Reading again in Jeremiah this morning, and I don’t get it. What it is about Egypt that made the people turn their backs on God, again! What was it about the world they had been delivered from that drew them, over and over, to return, thinking that somehow there they would find what they needed. What was it about Egypt’s siren’s call that drowned out the voice of God? What was it about it’s wisdom that made the people think they should trust in themselves with all their heart and lean not on God’s understanding? I don’t get it. What’s the deal with Egypt?
Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the LORD your God for us, for all this remnant–because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us–that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do. . . . 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 42:1-3 ESV)
To say that Judah had been destabilized after the Babylonian razing of Jerusalem, would be an understatement. The king had been captured, Jerusalem had fallen, Babylon’s appointed governor for the region had been assassinated by the Ammonites, and though the Ammonites had been run off, those who returned to Judah were feeling pretty insecure and vulnerable.
It was a good time to turn to God. And they did. But it was a bad time not to listen.
Whatever God says, they told Jeremiah, that we will do. Whether we think its good or bad, we will obey the voice of God. Just reveal to us the mind of God. So they asked, so Jeremiah did.
And after 10 ten days of seeking God in prayer, Jeremiah comes back and says, “Stay here. Stay in Judah. Don’t fear the king of Babylon for I will be with you in this land I promised you. Don’t go to Egypt. Don’t think you’ll find there the stability you long for. Don’t for a second think it will provide you safety or long life. In fact, if you go back, you’ll die there.”
And their response?
When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the LORD their God, with which the LORD their God had sent him to them, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The LORD our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,'”. . . And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD.
(Jeremiah 43:1-2, 7 ESV)
What?!?!?!? You gotta be kidding me! Pray, Jeremiah, they said. Give us the word of God, they said. We’ll obey no matter what, they said. But stay here? . . . No way! . . . We’re going to Egypt, they said.
What’s the deal with Egypt?
What is it about the world that, even when presented with the word of God, it draws us to itself for protection? That, whatever we think it promises, those promises override the promises of God? That, whatever we think it provides, it seems more sure than the provision of God? That, whatever ease and pleasure we think might be found there, it desensitizes us to the pleasures and joy we know abiding in His presence?
Oh, that they would have sought God’s word, heard God’s word, and heeded God’s word. Then would they have known the protection of God’s word.
There’s a warning there. There’s a lesson there.
Not that I might sit in judgment, but that I might be instructed. Aware of Egypt’s allure. Recognizing the lingering, deceiving nature of the old man that looks longingly towards the world from which I’ve been delivered and thinking it will somehow be easier if I go back. Warned of making decisions according to my will which effectively declare God’s word to be a liar.
Get behind me, Egypt!
I am bound for the promised land. And to that journey, by the Spirit’s enabling, I will remain true. Knowing my God is with me. By faith, confident that He will lead me, He will protect me, and He will bring me safely home.
By His grace. For His glory.