Jeremiah 40 through 43 makes for a pretty intriguing and suspenseful epilogue to the “Fall of Jerusalem” story. Jerusalem has fallen . . . the temple is destroyed. The Chaldeans have taken the best of the people and of the treasures back with them to Babylon. They have left in the land “some of the poor people who owned nothing” and given them vineyards and fields to tend . . . should make them happy. Others from Judah who had been scattered during the Babylonian invasion, return and start to work and benefit from the land . . . they’re happy. Babylon has established a governor in the land, Gedaliah . . . he’s happy. And, they have released Jeremiah from incarceration and have given him a choice . . . go to Babylon with the other exiles? . . . remain in the land with the remnant? . . . or, go wherever you want? Jeremiah chooses to stay in Judah . . . I’m guessing he’s happy too.
Sweet! Maybe things can settle done a bit. Uh, not so much.
It’s still a land that hasn’t yet learned to heed the voice of God. There’s a kind of coup . . . led by a guy named Ishmael son of Nethaniah who is apparently in the pocket of the Ammonite king (yes Virginia, the enemies of God’s people, like vultures, wait to move into the post exile scene). Gedaliah is killed . . . Ishmael goes out of control . . . Johanan the son of Kareah leads an ad hoc army in a counter-offensive against Ishmael. And though Johanan has some success in fighting back Ishmael’s band of mercenaries, Ishamel’s still alive . . . and the Babylonians are gonna be ticked that their governor has been murdered. So what are they to do? Their plan? Go to Egypt (Jer. 41:17-18).
They think it’s a great idea. And, if they think it’s a great idea, God must too. So they go to Jeremiah and ask him to pray to God for them . . . to intercede on behalf of the remnant . . . “that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go, and the things we should do” (42:3). Jeremiah agrees to lift the remnant before the throne of heaven and to relay, in full, the word He receives from God . . . “I will keep nothing back from you” (42:4). And the people respond with something that just makes me cringe . . . not because it’s not the right thing to say . . . but because it’s the wrong thing to fake.
Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6 ESV)
They are so sure that God will see the obvious solution as they do. But what happens? Jeremiah prays. God answers. And Jeremiah relays God’s word, Don’t go to Egypt . . . don’t fear the king of Babylon . . . “for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand” (42:11). And the people say, “No way!”
That’s not the word of the Lord, they respond. We know better. We’re going to Egypt!
O’ brother! What is it about Egypt?
What is it about the world that presents itself as the safe place . . . the prosperous place . . . the place to be trusted above God? Not saying their situation was an easy one. But they had the word of the LORD. They had the promises of God. And still they went to Egypt. The place they had once been exodus’d from . . . the place that was once bondage and slavery . . . the place that, time and time again, failed them as they sought it’s protection. There is an allure to Egypt . . . there is a siren’s voice coercing the people of God back to the world when the going get’s tough.
And these things were written for my instruction (Rom. 15:4) . . . written as “examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1Cor. 10:6).
Stay away from Egypt . . . trust in the LORD. Look not to the world for protection and prosperity, but find refuge and reward under the rule of the King of Heaven.
By His grace . . . for His glory. Amen?