That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. — Jeremiah 42:3
When we are uncertain about a course of action, seeking advice from a knowledgeable source can be to our advantage. Of course, the advice we receive will only benefit us if we follow through on it!
Thirty years ago, I was doing some work in a town about two-and-a-half hours away from where I live. When I was ready to head for home, a winter storm was already in progress. Since the drive was a long one in the best of weather, I felt I should talk to the highway snow-clearing supervisor to find out whether he thought driving that route was wise given the current weather conditions. He advised me to stay where I was and wait out the storm. However, having traveled that road other times in similar conditions, I decided to leave for home anyway.
I set out, but after driving for about twenty miles, suddenly the highway was totally obscured by the blowing snow — it was a complete whiteout! Unable to see where I was heading, the car veered off the road and came to a stop in the ditch. I was stuck!
Thankfully, after I had waited for some time, another vehicle came by and the driver offered assistance. I was able to return to the town where I had been working and obtain the services of a tow-truck. I spent the rest of the day getting back to where I had started. How many times during those hours I wished I had heeded the advice of the supervisor!
In this passage the remnant in Judah stood at a crossroads. Their nation had been decimated by Babylon and their governor had been assassinated. To the south lay the nation of Egypt where they believed they could find a stable society to protect them from the Babylonian army. In today’s text, the leaders of the people sought for advice from Jeremiah the prophet, but his answer was not what the people wanted to hear. They had placed all their hope in Egypt, but God said that they should stay in Judah, where He would take care of them and grant them mercy. If they persisted in their desire to go to Egypt, they would all perish one way or another.
We, too, will face times of decision in our lives — occasions when we are not sure what direction to take. We can turn to God for help, but we want to be careful that we do not already have our minds made up as to what we want to do! It is a mistake to ask for God’s guidance with no intention of following it. No matter how uncertain our circumstances may seem at the time, it is always safest to obey God.
In chapter 42 the captains and remnant of Judah pled with Jeremiah to seek God’s counsel regarding whether they should go to Egypt. God’s response was for them to remain in Judah or face certain judgment. Chapter 43 summarizes the captains’ rejection of God’s command and their decision to take the remnant of Judah into Egypt.
It seems Jeremiah was dwelling with Johanan and the remnant of Judah near Bethlehem. Seemingly uncertain about what course of action to take, Johanan, the captains, and the people approached Jeremiah and entreated him to pray for God’s direction on their behalf. Possibly feeling they had forfeited their right to approach God personally, the Jews referenced Him as Jeremiah’s God. When Jeremiah assured them that he would ask for God’s counsel, the people vowed that they would be obedient to whatever God said.
After ten days of waiting on God, Jeremiah received an answer and called together the captains and the people. God assured the Jews that they should not fear repercussions from the king of Babylon. He said if they would remain in the land of Judah, He would cause Nebuchadnezzar to show mercy and allow them to return to their own land. God also said He would build up the inhabitants of Judah and no longer send them into captivity. God’s statement, “For I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you” (42:10), was not an expression of sorrow for the judgments He had executed on Judah, but an expression of His willingness to relent on any further retribution if Judah would be obedient to Him.
Jeremiah told the people that if they chose to dwell in Egypt rather than Judah because they believed they would be free from famine and war, the reality was that the calamities they had thought to escape in Judah would befall them in Egypt. God said He would pour out His wrath on the Jews who relocated to Egypt just as He had on the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they had ignored His warnings. The word execration in 42:18 meant “something detested or cursed,” and God stated that in addition to being abhorred, the Jews in Egypt (except for a few who would escape, see Jeremiah 44:14) would never have the opportunity to see their beloved Judah again.
Jeremiah charged his people with being insincere in their avowal that if he would pray for them, they would do whatever God said. He told them that he had declared unto them all the counsel that God had given him, and their disobedience would bring certain death by the sword, famine, or pestilence in the land of Egypt.
In verse two of chapter 43, the captains accused Jeremiah of not being truthful in what the Lord had told him. They even falsely blamed Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, for influencing Jeremiah against them with the intention of delivering them into the hands of the Babylonians. In defiance of God’s command to remain in the land of Judah, Johanan and the captains convinced the entire remnant of Judah to go into Egypt, and they traveled to Tahpanhes, a fortress city on Egypt’s northern border.
While living in Tahpanhes, Jeremiah was instructed by God to take large stones and, in the sight of all the men of Judah, hide them in the mortar of the brickwork at the entrance to Pharaoh’s house. This was not the royal palace of Pharaoh, but apparently a residence he used when visiting Tahpanhes. God told Jeremiah to inform the Jews that Nebuchadnezzar, under God’s direction, would one day besiege Egypt and set up his throne in that same location. Dispelling any sense of security the Jews may have felt in Egypt, Jeremiah warned that during Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, many would die or be taken into captivity. Jeremiah also emphasized that the gods of Egypt would be useless in offering assistance and would be utterly destroyed.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
D. The circumstances of the prophet
3. Jeremiah’s experiences after Jerusalem’s fall
d. The migration into Egypt (42:1 — 43:7)
(1) The request for guidance (42:1-6)
(2) The rejection of guidance (42:7 — 43:7)
(a) The admonition to remain in the land (42:7-12)
(b) The warning of departure to Egypt (42:13-22)
(c) The warning refused (43:1-7)
e. The prophecy against Egypt (43:8-13)
As we ask God for guidance in the decisions we face in life, let us be sure that we follow through in obedience!