dead, the Babylonian guard is wiped out and there is nothing standing to protect Jeremiah from the wrath of the captains if he doesn’t tell them what they want to hear. So he waits 10 days. Wouldn’t you? As if to comfort Jeremiah the captains insist that whatever Jeremiah says they will do it whether it was what they wanted to hear or not. What they are really doing is telling on themselves. They wanted counsel but they had already manipulated the situation to the point that they thought the only path forward was according to the dictates of their own hearts and their own rationale. Jeremiah promises that whatever God tells him – he will be faithful to communicated to them.
After 10 days Jeremiah hears from God and returns to the captains, of whom Johanan is their leader. All of the people are present and they no doubt already have their bags pack and tickets bought to go down into Egypt because they cannot imagine that God would have them do any other thing. Jeremiah doesn’t tell them what they hoped. He commands them if they want to live in safety and know the blessing and prosperity of heaven, they are to abide in the land and serve the king of Babylon.
13 But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, 14 Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: 15 And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16 Then it shall come to pass, [that] the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. 17 So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them. 18 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more. 19 The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day. 20 For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do [it]. 21 And [now] I have this day declared [it] to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any [thing] for the which he hath sent me unto you. 22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go [and] to sojourn.
Jeremiah after encouraging the people and the captains to remain in the land and serve the king of Babylon goes on to warn them not to even think about going down to Egypt. Already before they answered Jeremiah he knew what their hearts were preparing to do. He chastised them – saying that if they do not obey God’s voice they will perish by the sword and run directly into the fate they are trying so hard to avoid. If they go to Egypt the sword which they fear, according to Jeremiah by the word of the Lord will overtake them there with famine besides and there in Egypt – in the false security of Egypt they will die.
Beyond these warnings Jeremiah uncovers the fact that they had dissembled with their words in the first place and had already made up their minds what they were going to do regardless. In truth the captains and the people at this point have no respect to the prophesying of Jeremiah and Jeremiah warns them if they do not obey the Lord in the thing these very people sent him to find out for them they will surely die in the land were they desire to sojourn.
From the days of Moses in the wilderness down to the aftermath of the fall of the southern nation the cry “back to Egypt” has never died in the throats of the people. The flesh pots of Goshen, the leaks and garlic of their captivity generationally seduced the people of God to turn away from His law and return to the land of their oppressors. What does this mean to us? Egypt for us is a part of the world. In this case it was the captains determination to obey God only as a pretense while they pursued a course of action that made sense to them and figured into their own personal desires. How often do we dress up our own desires and plans as though they were God’s own purpose for our lives. How often do we go to the scriptures and seek out passages that affirm what we have already determined to do? As the willful, backsliding hearts of the captains before Jeremiah so we often go to the alter, to the scripture or to a trusted prophet, mentor or counselor already packed and ready to go our own way. This is the course that leads back to Egypt and back to our own hurt. God give us the humility to approach the judgment bar of heaven, ready to hear and ready to obey even if it means the overthrow of all our purposes and plans as we perceive them. Only thus can we ever hope to ascertain the certain and accurate will of God for our lives.
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