7 Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 So he called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him and all the people from the least to the greatest. 9 He said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: 10 ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. 12 I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’
13 “However, if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and so disobey the Lord your God, 14 and if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the trumpet or be hungry for bread,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, 16 then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die. 17 Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ 18 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and wrath have been poured out on those who lived in Jerusalem, so will my wrath be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You will be a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach; you will never see this place again.’
19 “Remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Be sure of this: I warn you today 20 that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the Lord your God and said, ‘Pray to the Lord our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.’ 21 I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God in all he sent me to tell you. 22 So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle.”
(Jeremiah 42:7-22 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, the small band of people remaining in Judah came to Jeremiah and asked him to see what the Lord would say to them. The people’s two messages to Jeremiah were “May the Lord be a witness against us if we do not obey Him”, and “we will obey the Lord our God” (2x).
So Jeremiah, in his regular pattern, went off to inquire of the Lord, no doubt spending an extended time in prayer and meditation. Ten days later, Jeremiah hears from the Lord. He gathers up everyone, from the greatest to the least (the same group that approached him in the first place) to listen to what the Lord had to say.
The word from the Lord came in two parts:
- Blessings if the people stayed in Judah (vv. 9-12)
- Judgment if they went to Egypt (vv. 13-18)
Verse 10 includes language very similar to 31:28, where the Lord promised the restoration of Judah and Israel. God’s promise of restoration was theirs for the taking! God also promised to deal with Nebuchadnezzar so that there would be no retribution or reprisal for the killing of Gedaliah and the Babylonian troops.
But alas, the Lord knew that the peoples’ fear was greater than their faith, and so the Lord let them know that running away to Egypt would not solve their problems. If they went to Egypt, their fears would follow them there, and the very judgment they feared would overtake them in their supposed safe haven. The Lord told them that if they went to Egypt, they would lever see their beloved homeland again.
In verses 19-22, Jeremiah reaffirms the Lord’s words, reminding the people of their promise to obey the Lord and for God to be a “true witness” against them if they did not obey. Jeremiah was no doubt reading the peoples’ faces as he shared God’s words with them, and addressed the issue before they responded. In verse 20, Jeremiah says the people made a “fatal mistake” in asking him to inquire of the Lord and promising to obey when they had no intention of doing so. The people wanted God’s blessings as a rubber stamp on their plans to go to Egypt; they had no desire in obeying the Lord if His word did not line up with theirs.
So what can we learn from this passage? There are several faith lessons here:
- God’s Supernatural view of every situation is superior to our natural view.
God knows what is best for us – His ways are better than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
- So-called “common sense” is often nothing more than us justifying our fears.
Faith is better than fear – God is wiser than we are (Proverbs 13:15, James 3:13-18).
- Jeremiah’s lesson on waiting until the Lord speaks is a powerful lesson.
Anxiety and fear are not good drivers; prayer is best (James 4:8, Philippians 4:6)
May we practice Solomon’s ancient teaching that still holds true today:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)